30-Year-Old Right Wing – Winnipeg Jets
Blake Wheeler Contract Information:
Wheeler signed a six-year extension with the Jets worth $33.6 million in July of 2012.
Wheeler piled up a goal and two assists in Winnipeg's season-opening 5-4 overtime win over the Hurricanes.
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RotoWire's Preseason Outlooks
Wheeler posted his second consecutive 60-point season last year, and if not for the lockout, he'd probably be at four in a row by now. It took him a long time to live up to the talent level that made him 2004's No. 5 overall pick, but Wheeler's established himself as one of the Jets' most important players and should be in line for another big year on the first line with Bryan Little and Andrew Ladd, with his first 30-goal campaign a legitimate possibility. He's proven to be a durable, well-rounded fantasy contributor despite playing a fairly physical style, and there's no reason to think that won't continue throughout his late 20s.
Wheeler is fresh off his best statistical season as a pro and at age 27, he shouldn’t slow down anytime too soon. His 28 goals, 69 points and 63 PIM were all career-bests, and his plus-4 rating was also perfectly acceptable. He’s expected to line up next to Mark Scheifele and Evander Kane on the Jets' second line again this season, which should allow the trio once again benefit from the Jets’ top line assuming the toughest matchups night in and night out. Wheeler skated in all 82 games last season and all 48 the year before, so his durability shouldn’t be an issue when considering whether or not to draft him.
Wheeler managed an impressive 19 goals in just 48 games last year, two more than he managed in 80 games in the 2011-12 season. He's really come into his own as a leader and found some real chemistry with Andrew Ladd and Bryan Little on the team's top line, notching points in eight of the Jets' last nine games to finish the season, proving he could be counted on for a push to the playoffs. Though the team came up short of winning the Southeast Division, Wheeler should top 60+ points and set a new career-high in goals going into the 2013-14 season.
Winnipeg's leader in points last season with 64, Wheeler will be motivated to outdo himself in 2012-2013, the final year on his current contract. He led the team in assists with 47 and also chipped in a surprising 55 penalty minutes. Having missed only three games in his last seasons, consider "Wheels" among the most reliable sources of assists in most leagues after the premier set-up men have been snagged. He's shown great chemistry with Evander Kane and Bryan Little upon Winnipeg's top line.
Wheeler split last season between the Thrashers and Bruins and scored 18 goals and 26 assists for 44 points. In his three NHL seasons, Wheeler has missed a grand total of two games. He has offensive talent and is just on the verge of entering his prime production years. He'll play on the Jets' top two lines after scoring 17 points in 23 games with the team last year. All signs point to Wheeler topping his career highs, so he'll make a solid fantasy pick once the top guns in the draft have been selected.
Wheeler has combined for 39 goals through his first two NHL seasons since making the leap straight from college, including 18 last season. He's a big body (6-5, 205) who possesses some decent finesse for a player his size, but at times he's been criticized for being a perimeter player. If he can incorporate some more grit and added thump to his game, then Wheeler could see an uptick in production, but for now he's one of the Bruins' secondary offensive threats.
While being a healthy scratch for the B's last three playoff games last season may have may been a short-term hit to his confidence, Wheeler has a nice blend of size and skill and should at least match his rookie numbers (21 goals, 45 points) this coming season, with the potential for more production as he gets used to the lengthy grind of the NHL schedule.
Defenseman Matt Lashoff may be more polished and first-rounder Joe Colborne may have more long-term upside, but there figures to be an opportunity for Wheeler (drafted No. 5 overall in 2004) to contribute as the season rolls along. He has a nice combo of size and good hands, which if harnessed, could turn him into a solid NHL power forward to add to the B's stable of talent up front.
Wheeler is not expected to play with the Coyotes this season. Keeper/Dynasty league owners will have to wait another year (or two) to see this giant forward in the NHL.