The 2020 All Star Game is coming up, and by the end of the month, our television sets will be graced with another round of intense play from our favourite players.
The Winnipeg Jets are sending two dedicated and passionate individuals to the 2020 All Star Game: Leading goal-scorer Mark Scheifele and top goaltender Connor Hellebuyck. Both have worked hard to prove themselves as leaders and improve their game at every turn.
“Good for them, good for us,” Jets head coach Paul Maurice said of the All Star picks. “Connor has been so strong since the start of the year. I’m glad he got that recognition. Mark is starting to cement himself as an elite player in this league year over year. It’s good that recognition is there because they put in a lot of time to be better pros,” (from ‘Hellebuyck, Scheifele named to 2020 NHL all-star game,’ National Post, 12/30/2019).
Hellebuyck and Scheifele are no strangers to the chaos of the All Star Game, as both have already made their All Star debut. In 2018, Hellebuyck was the runner-up for the Vezina Trophy, falling short of Pekka Rinne of the Nashville Predators. Scheifele is attending for the second year in a row, bringing the consistency and dedication he showed in the 2019 All Star Game with him.
Scheifele Earns the Honour
Scheifele has not hesitated to prove himself on the ice this season. With an incredible 48 points to lead the team, he was the best option to represent the Jets.
Since his first appearance in the All Star Game last year, he has worked to become an even better version of himself. In the 2018-19 season, he finished the season seven points behind captain Blake Wheeler, with an astounding 84 points. This year, he is on track to beat his personal record and Wheeler’s.
When Bryan Little suffered a head injury and Wheeler was moved to cover Little’s line, Scheifele had to step up and bring together Kyle Connor and Patrik Laine. A move made from necessity proved its merit, and the new trio tallied points and increased the team’s scoring chances. Even as the Jets continued to lose players to injury and illness, the makeshift lineup never stopped fighting, with Scheifele leading the charge.
“He’s the type of guy that’s always trying to get better, so I think for him, his ceiling, he probably doesn’t see one,” Josh Morrissey stated about Scheifele’s drive to succeed. “He works so hard. He loves the game and loves to work on his game… I mean, he just keeps getting better.”
A Goalie for the Ages
Hellebuyck has been a prized goalie since he started with the Jets. After an inconsistent start in 2016-2017, he took it upon himself to improve his skills via training camp and specialty training. Now, he consistently ranks within the top 25 goaltenders in the NHL. He has never stopped searching for ways to improve his game.
Hellebuyck is a goalie to be reckoned with. He never gives up during a game and, on the off chance he plays poorly, he corrects it quickly and improves drastically the next game. After a poor performance, we’ve come to expect a rebound game, knowing he will bring everything he’s got to prove that he is the best starter for his team.
Originally the Jets’ backup, Hellebuyck knows that his performance is the best way to secure his starting job. He became the starter in the 2017-18 season when goaltender Steve Mason dropped the ball. After signing Laurent Brossoit and witnessing his early success with the Jets, Hellebuyck had to show that he deserved the starting position. With an astounding save percentage (SV%) of .919 this season, a career SV% of .916 and 135 wins, Hellebuyck is sure to be an asset during the All Star Game, and may bring home the Vezina Trophy at season’s end.
The All Star Players
The Jets have had Wheeler, Hellebuyck, and Scheifele represent their team in recent years, but a former Jets all star may join this season’s game as a Last Man In.
Laine attended the All Star Game as a rookie in the 2016-17 season. While his performance took a turn for the worse after the game, things are looking up for the 21-year-old.
During his first outing with the All Stars, Laine was on track to join the Hockey Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, the young player choked under the immense pressure placed on him and his performance suffered. He didn’t bounce back until earlier this season but because of his renewed success, he has another shot at the All Star Game to prove that experience has made him more consistent.
Laine, along with Jonathan Toews, Cale Makar, Jamie Benn, Ryan Suter, Matt Duchene, and David Perron, are on the list of potential Last Men In for the 2020 All Star Game. Voting started Jan. 1 and runs until Jan. 10. If Laine earns the privilege to join Scheifele and Hellebuyck, he will have to step up and become the player he was in his first year with the team.
The All Star Game will be hosted by the St. Louis Blues on Jan. 24.