Blake Wheeler said Thursday he would be honored to be named captain of the Winnipeg Jets but would play and lead the same way even if he's not.
"Regardless of what letter I have on my jersey, my role on the team and who I am with the team is not going to change," the veteran forward told the Winnipeg Free Press. "I think last year was a big growing year for me, with [my] foot on the gas the whole time."
Wheeler was an alternate captain when Jets captain Andrew Ladd was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks on Feb. 25. Winnipeg played the remainder of the season with only alternates, including defenseman Mark Stuart.
Wheeler, 29, had an NHL career-high 78 points (26 goals, 52 assists) in 82 games last season. He has missed five games since the 2011-12 season.
The Jets (35-39-8) did not make the Stanley Cup Playoffs, finishing last in the Central Division and 25th in the NHL standings. But Winnipeg moved up to No. 2 in the 2016 NHL Draft Lottery and selected forward Patrik Laine.
"We tried to win every game, and that's the way I believe it should be done, and sure enough, the lottery balls reward you for that stuff," Wheeler said. "I believe if you do things the right way, you're going to get rewarded. Now we've got a nice little new toy to play with."
The Jets added forward Marko Dano in the trade for Ladd, and this offseason re-signed forward Mark Scheifele to an eight-year contract and signed forward Mathieu Perreault to a four-year extension. Wheeler has three seasons left on his contract, according to General Fanager.
"I think now certainly I do have a clear view of where we're headed and what's ahead of us," Wheeler said. "I'm probably more excited today than I have been at any point about what we have going forward, just from purely a talent standpoint."