While this past season didn’t end on a positive note, as the Winnipeg Jets were the first team eliminated from the NHL’s return to play format, they’re expected to contend for the playoffs once again next season and are hopeful one of their leading stars will be able to stay healthy throughout the 2020-21 campaign.
After producing one of the best statistical performances of his career in 2018-19, where he created new career-highs in goals (38) and points (84), the Jets were hoping for another strong showing from forward Mark Scheifele and the 27-year old did exactly that during his ninth season in the league. That being said, his performance during the postseason ended prematurely following a nasty collision into the boards with Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk.
Though some faithful viewed this as a dirty hit by Tkachuk, especially since he’s considered an extremely aggressive player across the league, Scheifele admitted earlier this month that he doesn’t have any “hard feelings” towards the matter and just wishes he would’ve been able to participate in the rest of his team’s opening-round matchup. Now several months after the incident, the 6-foot-3 center is looking forward to the upcoming season and is focused on picking up exactly where he left off before suffering his season-ending leg injury.
Considering the 2020-21 campaign isn’t expected to begin until Jan. 1 at the earliest, and it’s very possible that date could be pushed back by several weeks, the former first-round selection will have received close to six months to recover from his injury and shouldn’t have any issues being ready for the start of training camp. With that in mind, it seems the two-time All-Star will have a very strong chance to replicate, if not improve off, his stellar results from the 2019-20 campaign.
Over 71 games before the league’s shutdown, Scheifele averaged 21:48 minutes of ice time, producing 29 goals, 73 points (tied with teammate Kyle Connor for the 12th-most among all forwards in the league), 0.41 goals per game, 1.03 points per game (tied with Connor for 13th-most), 170 shots on net, 57 takeaways (eighth-most), 49 blocks, and 34 hits, according to NHL.com.
Along with these outstanding metrics, the top-line center also proved to be very effective with the man advantage once again, which is something he’s been able to accomplish in each of his last six seasons. As a result, the Ontario native finished near the top of the leaderboard in multiple different power-play categories.
Among all qualified forwards in the league, Scheifele finished tied with the seventh-most power-play goals (10), the 11th-most power-play shots on net (60), tied for the 13th-most power-play points (20), and he also finished tied for the 22nd-most average minutes of ice time (3:18) with the man advantage.
Slated to skate alongside linemates Blake Wheeler and Connor once again next season, Scheifele appears to be in a perfect position to help lead the Jets offensively during both even strength and power-play situations. In addition to his offensive skills, the two-way forward should also be able to help his team in a huge way at both ends of the rink by serving as a reliable blocker and a solid takeaway defender as well.
If there’s one area of his game that’ll need to improve, it’s Scheifele’s performance inside the faceoff circle, as he produced a 46.9% faceoff percentage this past season. Taking this a step further, the premier goal scorer must increase his ability to win faceoffs in the defensive zone, as he recorded a 42.9% faceoff percentage (fourth-lowest among all forwards who attempted at least 700 faceoffs).
Reaching the halfway point of his current eight-year, $49 million contract, it’s clear Scheifele is just starting to enter the prime stages of his career and has plenty of more quality seasons ahead of him. Even though there won’t be any All-Star festivities next season, there’s a very strong chance the superstar center could earn his third consecutive nomination if he’s able to stay healthy.
So while the Jets won’t take the ice for at least another month, there’s still lots to be excited about heading into the highly anticipated 2020-21 campaign.