Mark Scheifele missed the 30-goal plateau by a hair last season. Nonetheless, he looks well and truly ready to hit it this year.
With optimism renewed in Winnipeg with the arrival of Patrik Laine, expectations are high for Scheifele. His new eight-year contract will do nothing to dampen those expectations, and no longer will he be an unknown in the eyes of other team’s defensive units. The checking will certainly be tighter on him this year.
With that said, there’s no reason to suspect Scheifele can’t build on last year’s terrific breakout season. He has all the tools — namely size, speed, vision and shooting ability — and he’s found great chemistry with linemates Blake Wheeler and Nikolaj Ehlers. While some pundits may expect him to play with Laine, Paul Maurice isn’t likely to mess with the trio he assembled at the end of the year with such excellent results.
As was mentioned in my previous article on Wheeler, the Jets don’t always get the respect or attention they deserve from fantasy team owners. Small market teams often see their players flying under the radar when draft day rolls around in Yahoo leagues and others, and the Jets are no exception. Jonathan Toews will go higher than Scheifele in many drafts, for example, but in a straight points league last year you would’ve been better off with Scheifele.
The list could go on, and while there are surprises every year, this year you shouldn’t be surprised to see Scheifele become the Jets’ first 30-goal man since Evander Kane in 2011-12.
Scheifele the Sniper
It’s often said that shoot-first centres are a rarity in the NHL, and the statistics would seem to back this, but there’s no doubting what Scheifele’s greatest asset is: his killer wrist shot. His passing, speed, strength and conditioning have all improved, but it’s his quick release and pinpoint accuracy that make him truly deadly.
This may be very important in leagues where goals are weighted heavier than assists. Scheifele may, and in fact, almost certainly will, put up fewer points than Joe Thornton, but if goals are more what you’re after you’d be better off with the Jets’ rising young star.
Some may be concerned that, as with Wheeler, Scheifele’s value suffers from the Jets awful power play. If your league is focused on points and only points this won’t matter, but for those of you who are worried about this, know that the Jets’ PP is expected to be far deadlier than last year. This is partly because the Jets would be hard-pressed to do worse with the man advantage, and partially thanks to Laine joining the attack.
Scheifele made people take notice of him with last year’s red-hot finish. He earned a spot on team North America at the upcoming World Cup after leading the NHL in scoring over his final 25 games (something to keep an eye on, as injuries could become a factor) and other fantasy predictors are starting to notice of his prowess.
— HockeyBabble.com (@HockeyBabble) August 14, 2016
If you’re picking Scheifele because you feel he’s going to benefit from playing with Laine, you may want to hold off as he’ll almost certainly start the year with Ehlers and Wheeler. If you’re picking him because he’s a 23-year old with a wicked shot and his best year’s are ahead of him who could put up 30 goals this year, that’s a much better reason to pick him.
So when the time comes to fill the centre position on your roster, don’t count out the kid from Kitchener, Ontario with the sniper’s instinct and the mile-wide grin. Like the Jets themselves, you’ll be glad you took him.