Winnipeg- Sept 13 2013 Peter Tessier
If you don't believe the that Mark Scheifele is not at least in the pre-season, late summer patio talk for the Calder Trophy don't show your face around Winnipeg. To say that kind of talk is nonsense is far too premature as right now every rookie has a shot but in Winnipeg there seems to be a belief that Scheifele could do it.
Here's why: they guy has progressed and done everything he has wanted, needed, and been expected to do since he came to his first professional camp in 2011. Back then Scheifele wowed Winnipeg fans with his scoring and play in the pre-season. It was also the time when LMFAO had a number one single, so yes time has flown by. But rest assured, should the young forward, who is about to be centre Evander Kane and Devon Setoguchi tomorrow night, bring some of that inaugural season magic the "Every Day I'm Scheifele'in" t-shirts will be back at the MTS Centre.
Back in 2011-12 a young forward by the name of Gabriel Landeskog won the trophy by accumulating 22 goals and 30 assists for 53 points in 82 games. He would eventually be named captain of the Avalanche. To provide context as to why some Jets fans feel Landeskog is an example of what Sheifele could be, look at their junior history.
OHL rookie season
Landeskog 09-10 61 games for 46 points
Scheifele 10-11 66 games for 75 points
Landeskog 10-11 53 games for 66 points
Scheifele 10-11 47 games for 63 points
That's where the comparison ends in terms of junior play but with one more year Scheifele had 79 points in 45 games which is almost 2 points per game.
The basic reality is without the option of playing AHL time Mark Scheifele went back to junior and dominated the league- just like the best players are supposed to. If you don't believe it take a look at some of the top scorers from the OHL the past few years
Scheifele played roughly 20 games less than the top scorers in the OHL this past season yet only Ryan Strome averaged more points per game (1.77 vs 1.75) than Scheifele.
In 09-10 Seguin and Hall were 1 and 2 in scoring with 1.68 and 1.85 points per game respectively. During the 08-09 season Tavares was 1 and Cody Hodgson was 4th with both at 1.85 and 1.63 points per game. In 07-08 the 5th highest scorer, Steven Stamkos, was at 1.72 points per game.
If you look at the post season you have to go back to junior wunderkind Robbie Schremp to see a player who eclipsed 40 points before Scheifele did it this past spring. It was 2002 prior to Schremp.
However for every success story of players who came out of the OHL to find NHL success there are failures, just like Corey Locke- the kid who had 41 points with Brad Boyes in the 2002 OHL playoffs, not to mention Schremp.
So why are Winnipeg fans expecting more from Scheifele than another youngster who couldn't hack it in the NHL? First and foremost it's faith, and perhaps blind faith but only because the young centre has done nothing to disappoint when called upon since his draft year.
Secondly there is opportunity. How many young players have a real chance to slot in between two 30 goal scorers? While it's been five season since new acquired right wing Devon Setoguchi scored 30 and two since Evander Kane hit that milestone how often does a spot between two players of that ilk ever open? Not often, but it has for Scheifele and he has to push hard as he is going up against veteran centre Olli Jokinen who probably wants one more deal after this year's expires.
Finally there is the work ethic. The past two off season have seen Scheifele come to camp stronger and heavier this each year. This September after another off-season stint at Gary Robert's Biosteel program Scheifele has put in 15 pounds of muscle according to the player himself. When he first arrived in Winnipeg two years ago he barely was 175 pounds no he is almost 200 and has neck like a body builder's. For a youngster to be an off the board pick in the early first round and then do exactly what is asked for two years and achieve those desired results says all anyone needs to know about commitment.
What Jets fans see is all the ingredients for success with Mark Scheifele. In fact they may be blind to some of his weaknesses, the most prominent being strength on his skates. Regardless it's the strength in his heart that has the Winnipeg faithful talking about the Scheifele. Combined with the always present optimism before the start of any NHL season Mark Scheifele gives the fans a reason to think more than a playoff spot is possible. More than likely though if either a post season berth or Scheifele and the Calder are close, chances are more than one thing is going right for the Jets.