The Winnipeg Jets were responsible for some of the NHL's top even-strength point producers last season. But their leading scorer, center Mark Scheifele, knows his team is capable of much bigger things on the power play.
The Jets had four players (Scheifele: 82 points; Blake Wheeler: 74; Patrik Laine: 64; Nikolaj Ehlers: 64) eclipse 60 points last season, but one with more than 15 power-play points (Wheeler: 21 PPP). As a whole, Winnipeg's power play ranked in the bottom half of the League (18.2 percent; 18th). Scheifele (15 PPP), Laine (14) and Ehlers (12), the Jets' most-frequent top line, struggled to carry over their 5-on-5 success to man-advantage situations.
"I think [the power play is] something that just comes with chemistry," Scheifele said in New York last week during the NHL Player Media Tour. "I know for us, we're obviously not happy with where we've been on the power play, but that's something where we kind of have to find that cohesiveness where things are clicking, we know where each other is, and I think that's what makes good power plays."
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Winnipeg had four players finish among the League leaders in even-strength points last season; Scheifele had 65 even-strength points in 79 games (third in NHL), Ehlers had 52 in 82 games (T-10th) and right wings Patrik Laine and Blake Wheeler finished with 50 apiece (T-13th). Laine had elite 5-on-5 production, including 27 even-strength goals (T-6th), as a rookie despite missing nine games.
From a fantasy standpoint, five Winnipeg skaters (Wheeler: 13th; defenseman Dustin Byfuglien: 15th; Scheifele: 29th; Laine: 63rd; Ehlers: 74th) finished among Yahoo's top 75 based on standard-category performance last season. Thus, any spike in power-play production would elevate their team fantasy worth to new heights.
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"When you see Washington's power play, when you watch Tampa [Bay]'s and Toronto's power play last year, it just seemed like every time they got in the zone, things just clicked," Scheifele said. "And I think that's something that we have to try to adopt is just having that chemistry on those power-play units."
Despite mixed results on the power play, Winnipeg's offense still ranked seventh in the NHL in goals per game (3.00). Fantasy owners have been investing heavily in the Jets' top skaters so far this preseason; Winnipeg has four players (Laine: 15.3; Scheifele: 22.7; Byfuglien: 25.2; Wheeler: 42.6) going among the top 50 based on Yahoo average draft position. Ehlers (ADP: 79.0) is not far behind.
Winnipeg's first power-play unit features four forwards (Scheifele, Laine, Wheeler, Ehlers) and one defenseman (Byfuglien). Center Bryan Little (12 PPP in 59 games) and left wing Mathieu Perreault (15 PPP in 65 games) are also notable contributors when healthy. But talent will only take their power-play units so far.
Scheifele said adjustments from individual players, on both ends of the ice, are crucial for the Jets to improve their standing in the difficult Central Division. Whether it's the power play, defense or goaltending, the Jets must zero in on their weaknesses once training camp begins this week.
"I think the biggest thing is, you've just got to continue to work at your game," Scheifele said. "Depending on how well or bad you do, you can't stay complacent. You've got to continue to push for more. You've got to continue to work hard at things you're good at, but also the things you're bad at. To win in this league, you have to continue to build your game and get better and better every year, or else you're going to get passed."