Blake James Wheeler, born on August 31, 1986, is a distinguished American professional ice hockey player showcasing his skills with the New York Rangers in the National Hockey League (NHL).
Chosen initially by the Phoenix Coyotes in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft as the fifth overall pick in the first round, Wheeler chose to sign with the Boston Bruins as a free agent when contract negotiations with the Coyotes did not materialize.
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Blake Wheeler’s Early Life
Blake Wheeler, born on August 31, 1986, in Plymouth, Minnesota, is the son of Pat and Jim. He also has an older sister named Brook.
His formative years were spent in Wayzata, Minnesota, where he attended school and actively engaged in hockey.
Demonstrating exceptional skills at a young age, Wheeler frequently played alongside peers older than him while participating in youth hockey leagues in Wayzata.
Blake Wheeler’s playing Career
During his formative years as an amateur player, Blake Wheeler’s commitment to hockey led him to make pivotal decisions impacting his education and sports career.
Enrolled initially at Wayzata High School, Wheeler made a significant move to Breck School during his junior and senior years to enhance his prospects for a hockey scholarship.
His prowess on the ice became evident during the 2002–03 season when he played an integral role in Wayzata Bantam’s success, securing the AA Silver Stick and Minnesota A Bantam State titles.
Despite being younger, Wheeler often competed in higher age groups due to his exceptional skills. His ambition to represent the United States men’s national junior ice hockey team saw him attempt trials; however, he could not secure a spot on the final roster.
Nevertheless, Wheeler’s return to Breck School for his junior year was marked by outstanding achievements.
He emerged as a standout player, recording an impressive 45 goals and 55 assists, leading his team to victory in the Class A State Hockey Championship and showcasing his talent with a hat trick in the final game.
Wheeler’s sporting abilities extended beyond hockey; he also excelled in football at Breck, setting a tight end record for the most catches in the Prep Bowl championship game.
During his remarkable junior season, he caught the attention of renowned collegiate hockey programs. Despite initial considerations for Boston College, Wheeler committed to the University of Minnesota, primarily due to its proximity to his family.
The unexpected selection of Wheeler as the fifth overall pick by the Phoenix Coyotes in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft surprised many, as he was ranked 17th among North American skaters by the NHL Central Scouting Bureau.
Departing from Breck after his junior year to join the Green Bay Gamblers in the United States Hockey League (USHL) marked a significant turning point.
Wheeler attributed his decision to his aspiration for new challenges against more vigorous and older opponents.
Blake Wheeler’s transition to the Gamblers was impactful, making an immediate impression by contributing two goals and an assist in his debut game on October 9.
Despite initial challenges faced by the team and some trade talks involving Wheeler, his determination shone through.
By the end of the 2004–05 season, Wheeler emerged as a critical player for the Gamblers, leading the team with 19 goals and 28 assists, accumulating 47 points.
Blake Wheeler’s College
After his tenure with the Gamblers, Blake Wheeler’s journey continued with significant milestones as he transitioned to collegiate hockey with the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
Before joining the Gophers for his freshman season, he was invited to participate in USA Hockey’s Under-20 National Junior Evaluation Camp.
Wheeler showcased his talent during the camp, contributing three goals and an assist across four games against international opponents.
Beginning his freshman season, Wheeler swiftly made an impact, securing two goals and one assist in his initial four collegiate games.
By December, he ranked impressively among the Gophers, holding the fourth position for goals and fifth for overall points.
Despite his success, the team was disappointed in the NCAA Division I men’s ice hockey tournament in 2006, being unexpectedly ousted by the Holy Cross Crusaders in the Regional semifinals.
Returning for his sophomore season, Wheeler collaborated closely with the coaching staff to enhance his physical presence, drawing inspiration from players like Tomas Holmström and Ryan Smyth.
Blake Wheeler’s versatility was evident as he transitioned from wing to center after Phil Kessel’s departure to the Boston Bruins.
Excelling in his new role, Wheeler showcased his prowess, notching goals and assists while also impressing in faceoffs.
Throughout the 2006–07 season, Wheeler maintained a significant offensive contribution, leading the Gophers with goals and points, ensuring the team’s success with a lengthy winning streak.
Despite a slight dip in performance during the latter half of the season, Wheeler concluded his sophomore year with a career-best of 18 goals and 20 assists, earning him a pivotal role in the team’s victories.
His standout performances continued into the postseason as he recorded his first collegiate hat-trick during the 2007 WCHA Semifinals, propelling the Gophers to a 4–2 victory over the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
His pivotal game-winning goal against the North Dakota Fighting Sioux secured the number one seed for the Gophers in the 2007 NCAA Division I men’s ice hockey tournament.
Wheeler’s exceptional contributions led to his recognition on the All-Tournament Team and earned him the tournament’s MVP award.
In the subsequent 2007 offseason, Wheeler engaged in the Coyotes’ rookie camp before commencing the 2007–08 season with the Gophers.
His consistent performance on the ice earned accolades, including leading the team in scoring. Despite the team’s struggles, Wheeler remained a resilient force, accumulating goals and assists, ultimately securing a spot on the All-WCHA Third Team.
As his fourth year since being drafted passed without a contract agreement with the Coyotes, Wheeler, having been offered an entry-level contract, made the pivotal decision to become an unrestricted free agent, marking a turning point in his professional journey.
