Winnipeg, MB - The Winnipeg Jets Hockey Club, in conjunction with the National Hockey League, announced that Winnipeg Jets forward Blake Wheeler has been selected as one of three finalists for the 2017-18 Mark Messier Leadership Award. The award is presented "to the NHL player who exemplifies great leadership qualities to his team on and off the ice during the regular season and who plays a leading role in his community growing the game of hockey" as selected by six-time Stanley Cup champion and Hall of Famer Mark Messier. The other finalists are Deryk Engelland of the Vegas Golden Knights and Wayne Simmonds of the Philadelphia Flyers.
On the ice, Wheeler helped Winnipeg to a 52-20-10 record and 114 points - the most wins and points in franchise history and a 12-win and 27-point improvement from 2016-17. In his second season as captain, he shared the NHL lead in assists (68) and topped the league in primary assists (48) and power play helpers (34). The Plymouth, Minnesota native also led the club and finished ninth in the NHL in points (91). He's in his 10th season in the NHL and his eighth with the Jets franchise and he passed Ilya Kovalchuk for the franchise lead in assists earlier this season.
Wheeler's accolades in 2017-18 included playing in his first NHL All-Star Game in Tampa Bay. He was selected as the NHL's First Star of the week for Nov. 27-Dec. 3/17 after a 10-point (2G, 8A) week.
Off the ice, Wheeler is an ambassador for the True North Youth Foundation and continues to be a role model for Winnipeg youth who participate in its programs. From its flagship program, the Winnipeg Jets Hockey Academy, Camp Manitou and the mental wellness program, Project 11, the 31-year-old has had a chance to interact with many students, sharing encouragement and inspiration and helping to empower their potential. As captain, and ambassador, Wheeler has led his teammates in their participation in TNYF events and initiatives and was among the players who spent a fun-filled day in the off-season modeling alongside kids as part of a photoshoot for a foundation marketing campaign. As the team's spokesperson, he led the thank-you campaign, acknowledging the meaningful work that the support of the community makes possible through the foundation. On behalf of the foundation, Wheeler has spent time with kids at several events, including a classroom visit and at the Winnipeg Jets Gala Dinner, where a special event was hosted for foundation students. The TNYF has become a family focus for the Wheelers as Blake's wife, Sam, serves on the board.
Atlanta acquired Wheeler with Mark Stuart from Boston in exchange for Rich Peverley and Boris Valabik. Wheeler was originally drafted by Phoenix in the first round (fifth overall) in the 2004 NHL Draft.
Wheeler is the second Jet to be named a finalist for an NHL award this season. He joins Connor Hellebuyck, who is a finalist for the Vezina Trophy, given to the NHL's top goaltender.
The 2017-18 winner of the Mark Messier Leadership Award will be announced on Wednesday, June 20 during the 2018 NHL Awards Show from the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, NV.