There’s still plenty of time left in the 2013-14 NHL season for teams to make and break their post-season, but the game inside the game is starting to heat up. The Calder Memorial Trophy – the annual award given to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition in the NHL – is no lock for any player yet but can be narrowed down to a Top 5. More importantly as a Jets fan, two of them are members of the Winnipeg squad.
With all the uncertainty surrounding the Winnipeg Jets, one thing is for sure, the Jets have two studs in rookies Mark Scheifele and Jacob Trouba. The two former first round draft picks are having a solid impact on the Jets this year.
Scheifele is currently in third place in rookie scoring with 31 points. The points he is producing are impressive but the impact he has had on this team goes way beyond points.
Scheifele has improved his play substantially since the beginning of the year. In his first fourteen games, Scheifele recorded 3 points. He was struggling to adjust to the NHL level in many aspects of the game.
Fans, media and the people of Winnipeg thought this kid needed some more fine tuning in the AHL with the St Johns Icecaps. Despite his struggles, the Jets kept Scheifele with the big club.
Mark Scheifele points per month:
October: 3 points
November: 6 points
December: 11 points
January: 11 points
You can see by the numbers that Scheifele gained confidence as the season went on. There have been some growing pains but Scheifele has stayed determined.
Since December he has really started to escalate his game, in 27 games he has recorded 22 points. Very impressive numbers but Scheifele has helped the team in both ends of the ice.
During his struggles on the offensive side of the game, he was shifting some attention to his defensive end. He never was a very defensive minded player but during this season he has shown he can be very reliable in the defensive zone.
The reason I have Mark Scheifele ranked third on my Calder candidates thus far this season is because of how he has become a game changer for the Jets. He has excellent vision, he rarely makes a bad pass and he makes the smart play. He has found some chemistry with Evander Kane and Blake Wheeler.
Before Evander Kane was recently sidelined with a hand injury, the trio played well. That line had a lot of speed to it on both wings and a guy like Scheifele who can pass the puck to speedy wingers.
Since being drafted in the first round by the Winnipeg Jets in 2012, Jacob Trouba has been a promising prospect. The Jets were criticized by some people for not drafting the offensive minded, smooth skating prospect Filip Forsberg.
Trouba was sort of an unknown to fans, although he had a very successful career with the US National Development Program but he didn’t get the exposure to fans like some other prospects do.
However since his arrival in Winnipeg for his first NHL season this year, his play has silenced critics. You can make the debate that Jacob Trouba has been one of the Jets most reliable defenceman. He leads all rookies with the time on the ice per game with 21:40 minutes.
Trouba has a very high hockey IQ, and knows when to jump in on the play offensively and when to not join the rush. He makes the smart plays and it’s quite admirable for a player his age to have the ability to read the game the way he does.
In recent weeks Trouba has picked up his offensive game. He has 20 points in 38 games so far this season and 18 points in his last 27 games.
I have Trouba ranked 5th on my Candidate list.
He is trying to catch up with other rookies due to the fact he missed 17 games after being sidelined with a neck injury after he crashed in to the board October 18th against the St Louis Blues.
In the 38 games he has played, he doesn’t look like a 19 year old defenceman trying to learn the ropes of the NHL. He looks like an established defenceman with tremendous skill and patience with the puck.
Trouba is succeeding right now but his best years are yet to come.
If the NHL regular season ended today, I would pick Nathan MacKinnon to win the Calder Trophy. His impact at only 18 years old on the contending Colorado Avalanche has been fascinating.
Tyler Johnson has done a great job in Tampa Bay and is helping the Lightning continue their success despite the absence of star forward Steven Stamkos.
Whether Scheifele and Trouba end up being nominated for the Calder trophy, one thing is certain; the impact these players have made on this team this year is something I did not expect to see from a 19 year old and a 20 year old.
With the Jets lead by Scheifele and Trouba, the future looks bright in Winnipeg for years to come.
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