Blake Wheeler’s Professional
Boston Bruins (2008–2011)
Following unsuccessful contract negotiations with the Phoenix Coyotes, Blake Wheeler made a significant career move on July 1, 2008, by signing an entry-level contract with the Boston Bruins.
The Coyotes received a compensatory second-round pick due to Wheeler’s decision to sign elsewhere. His transition to the Bruins saw him attending the team’s Development Camp and earning a spot on their opening night roster for the 2008–09 season.
Memorable milestones marked Wheeler’s inaugural season with the Bruins. Playing alongside David Krejci and Chuck Kobasew, he netted his first NHL goal during Boston’s season-opening victory against the Colorado Avalanche on October 9, 2008.
Recognizing the significance of his jersey number among former University of Minnesota teammates, Wheeler switched from 42 to 26.
This change proved auspicious as he recorded his first NHL hat trick in his debut game with the new number against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
His stellar performance secured him a spot in the 2009 NHL YoungStars Game, where he showcased his talent by scoring four goals and claiming the Game MVP honors.
Wheeler’s early success continued as a consistent winger on the Krejci and Michael Ryder line, amassing 36 points in his first 61 NHL games.
However, a decline in scoring led to his first healthy scratch in March, after which he rebounded with additional goals before concluding the regular season.
Despite an impressive regular season, Wheeler faced challenges during the playoffs, struggling to make significant offensive contributions.
As a result, he was scratched for a game during the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Ahead of the 2009–10 season, Wheeler focused on training and muscle-building under the guidance of the Bruins’ strength and conditioning coach.
Blake Wheeler returned for the new season weighing more but remained confident that this increase in weight wouldn’t hinder his performance.
Wheeler marked his 100th career NHL game and continued showcasing his scoring ability, contributing to the team’s success despite occasional droughts.
As the Bruins entered the 2010 playoffs, Wheeler’s offensive output declined from his previous season’s performance.
However, he contributed one goal and five assists during the postseason. Contract negotiations at the end of the 2009–10 season led to a one-year deal through arbitration, securing Wheeler for another year with the Bruins.
Amid discussions of shifting to a center position for the 2010–11 season, Wheeler continued playing primarily as a winger until a trade on February 18, 2011, sent him and Mark Stuart to the Atlanta Thrashers in exchange for Boris Valábik and Rich Peverley.
At the time of the trade, Wheeler had tallied 11 goals over 58 games and was set to become a restricted free agent by season’s end.
Blake Wheeler’s Atlanta Thrashers / Winnipeg Jets (2011–2023)
Upon his arrival with the Thrashers, Blake Wheeler swiftly made an impact, notching 17 points across 23 games while maintaining an average of nearly 19 minutes of ice time per game.
Following the relocation and rebranding of the Thrashers as the Winnipeg Jets, Wheeler inked a lucrative two-year contract worth $5.1 million on July 18, 2011.
The inaugural 2011–12 season with the Jets was a standout period for Wheeler as he emerged as the team’s leading scorer, achieving a career-best 64 points in 80 games.
Amid the delayed 2012–13 NHL season due to the lockout, Wheeler ventured to Europe, joining EHC München in Germany’s Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL) on October 28, 2012, to maintain his game fitness.
In July 2013, Wheeler bypassed arbitration by signing a substantial six-year, $33.6 million contract, carrying an annual cap hit of $5.6 million.
This deal positioned him as the third-highest-paid player on the Jets, extending his tenure with the team until the 2018–19 season.
Notably, on August 31, 2016, Wheeler assumed the role of team captain for the Jets, marking a significant milestone in his career.
His excellence on the ice earned him recognition, as he earned his first NHL All-Star selection on January 10, 2018, concluding the regular season with an impressive career-high of 91 points, topping the league in assists alongside Claude Giroux with 68.
Additionally, Wheeler’s exemplary leadership led to his nomination as a finalist for the Mark Messier Leadership Award on April 24, 2018.
Building on his success, on September 4, 2018, Wheeler secured a substantial five-year contract extension with the Jets, signing for $41.25 million.
In a momentous career milestone, Wheeler celebrated his 1000th NHL game on December 5, 2021, highlighting his enduring impact and dedication to the sport.
However, his tenure with the Jets took an unexpected turn. On September 16, 2022, the team decided to strip Wheeler of the captaincy, opting to go without a designated captain for the 2022–23 season.
This decision was followed by the Jets buying out Wheeler on July 1, 2023, concluding his time with the team.
Blake Wheeler’s New York Rangers (2023–present)
On July 1, 2023, Wheeler joined the New York Rangers as a free agent, securing a one-year contract valued at $800,000 and possibly earning an additional $300,000 through bonuses.
Blake Wheeler’s Personal Life
Wheeler and his wife Sam, a True North Youth Foundation Board of Directors member, share three children.
On Twitter, Wheeler has been outspoken about his political stance, particularly opposing Donald Trump. Their initial clash emerged in 2017 when Trump implied that athletes who knelt during the national anthem should face dismissal.
In reaction to this statement, Wheeler defended the athletes’ First Amendment rights. In February 2018, he advocated for gun control, expressing concern about the prevalence of school shootings in the United States and admitting fear about sending his children to school there.
He highlighted the advantages of Canadian gun laws, mentioning how they influenced his decision for his family to live in Canada during the school year.
Upon Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 United States presidential election, Wheeler expressed renewed hope, mentioning his anticipation for his daughter to witness a woman assuming the role of vice president for the first time.