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Scheifele, Trouba, Lowry ready to take the next step

"They've made huge improvements over those years in a short period of time to become drivers." -Maurice

by Mitchell Clinton @MClinton007 /

Since their NHL careers began, they've been referred to as 'young players.'

Not anymore, says head coach Paul Maurice.

"The three players that I think transition out of me talking about them as young players (are Mark) Scheifele, (Adam) Lowry, and (Jacob) Trouba," Maurice said at the conclusion of the 2016-17 campaign.

"They've made huge improvements over those years in a short period of time to become drivers."

Scheifele and Trouba's NHL careers now span four seasons, while Lowry put the finishing touches on his third in early April.

In his first season as an alternate captain, the 24-year-old Scheifele set a career high in goals (32), assists (50), and points (82) in 79 games.

"Obviously it went pretty good personally, I continued to progress. I felt like I became a better player each and every game. It's going to be another good summer and I want to come back even stronger," said Scheifele. "I come in every day and I have things that I want to focus on and I want to work on. I go out each day and work the hardest I can to get better, fix my weaknesses, get better at my strengths."

But as much as his offensive numbers grew, Scheifele also took on more responsibility in the defensive zone. As a centre, he took the second most defensive zone face-offs on the team (332), and it wasn't uncommon to see the former Barrie Colt on the ice during the penalty kill.

He was reliable in his own end, but could just as quickly get the puck moving toward the opponents' zone. Case in point - Blake Wheeler's shorthanded game-winner in the season finale against Nashville.

Video: NSH@WPG: Wheeler gives Jets late lead with SHG

The only Jets centre that took more defensive zone face-offs than Scheifele was Lowry (359). In fact, 61 per cent of Lowry's zone starts this season came in Winnipeg's zone.

With that type of responsibility, it's easy to see why Lowry wants to continue to improve on his 50.8 per cent face-off percentage next season.

"Face-offs are an area you continue to get better at with experience," said the 24-year-old. "The more you get used to the tendencies of the linesman dropping the puck, and the tendencies of other guys who you can start keying in on things that they do to be successful in the circle, and you can kind of combat that."

Like Scheifele, Lowry had a career year on the offensive side of things. His 15 goals, 14 assists, and 29 points were the highest totals he's recorded in all three categories.

Video: VAN@WPG: Lowry roofs scorching PPG over Miller

"I look back at how my game developed this year, I'm pretty happy with that. I think it was a step in the right direction," said Lowry. "It's going to be something that I'm going to try and build off, and try to use this summer to continue that development and continue to make improvements in my game.

"I got a lot of opportunities this year, and I tried to make the most of it."

Trouba, like Lowry and Scheifele, also had career high numbers in assists (25) and points (33) in the 60 games he played in 2016-17.

Those 33 points were second among Jets defencemen, and while Trouba looks forward to being a bit more of a leader in the eyes of the team's younger players, he credits the older veterans in the room for showing him the way.

"I remember my first couple years, I didn't really understand what it took. You need those older guys who have been there and gone through it to teach the younger guys that come in," said Trouba. "That was something that I got, and I think Mark and I in that age group can help with that, but you need the Blake Wheelers and the veteran guys to really show the way."

General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff says all those career numbers are a direct result of the work each player does to improve his game.

"Mark Scheifele invested in himself. He went from that 18-year-old kid, to the 19-year-old kid, to the 20-year-old young man, to the 21-year-old man, to the 22-23-year-old driver of this team. It's taken him to do that. The credit goes to him," said Cheveldayoff. "The credit goes to Jacob Trouba for what he's done. These guys have talent, the coaches are here to help guide them, but in the end the players deserves all the credit."

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