Blake Wheeler is coming off a career-high and league-leading 68 assists last season and a second place finish in powerplay points with 40. He also led the league in powerplay assists with 34. As we near the quarter mark of the season already, Wheeler has shown no sign of slowing down, once again leading the league in powerplay assists with 12, which is enough to also lead the league in powerplay points even though he hasn’t scored a powerplay goal, yet. Sure, having great finishers like Patrick Laine, Kyle Connor, and Mark Scheifele will help the assist total, but don’t let that fool you into thinking Wheeler isn’t one of the best passers in the game.
Wheeler makes his living handling the puck in the right circle and using his vision and hands to make passes through heavy traffic. He is able to hit every area of the slot consistently. He can find teammates in the inner slot with ease:
The high-slot, no problem:
How about some cross-ice sauce through heavy traffic for a one-timer? Sure. (skip to 44 seconds for the slow-motion replay, it’s worth it):
Wheeler has always been a talented passer, but take a defender off the ice and surround him with elite finishers and there’s every reason to believe he’ll keep pacing the league in powerplay assists. As Wheeler continues to thread pucks through tight passing lanes, his shooters will do the rest and, for the 4th straight season, he may wind up setting another career-high for powerplay assists.