When the Winnipeg Jets entered the NHL in 2011, the organization was going to use the draft and develop method to build the team. It makes perfect sense for two reasons. Winnipeg will never be a “go-to” destination for free agents and the revenue generated by True North is limited compared to big markets like New York, Chicago and Toronto. (I know, there is a salary cap but the Jets will never max out on the cap. Small market doesn’t allow maximum use of cap.)
The Jets first ever draft pick, Mark Scheifele, came in with some hype and some question marks. Drafted seventh overall, the Kitchener, Ontario native came highly recommended by his junior coach, former Jets 1.0 legend Dale Hawerchuk.
Scheifele opened some eyes during his first NHL training camp. He led all rookies in scoring in the preseason with 8 points (4G, 4A) in 5 games. Fans and media alike were excited with the youngster.
— Allen (@arlasko) October 1, 2011
I really like Mark Scheifele, but should he make the big club… http://t.co/WQkrIzpy
— Darrin Bauming (@DarrinBauming) September 30, 2011
However, after seven games and one goal, Scheifele was sent back to the Barrie Colts of the OHL. He stayed there for two seasons, developing his game and readying himself for the pros.
Scheifele finally cracked the big club for good in the 2013-14 season. After a slow start, Scheifele registered 34 points (13G, 21A) in 65 games before a knee injury sidelined him for the season.
That offseason saw Scheifele workout with former NHLer and fitness freak Gary Roberts in order to improve his conditioning and upper body strength. While Scheifele did play in all 82 games and him point total improved from 34 to 49, he struggled to stay upright on the ice.
Far too often Scheifele was knocked down and off the puck by defenders. It didn’t matter if it was in open ice or in a scrum along the boards, Scheifele spent more time on the seat of his pants, than on his skates.
I witnessed Mark Scheifele fall down a half-dozen times tonight. Don’t expect the #scheifeledown hashtag to go anywhere.
— Ryan Blight (@arby_18) September 26, 2015
Scheifele returned to the Gary Roberts camp this past summer to work on his lower body strength. It remains to be seen if the extra work pays off but in an interview with Ted Wyman of the Winnipeg Sun, Scheifele has high expectations for himself.
“That’s obviously a goal of mine…to be a top scorer in the league. I want to continue to improve that. Looking back at last year, there were so many posts and missed chances but I can’t dwell on the fact that I could have had 60 points last year. This year I want to improve from 49 and maybe be a 60-point guy or a 65-point guy. If you are playing good hockey, you’re going to produce. That’s the biggest thing. It’s not about focusing on the points, it’s about playing a solid two-way game. If you’re playing the right way, you’re going to get the points and the team is going to be better for it.”
There is plenty of upside in Scheifele’s game according to the analytics. His 52.6 % corsi and 52.2% fenwick are indeed positive for a player looking to improve his offensive output. The Jets need it.
With teams such as Dallas and Los Angeles set to rebound from disappointing seasons, the Jets will be in a major battle to qualify for a postseason birth for the second straight year. Every point will be crucial and the Jets will need their young stars to take the next step. Scheifele’s time has come to grow from a kid with potential, to a force in the NHL.
*Analytic numbers courtesy of war-on-ice.com*