Why this is even a debate shows just how crazy of a hockey city Winnipeg truly is. Should Mark Scheifele stay or should he go? No I’m not talking trade and no I’m not trying to sing a song. The question has popped up this morning via Twitter if Scheifele’s development is better served staying with the Jets or spending some time down in St. John’s?
Let’s be frank here, there’s no right or wrong answer to this riddle and no need to change your Facebook profile picture to a giraffe when you can’t answer it. Winnipeg knows all too well how a trip to the AHL can prepare you for the big leagues. Ryan Kessler spent time down in the AHL before becoming a fixture on the Canucks top six. In fact he split most of his first year between the Moose and Canucks due to injuries and opportunities. His second year as a pro was a solid 78 AHL games and 0 in the NHL. His third year 82 NHL games and that’s where he developed into a solid two-way centre who can score.
Now the argument can be made would Kessler be any less or any more successful had he skipped the AHL and went straight to the NHL? Perhaps but we can never know. Another player familiar to those in Winnipeg is home-town boy Travis Zajac of the New Jersey Devils. After his University career he played 2 AHL games to finish the season. His first full-year as a pro saw him suit up for 80 NHL games and none in the AHL. While his numbers are not the same as Ryan Kessler the progression is almost the same.
Our last case study another Winnipeg born player by the name of Jonathan Toews, who like Zajac, also jumped straight to the NHL out of college and has scored 20+ goals in every season since; including the lockout year. His first year numbers 64 GP, 24 G, 30 A and a +11. As it stands now Mark Scheifele would be on pace to finish the season with 6 G, 12 A and a -12, So the argument is certainly valid.
The Jets appear to have made the right choice with his development sending him back to Barrie in 2011 and again in 2012 where the Colts came up 1-game short of reaching the Memorial Cup and may have done so had Mark not been injured in that series. The difference this year? The team they would be sending him to is not a championship contender and neither is the team he’ll play for in the NHL. So why not let him figure out the pro game against the best players in the world, playing with potential career long linemates instead of having him build confidence in the AHL?
There comes a time in every players career when they need to stop being coddled and thrown into the fire. This is the perfect time to do that with Mr. Schiefele — at least as long as his play is improving and not creating losses out of wins.