Winnipeg Jets’ captain Blake Wheeler has been selected as a finalist for this award. As one of three finalists, Wheeler will go up against Philadelphia’s Wayne Simmonds and Vegas’ Deryk Engelland.
Wheeler provided quite the spark for the Jets’ offensively this season, setting career highs in points (91) and assists (68), while helping Winnipeg to its best record in franchise history (52-20-10 – good for 114 points).
In his 10th NHL season, eighth with Winnipeg, and second as captain, Wheeler finished ninth in scoring and passed Ilya Kovalchuk for the franchise lead in assists midway through the 2017-18 season. The 6-foot-5, 225-pound winger out of Plymouth, Minnesota also participated in his first NHL All-Star Weekend this past season. Wheeler was named the NHL’s First Star of the Week in late November after producing two goals and 10 points in four games.
Wheeler has contributed off the ice and within the community through the Winnipeg Jets Hockey Academy, Project 11, the True North Youth Foundation, Camp Manitou, and the Winnipeg Jets Gala Dinner.
Both Wheeler and his wife Sam are involved with the True North Youth Foundation as Blake operates as the team spokesperson and often participates in school classroom visits, while Sam has a position on the TNYF board.
Although Wheeler does stand a good chance to walk away from June’s NHL Award Show in Vegas with the trophy, he is going up against some hefty competition.
Engelland – a lifelong Vegas resident – was instrumental in the #VegasStrong campaign and has helped the growth of hockey in the NHL’s newest city, including a moving speech following the tragic events at the Route 91 Harvest Festival.
Simmonds – a four-year member of the board of directors for the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation – hosted a military unit in a private suite during Flyers’ home games this season.
Recent winners of the Mark Messier Leadership Award include:
2016–17 Nick Foligno
2015–16 Shea Weber
2014–15 Jonathan Toews
By Carter Brooks
Photos by James Carey Lauder