We have to go back to January 26, 2016 in game 49 of the Winnipeg Jets 2015-16 season when coach Maurice made the decision to put Nikolaj Ehlers and Mark Scheifele on a line with Blake Wheeler. Prior to that time Scheifele had been playing on a line primarily with Nikolaj Ehlers and Mathieu Perreault. In fact when I looked at the previous 48 games of the season (11 of which he missed due to injury) Scheifele’s linemates to start those 37 game were as follows:
Perreault-Scheifele-Ehlers – 21 times (He had 10 points with these guys including five goals and five assists).
Perreault-Scheifele-Stafford – 15 times (He had 13 points with this line including seven goals and six assists).
Ladd-Scheifele-Ehlers – 1 time. (He had zero points with this combo).
In his first 37 games of the 2015-16 season with the aforementioned players he had 23 points (12 G 11A).
As previously stated it was that game prior to All-Star weekend when coach Paul Maurice added big Blake Wheeler to the dynamic mix of #27 and #55 that things appeared to click for the Jets first pick back in 2011. Since that fateful game against the Coyotes the Jets top line was born and Mark Scheifele finished the year with these speedy and talented wingers adding 38 points (17G 21A) in just 34 games.
In fact since that game against the Desert Dogs no player in the NHL has been hotter as he had scored 26 goals and 31 assists for 57 points in the past 49 games spanning this season and last. TSN had a stat during the game last night (which escapes me now) but essentially had Scheifele as the top points producer in the NHL, ahead of players like Sidney Crosby and Jamie Benn, since around the All-Star break. While this doesn’t make him the top player at his position just yet he is certainly being mentioned more and more often.
And don’t think his level of play is going unnoticed around the league. Prior to puck drop in Arizona coach Dave Tippett added his thoughts on Mark Scheifele striving to be an upper echelon player in the NHL “He’s got a real desire to be a top player….he’s got a great attitude, his work ethic is really strong and obviously a high skill guy. Just one of those guys, as a coach, he’s a pleasure to be around because he’s a good player with a great attitude”.
As folks around here are well aware Scheifele is the type of player who is constantly working on and tinkering with his craft. TSN hockey insider Darren Dreger wrote about Scheifele today for his Dreger Report expanding on this idea:
Scheifele is a student of the sport, painstakingly going through video game by game. He’s focused on the NHL’s big names and top-end talent, but he’s also constantly self-analyzing and searching for ways to improve.
“I always go over my clips with Oatesy [Jets skill coach Adam Oates] after every game,” Scheifele said. “I don’t spend a lot of time watching video of other guys, but I watch hockey. I watch the Pittsburgh Penguins play and I’ll zero in on Sidney Crosby and I’ll watch the Edmonton Oilers play and I’ll zero in on Connor McDavid. That’s kind of how I learn.”
Scheifele’s stock is on the rise. He’s ranked by many around the league as a member of an elite group with an all-around game that combines skill, power and defensive responsibility. Perhaps, at 23, he’s matured and is confident in his ability to be a leader and impact player. He marched into this season with a lofty goal.
It is worth noting that coach Maurice has shifted things up to spread out his offence moving players around before settling on a top line of Mark Scheifele alongside Patrik Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers in game 10 of this season against the Capitals. Prior to that he had used Laine with Scheifele and Wheeler as the top line for Winnipeg in eight of the nine contests to star the year.
Jets fans are seeing this fruition as their team’s top centre currently leads the NHL in scoring with 19 points after 15 games and a sizzling shoot percentage of 22.5 (Top 10 for centres). Can he continue on this pace? We shall have to wait and see but Jets fans are certainly enjoying the ride.