This is part of Jets Day at PHT…
Mark Scheifele has made substantial progress in each of the last three seasons, and the Winnipeg Jets took notice, signing him to a lucrative eight-year, $49 million contract extension last month.
He’s gone from 13 goals and 34 points in 63 games in 2013-14 to his point totals of last season. In addition to his bottom-line offensive production, Scheifele had solid puck possession numbers in more than 1,000 minutes at center during five-on-five play in 2015-16.
With the term and with the money (an annual cap hit of $6.125 million) involved in his new contract, which follows a 29-goal, 61-point season, Scheifele is indeed under pressure.
“I’m definitely happy with the progression [of my career],” said Scheifele, as per the Jets website.
“Each and every year you want to get better. You always want to build. I’m happy, but I know there’s a long way to go. Signing this deal does nothing. It’s all about what happens on the ice. That’s what matters. I’m going to continue to work on my game to become the best player I can be. There’s a lot of hard work ahead but I’m ready for it.
“That’s my goal, to be one of the elite players in the league, and one of the best players in the league.”
The Jets have been building an impressive crop of young talent, particularly up front with the selection of Scheifele at seventh overall in 2011. They have interesting prospects at center, too, with Nic Petan and Alexander Burmistrov.
Scheifele has worked toward becoming that No. 1 center in Winnipeg, a role he grew into when Bryan Little suffered a fractured vertebrae in late February and was lost for the season. As noted before at PHT, it’s a role that the most successful teams fill with an elite player. And Scheifele wants to be included in that conversation.
At the age of 23, Scheifele has also been in another conversation — as a possible candidate for the captaincy, a role left vacant when Andrew Ladd was traded last season.
Scheifele’s breakout play this year and the potential of a lengthy contract extension with the Jets this offseason has pushed his name in to the conversation. A tireless worker who gets better each season, he is the first-ever draft pick by the Jets and would be a perfect long-term face of the franchise. Much younger than Wheeler and Byfuglien, Scheifele as captain would also fit nicely in the room between the Jets’ veterans and the continuing influx of younger players. I’m not sure it makes sense to make Scheifele captain so early in his career, but he has certainly earned the consideration.
Since his draft selection five years ago, Scheifele has come of age with the Jets. Still young, he’s taken on the responsibilities of a top-line center. But the large increase in pay means more will be demanded of him.