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Mark Scheifele Calls Jets Teammate Blake Wheeler One of the NHL's Most Underrated Players

Mark Scheifele makes a point to learn from the players he sees as the NHL's most impressive, a tactic he might want to employ when it comes to his golf game.

Mark Scheifele is an impressive young player on one of the NHL’s most impressive young teams. He was a point-per-game player for the second straight season in 2017-18, posting 23 goals and 60 points in 60 games before going on a postseason tear with 14 goals in 17 games, leading the Winnipeg Jets to Western Conference Final.

But who impresses Scheifele? That was the question posed to him on TSN’s OverDrive podcast on Tuesday, and the 25-year-old center named an interesting mix of players, including a teammate he seems to believe deserves a bit more due. 

“Definitely Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby are 1-2,” he said. “Probably put Victor Hedman or Roman Josi in the top five, one of them. I'd throw my linemate Blake Wheeler in the top five. He's probably one of the most underrated players. His passing is next-level. By far, he's a pretty special player to play with. No. 5, I'd probably put Jamie Benn. He's a really good player, does it all, tough to play against. He hits, he skates well, shoots the puck, he does it all close to net. He's definitely up there.”

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In a 2017 post on The Players’ Tribune, Scheifele named Penguins forward Crosby, Oilers wunderkind McDavid and Predators blueliner Josi on his list of toughest players he’s ever faced, along with Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson and Canadiens goalie Carey Price.

It’s a long list that Scheifele keeps an eye on, always looking to learn something new and motivate himself as he aims to bring Winnipeg an elusive Stanley Cup.

“When you want to be the best for yourself and the best for your team, you have to raise yourself up to the best players in this league,” he said. “You have to learn stuff from the best players in the league and you have to continue to strive for that. You have to challenge them, you have to see what they're doing, change your game … whatever it is, you can learn things from all the best players in the game and I definitely do watch a lot of those guys to try to improve my game on a day-to-day basis.”

Watching other elite centers like Crosby have success and raise the play of their teammates provides Scheifele and his fellow Jets with a good model to follow.

“There's four corners in the rink and as a centerman, you have to play all four of them,” he said. “Whether it's making a pass in the offensive zone or taking a puck up in the d-zone and making a play, you see the Sidney Crosbys of the world do that night-in, night-out, flawlessly. And that's obviously a reason why the Pittsburgh Penguins have won. They have guys like him that can play in all three zones, play it really well and are responsible in all areas of the ice. You need those guys to step up and play well in all those zones to be able to win.”

While the summer is generally looked at as a time for NHLers to improve their games ahead of training camp, Scheifele tried his hand at a different sport, taking part in The Players Cup, a PGA Tour event in Winnipeg, as a sponsored amateur. He filled in for Wheeler, who was unable to attend, though it appears his golf game needs a little work: Scheifele missed the cut after firing +29 through two days.

“I think Wheels would have done a better job on the course,” he said. "He's a really good golfer. I was definitely nervous. The first day, I was definitely more nervous than the next day, but it was an experience that you'll never get unless you actually play in an actual tournament."

Scheifele isn’t the only member of the Jets to have had a busy summer. Goalie Connor Hellebuyck inked a six-year, $37 million extension, while forwards Marko Dano, Brandon Tanev and Nic Petan, along with defenseman Jacob Trouba, received one-year deals, setting up another frantic summer in 2019.

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It’s all part of the business of hockey, and Scheifele, two seasons through an eight-year, $49 million deal, knows that it could mean big changes for his team, possibly even before then.

“That's what happens when you draft and develop really well,” he said. “You're gonna ending up having to pay guys and you're gonna have to go through some tough times, but we have such a great group of guys that makes it exciting. You don't know what management is going to do, that's not in our control as players, but we know we have a special team and guys that want to get better and want to make this team something special.” 

The Jets have definitely become a team to watch in recent seasons, this upcoming season will be no different, especially if Scheifele is ready to show off what he’s learned from other impressive NHLers.