Mark Scheifele – Halfway To Making A Case For The Hart Trophy

Pretty much everyone would agree that Mark Scheifele is a really good hockey player. It can also be agreed upon that Scheifele has blossomed into a bona fide number one center that can do virtually everything on the ice. With this incredibly diverse skill set and the determination to be the best, it is finally time for Scheifele to be considered for the Hart Trophy.

While many Scheifele articles discuss the hockey history of Scheifele and the ‘it’ factor the Jets found so long ago, this post will lean more towards the accomplishments of this season and why Scheifele should be considered among the truly elite players in the league. The argument is that Scheifele should not only be considered ‘elite’, but should also be considered as a strong candidate for the Hart Trophy as the most valuable player to their team.

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Let’s start by talking about the most recent play of Scheifele. Coming off a fantastic week, Scheifele was named the NHL’s second star. It was only back to back hat-tricks from the the Great Eight that caused Scheifele to fall to second star as more often than not five goals and six assists in only four games would put you at the top of the list.

Scheifele is no stranger to weekly awards as this is the third time he has been named a star. Back at the start of December Scheifele was awarded the first star of the week for his great performance during the Jets eastern road trip. Even further back, at the start of the season, Scheifele was awarded the second star for scoring seven points which included a four point night against the Blues on Oct. 22nd.

Scheifele and Laine Named First Stars

Winning three of these weekly awards is incredible, especially doing so in the first half of the season. For comparison, Scheifele leads the league with three weekly stars and only two other players have won two weekly stars (Pettersson, Fleury). No other player has been awarded a weekly star more than once. In regards to these weekly awards, Scheifele is already in a league of his own and is out-pacing even the best NHL players.

So we know that Scheifele is ahead of the rest of the league for weekly awards, but has that translated to strong numbers overall? Sometimes players can be streaky which leads to weekly awards despite not having great numbers on the year. Think of Laine who was smashing records a month ago, only to go six straight games without a goal to begin the month of December.

When looking at the overall numbers of Scheifele, it’s clear that he isn’t benefiting from a few hot streaks as he’s near the top of the league in several important categories. Scheifele currently ranks fifth in the NHL with 46 points. He is also tied for fifth in goals with 21. Even more impressively is that Scheifele is one of only four players across the league that boasts over 20 goals and 20 assists. Even further, only two players have over 20 goals and over 25 assists – Mark Scheifele and Nathan MacKinnon. This in itself creates a strong case for Scheifele to be considered for the Hart. Some people may ask, what makes Scheifele such an effective scorer? Check this out for the science behind the incredible scoring ability.

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While point totals are generally a good indicator of success, there are some important details in Scheifele’s game as well. One of the details is the timing of Scheifele’s goals as he has a knack for scoring at the most important times. If the Jets need a tying or game winning goal, Scheifele is the man for the job. Look no further than the back to back overtime goals last week to put him at the top of Winnipeg’s history.

These goals give Scheifele a share of the league lead in overtime goals and puts him in the top ten for game winning goals this season.

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Perhaps the most important detail of Scheifele’s game is his versatility. Scheifele plays a ton of minutes in all situations. He currently is second on the team in regards to ice-time per game, trailing only Dustin Byfuglien (no surprise). When sorted by total TOI, Scheifele actually has been on the ice the most out of anyone on the Jets. Scheifele currently logs 1:29 of shorthanded TOI/GP to go along with 3:32 of powerplay TOI/GP and 17:47 of even strength TOI/GP. This totals a whopping 22:47 per game which puts him second on the team, but also puts him second in the entire league among forwards. Only Aleksander Barkov is playing more minutes than Scheifele on a nightly basis.

We have now established the elite scoring ability as well as the incredible versatility that Scheifele has. The only thing left to look at is his value to the team.

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Scheifele’s value not only comes from his points and his ability to play all situations, but it comes from the fact that he does all of these things while playing against the opposition’s best players. Scheifele currently ranks 10th in the NHL in terms of the quality of competition he faces (courtesy of Corsica). This means he is routinely scoring against the league’s best defensemen and dominating the other team’s best lines. With an even strength goal differential of +9, Scheifele has consistently out-scored elite opposition.

There is so much going for Scheifele, but there is one main caveat. Scheifele has been doing these things alongside elite linemates. Spending so much time with Wheeler has a definite impact on Scheifele’s game and it can be hard to distinguish what Scheifele’s true impact really is. While I might struggle at finding Scheifele’s true impact, take it from people much smarter than me about Scheifele’s goals above replacement. As per Evolving-Hockey, Scheifele has the fifth highest goals above replacement in the league and the third highest among forwards; he also leads the Jets by a wide margin as you can see below.

We have now examined Scheifele’s elite scoring ability, his tremendous versatility, his conquest over the other elite players, and the possible notion of being carried by his linemates. With all of these things considered, it’s fair to say Scheifele truly is among the NHL’s elite and deserves to be in the discussion for the biggest player award of the year. Mark Scheifele for the Hart? That isn’t a stretch by any means.