To the casual hockey fan, Mark Scheifele was a surprise pick last June in Minnesota. Many Jets fans were probably hoping Ryan Strome would fall to 7th and when he didn’t they were most likely thinking Sean Couturier was the probable selection (I know I did). Many experts felt that Winnipeg went “of the board” or “reached” when they selected Scheifele from the Barrie Colts.
After the dust settled and the interviews began and the scouting reports started to fly, people were introduced to a 6’2” center, coached by Dale Hawerchuk, who was thrilled to be drafted by the Jets. I don’t believe that Spezzaish smile has left his face since the first time he slipped on the NHL crested jersey in June. Quickly we all realized that not only did the young man have a good frame, he has the skills of a future #1 franchise center as well.
Later he was invited to the Team Canada summer evaluation camp for the 2012 World Junior Championships and Scheifele looked slow, behind the play, and pretty sluggish. He also didn’t have the benefit of top offensive linemates during the inter-squad games. It should also be noted that he was probably the 4th or 5th center on the depth chart and at the time looked to be in a dogfight to even be considered for the tournament.
Scheifele benefited though from the extra ice time with elite players and rode that momentum into a fantastic rookie camp in Penticton BC in early September. Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Scheifele were two of the tournaments best players and it was obvious that Scheifele’s confidence was sky high and all Jets fan’s were excited to see this kid first hand. I appeared that the Jets made an excellent pick in their first draft back in the NHL.
Fast-forward to September 20th and the Jets played their first NHL game in Winnipeg in 15 years, albeit an Exhibition game, against the Columbus Blue Jackets. All Scheifele did was score 2 goals and 2 assists and light the entire city on fire! Scheifele would go on to have a great pre season and finished 2nd in league scoring with 4 goals 4 assists for 8 points and there was no doubt that he would break his first training camp and make his NHL debut.
Reality reared its head quickly and Scheifele was only able to manage scoring his first professional goal in 7 games (against the Maple Leafs which had to be extra special for him) and was returned to Barrie on October 23rd in a move that most people agreed was the best for the player. The added benefit of being returned to junior is that he would be the top center for team Canada and play in vital situations, which should lead to further development for the player.
The scoutingreport.org had this to say about Scheifele prior to the draft:
“Obviously his skating still needs work as he doesn’t quite have that great acceleration or balance, but once he can rectify those two areas of his game, he will be a force in the OHL, and a very good NHL prospect. Scheifele has real good puck poise and the puck seems to follow him all over the offensive zone. The past couple of looks I’ve had of him, he’s really generated a lot of offense with his elusive agility and ability to utilize his quick release.”
This from dansallows.com:
He is a good skater, with great offensive instincts, terrific vision, makes his linemates better, and has an incredible work ethic that should see him develop into an all-round player sooner rather than later. Scheifele is quickly making waves among NHL scouts, as the youngster is eligible for the 2011 Entry Draft, and may just be a sleeper pick come June.
From Scott Taylor, Jetsnation:
"Scheifele has all the tools but he's still a skinny kid who was knocked off the puck pretty easily after the season started. He looked great against other junior prospects, East Coast League and AHL players in the pre-season, but once the big boys started playing, he wasn't quite the same. Of course, he has to be one of the top six forwards to be effective. He's not going to be what he is -- a scorer and playmaker -- on a checking line.
In fairness, last year was his first year of major junior hockey so he's come a long way. He'll be a big part of the World Junior team and he's got three important gifts -- great hands, good hockey sense and a long, lean body that will fill out."
The future looks very bright for Winnipeg with Scheifele and Alex Burmistrov as the top two centers for several years to come. Unfortunately for the team, there is a significant drop off after those two as far as young players are concerned. That being said, Scheifele may indeed be a top 10-15 prospect for the entire NHL once this years graduating class is taken out of the equation.