This week, Russ Miller heads West and looks at a couple of high-flying Jets
This week I want to discuss two Winnipeg Jets. One is just starting to show his potential and another who always seems to produce despite all the negative press surrounding him.
By today's standards, Mark Scheifele has been brought along slowly by the Winnipeg Jets. He was drafted by the team seventh overall in 2011. I remember watching that draft and the talking heads were a little surprised that the Jets made that selection at number seven. The three players that were taken immediately following Scheifele were Sean Couturier, Dougie Hamilton and Jonas Brodin.
In his first two years of major junior hockey, Scheifele scored 45 goals and 138 points in 113 games. He then had six points in as many games at his first World Junior Hockey Championship tournament. Scheifele made the Jets out of training camp in the 2011-12 season, but never really got on track, recording one point in seven NHL games.
In the 2012-13 season, he played four games for the Jets with no points to show. That was surely difficult for Scheifele, but what he did when he went back to junior was truly impressive. He literally tore it up, recording 39 goals and 79 points in only 45 games. He was invited back to play for Team Canada at the World Junior's again and recorded eight points in six games. He then put up an insane 41 points in 21 OHL playoff games.
After that dominant string of performances, many thought Scheifele would be a lock to break out this year. He had a disappointing start to this season with only five points in his first 24 games. Since 23 November though, Scheifele has been scoring at a 65 point pace, recording 19 points in 24 games. On 23 November, he played 12:46 and his minutes have steadily risen to where in seven of his last nine games, he's played 18 minutes or more.
Over his last dozen games, at least until Evander Kane went down with yet another injury, Scheifele was lining up with Kane and Michael Frolik for the vast majority of his regular strength shifts. Since November 23, Frolik has 14 points in 23 games, while not exceptional, is still a 50 point pace. Evander Kane has 11 points in the 12 games he's played since December. Last night, Scheifele played mainly with Blake Wheeler and Chris Thorburn.
Including Monday night's game, Scheifele sits fourth in rookie scoring. Things are only looking up for the young center, who is now receiving decent power play minutes, is getting top six ice time and more importantly, is producing for the Jets.
The 20-year-old isn't getting enough attention in fantasy circles and is only owned in eight per cent of Yahoo leagues.
I'm pretty confident that he's not available in most dynasty leagues, however, if he is available in your one year, or limited keeper league where a number of rookies can be protected, Mark Scheifele will pay dividends starting right now. This young Jet is taking off right before our eyes. My only concern was that the coaching change might negatively affect the young center, but after watching last night's game, the early returns look good.
Judging by the numbers (outside of plus/minus), much maligned Jets defenseman, Dustin Byfuglien is having a very good fantasy season. Unfortunately, Jets fans, fantasy is often at odds with reality.
Last year, Big Buff had eight goals and 30 points in 44 games. This year, he has 10 goals and 37 points in 48 games and tied for the team lead in points. He's on pace to finish with 17 goals, 63 points, 277 shots on goal and 92 penalty minutes. He's a fantasy hockey dream as a defenseman. Unfortunately, he can be a real hockey nightmare as a defenseman.
During the Jets/Coyotes game last night, the broadcast team mentioned that Byfuglien has 17 power play points on the Jets 24 power play goals. True to form, he assisted on Winnipeg's only power play goal last night. Let me rephrase that, Byfuglien is in on 72 per cent of the Jets power play production.
In his last game as coach and in an effort to "boost production", Claude Noel moved his big defenseman, Dustin Byfuglien up to forward. In Paul Maurice's first game as Head Coach, he kept Byfuglien up at forward. One good thing with him playing forward, when the puck is turned over, it's like having another defenseman on the ice.
We'll see how long the forward experiment lasts, because while it may help Byfuglien put up a few more points, it is also well known that he prefers to play on defense. Regardless of where he plays, this guy puts up fantasy stud numbers, but he is obviously more valuable as a defenseman in our fantasy leagues.
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