Scheifele teamed up with The Players’ Tribune on Thursday to share his thoughts on some of the top players and performances of 2019-20 (so far) and submit his “official, non-official” NHL Awards ballot.
“Leon [Draisaitl] is probably the smartest player in the game. Connor [McDavid] … well, everyone knows him. And guys like Nathan MacKinnon and David Pastrnak deserve some praise as well, absolutely,” he wrote.
“But … the most valuable player to his team? Jack Eichel.”
Scheifele, a self-proclaimed hockey nerd who’s almost always watching hockey whenever he isn’t playing it, said he’s been watching a lot of Sabres games this year so he can see what Eichel does next.
“Every time he steps out there he seems like he’s just got another gear over everyone else,” he wrote. “To do that night in and night out? That’s impressive.”
Scheifele also chimed in on the red-hot Calder Trophy race, backed his own netminder for the Vezina, and broke down some game tape on his favourite goal of the year — Connor McDavid versus Morgan Rielly and the Toronto Maple Leafs… you know the one.
It’s a great read for his fellow hockey nerds — though, a word of warning: It’ll make you miss hockey even more than you already do. Here are a few excerpts:
On why Quinn Hughes gets the edge in the Calder race:
“Don’t get me wrong, he’s a lot more than just an elite skater. But the way he works his edges — he does it as well as anybody in the NHL right now. He’s not as quick as (Cale) Makar, I think, but it’s the way he creates just little pockets of space for himself that really separates him… It’s close, but for me it goes to Hughes. He’s just been that much more creative, and also done more to help his team.”
On his Calder runner-up, Cale Makar:
“Whether it’s in transition, or in the O-zone, he’s so hard to knock off the puck. This isn’t a size thing, mostly. It’s more his ability to juke you and bounce off a check. When you know he has that ability, it makes it really hard to mentally commit to a hit on him.
“If you go down into the corner to get a puck off him, you’ve already lost the battle, because he has it.”
On Jack Eichel:
“Whenever we play Buffalo, he’s the first guy we look to try to nullify. He’s a monster in the offensive end and an absolute pain to play against when you’re trying to score. He can do it all. He’s one of the most complete forwards in the game. And he doesn’t take a shift off.”
On Connor Hellebuyck:
“He’ll give up a goal during a game, and the next day he’ll be on the ice facing that same shot 50 times until he gets it right.
“I don’t know the specific mechanics that make him great, but his hockey IQ is really incredible. I think he has a database in his head for every shooter in the league, because he’s hands down the best shot-stopper out there.”
On why Mathew Barzal is one of his favourite players to watch:
“His point totals might not blow you away yet, but as far as controlling the game? Not sure there’s too many better out there. He’s always got the puck, and not in a selfish way. It’s just that he’s the one who can set up the ice in a way to let his teammates succeed.
“In a few years he’s going to be leading the league in scoring.”