WINNIPEG - It was around 9:00am when fellow Ontarian Connor McDavid - fresh off another three-point night - rang an old friend in the 204.
"He sent me a text, telling me to try and slow down," said Mark Scheifele, who one-upped his Team North America counterpart in separate games Tuesday, recording four points in an 8-2 Winnipeg Jets victory over the Dallas Stars.
"I was like, 'Look who's talking!'"
McDavid, whose Oilers fell 4-3 to the Penguins last night, now sits at 17 points on the year. Scheifele? Well, that extra point appears - for now, anyway - to have made all the difference. The fourth-year pivot now leads the NHL in overall point production, notching 18 (9G, 9A) in only 14 games this season.
"I never thought this would happen," said Scheifele, a self-described stats nerd. "It was obviously a dream of mine to be in this situation, but in my mind it's still early in the season.
"They don't hand anything out after 14 games. There's a lot of work to do and the focus is on making the playoffs. The personal accolades come after that."
Video: DAL@WPG: Scheifele tallies on one-timer from the slot
Scheifele scored a career-high 29 goals and 61 points last year, and is poised to smash those totals in this, the first of a CBA-max, eight-year deal. Best of all, and music to the ears of Jets fans everywhere: He isn't anywhere close to being satisfied.
"I'm a guy that likes to work on my game, no matter what it is," he said. "Even if the goals are going in, I'm a guy that still loves to work on his games and will always watch my shifts and go over them in detail. The biggest thing for me is to try and round out my game, to get better in all areas. You see guys like Crosby and McDavid, they're doing the same thing, trying to get better defensively and work on those little intricacies to try and get that edge. That's what I try to do as well."
The thing about Scheifele is that is there is no 'try.' He knows what he wants and he gets it the only way he knows how. Most days he has to be pried off the ice, either by teammates or the coaching staff well after practice ends. 'Save it!' some shout, playfully ribbing him for hours he puts in.
"I don't want to settle for second best," Scheifele said. "I want to be a guy that's right at the top, competing with guys like Crosby and McDavid."
The same can be said of Patrik Laine, whose hat trick last night - the second of his young career - not only vaulted Winnipeg to victory, but pushed himself to the top of the NHL leaderboard as well. He now has 11 goals on the year is three clear of Scheifele, Crosby, Artem Anisimov and David Pastrnak.
"He's a really competitive guy," said Head Coach Paul Maurice. "When it's not going (well) he gets a little snarly, which we like. I don't get any sense of surprise from him and how he plays. He's working on the other parts of his game, but I think he has complete and full confidence with what he does with the puck."
Video: WPG@DAL Laine redirects Chiarot's shot into the twine
Laine is currently shooting at a 25 percent success rate. That's high and likely unsustainable over the course of a full season. He admits luck might be factoring into his hot start, but with comfort comes confidence - and with each game, you can tell he's developing new techniques to best utilize his ability and nose for the net at this level.
"People can think that it's easy and that it looks easy, but everything looks easy when you know what you're doing and you're good at it," Laine said.
"I think I can score many different ways. I can score with a wrister, slap shot, one-timer, tip in, it doesn't matter. I think I've changed a little bit in the past few games. I want to be around the net more. A lot of the goals these days, people are going to score from around the net. I want to be there to tip those shots. I think I've changed that and it has to be better as the season keeps going."
Video: DAL@WPG: Laine jams his own rebound into the twine
Maurice adds that even he is amazed with what the rookie has accomplished this early in his career. He's overcome the obstacles of adapting to a new life in a new city, a new country, and has allowed his talent to shine no matter what the situation, and done so with ease.
The coach has echoed all year that his ability to score in practice is among the best he's ever seen in his 15-plus years behind the bench. It remains a staple of his daily press briefings because of one simple fact: As the days pass and the viewings get more and more frequent, the show doesn't become any less impressive.
It's theatre on ice.
Now, that same anticipation that originally began in practice more than six weeks ago has officially translated to the game, night in and night out. There's a buzz in the building every time he touches the puck, and rightfully so.
Video: DAL@WPG: Laine scores on snap shot to notch hat trick
"He's learning, right?" Maurice said. "One of the things that we found most Finnish players will do is curl to the middle of the ice and they'll never chase or finish a check. He's not chasing it, but he learned in the first five games that the style of the game that's played here is because of the speed, skill level and age of the men playing with, but also the shape of the ice.
"As he gets more comfortable with systems and the game itself, he'll become even more efficient with what he does."
Asked why the sudden surge after a scoreless exhibition, Laine responded with increasingly present (and rather hilarious) dry wit: "I didn't want to waste my goals in the preseason. I can score now."
OK, so a little levity never hurts, either.
- Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com