As the Winnipeg Jets look to boost their winning percentage to over 50 percent this season, as well as potentially return to the playoffs for the first time since 2015, they have one of the top dynamic duos in the NHL to help them get there.
Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler combined for an impressive 156 points this past season, ranking as the fifth highest-scoring duo in the NHL. Their combined production ranked just six points behind Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin’s 161 points, and they showed potential to do even more damage this season.
— NHL Network (@NHLNetwork) July 25, 2017
We break down why they are so good together, and how exactly they bounce off each other and produce impressive point totals.
Scheifele and Wheeler at a Glance
While Scheifele had more points than Wheeler, the two of them weren’t too far off from each other when it came to scoring. Scheifele totaled 32 goals and 82 points through 79 games, and Wheeler had 26 goals and 74 points in 82 games. Both of them put up outstanding numbers in the assist category, and that is something that helped drive their respective games.
Both finished producing well over an assist per 60 minutes and bounced off each other as playmakers. With their passing ability, speed and similar thinking, Wheeler and Scheifele were able to read each other well and get the puck to each other, making plays on the fly.
In the goal-scoring department, neither averaged over a goal per 60 minutes this season. Still, Scheifele was able to put up 32 goals and showcased his outstanding shot, and Wheeler put up a career-high 259 shots this past season riding Scheifele’s wing.
Wheeler and Scheifele’s On-Ice Production
Statistically, this is what they look like when they’re on the ice together, as well as when they are apart.
In the goals-for department, it is odd to see that both of them produce more when they are not on the ice together. However, they both help each other out and benefit from playing on the same line, mainly due to how they fare defensively.
When together, Wheeler and Scheifele surrendered the lowest goals-against per 60 at just 2.54. Both of them also do a decent job of taking care of the puck, and the 24-year-old Scheifele has better possession metrics when playing with Wheeler. Both of them also spent a majority of the time in the offensive zone and had complete control over the puck, as well as the game, when on the ice together.
It may be important to note that Scheifele has much better goal production when playing without Wheeler, however, he suffers more on the backcheck. He surrenders more goals and his Corsi is significantly lower without Wheeler. This may be because though Scheifele comes in at 6-foot-3, 207-pounds, he lacks physicality and does not throw his weight around much. While he back checks efficiently, Scheifele doesn’t do much physically to stack up well to his opponents, which hurts his defensive game.
Wheeler, however, makes up for this. The 6-foot-5, 225-pound veteran is a much bigger presence who throws a lot of hits and is very aggressive. With his ability to use his size to his advantage on defence, Wheeler makes up for Scheifele and doesn’t hesitate when it comes to matching up physically with his opponents and winning battles for the puck. He is also great at taking care of the puck and keeping it out of harm’s way.
Projecting Their 2017-18
Considering their production, as well as their solid all-around play together, Scheifele and Wheeler are ready to put up top-tier totals this season. Wheeler, though aging, has been a consistent scorer throughout his career and shows no signs of slowing down. Scheifele is entering his fifth full NHL campaign with the Jets and continues to grow into an elite NHL centre.
Together, both of them should put up at least 150 points this season. Looking at Scheifele’s increase in production over the years, his success with Wheeler and the rise of Nikolaj Ehlers and what he can bring to the first line, he could hit the 90-point mark this season. As for Wheeler, he has been consistent over the years and has good linemates, so he will end up in 70-75 point territory by the end of the year. Therefore, I’ll make a bold prediction: Wheeler and Scheifele finish fourth in scoring among all NHL duos, combining for 165 points through 82 games.