Friday, 7 October 2011

How bout that Scheifele?

Well the Thanksgiving weekend has finally arrived and any Jets fan with a ticket to the home opener has a lot to be thankful for. Barring some sort of miracle, I will not be at game one, but I am still excited for the start of the season.

Instead of doing a flowery story about how the Jets are back and it's good for the city, I thought I would profile a young man who is quickly catching the hearts of Winnipeg hockey fans. And that man is of course rookie Mark Scheifele

Well it now seems almost certain that Mark Scheifele will make the Winnipeg Jets for at least nine games. He was tied for the lead league in scoring in the NHL preseason and Jets coach Claude Noel has said publicly that he is a big fan of his talent and work ethic and that he would be schocked if he didn't make the team. Scheifele is quickly becoming a fan favorite in Winnipeg and there is a great back story to this kid, with a Winnipeg connection

Dale Hawerchuk was selected first overall by the Winnipeg Jets in the 1981 NHL entry draft. The Jets were coming off one of the worst seasons for an NHL club in history, only winning nine games in the 1980-1981 season.

Hawerchuck made the team in 1981 and in his first year in the league put up 45 goals and 58 assists for 103 points, easily winning the Calder trophy as rookie of the year.If your not up on your Hawerchuk history here's a little video to get you up to snuff.

Hawerchuck is now the coach of the Barrie Colts, the CHL club that Mark Scheifele played for last season. It now appears that Scheifele will make the Winnipeg Jets as an 18 year old, just as his coach did twenty years ago. With that being said the Scheifele pick was one that was definitely questioned by many Jets fans.

There was a weird and somewhat awkward moment at the NHL draft party back in June that deflated the arena for a moment. After the Ottawa Senators picked Mika Zibenegad, there was a eruption in the crowd from the more knowledgeable hockey fans. Sean Coutourier, a player ranked number one by central scouting at the beginning of the hockey season was still available and now the Jets had the chance to scoop him up.

When Kevin Cheveldayoff announced that the pick would be Mark Scheifele, the room suddenly looked confused and somewhat deflated. A man in front of me flipped furiously through his rankings to try and simply figure out who this kid was. Jets fans were definitely surprised and a bit worried about their first round pick. The old Jets had a history of making bad first round draft picks and some thought we were on the same course once again. You can see in this video that even the announcers for TSN were suprised with the pick.

And why wouldn't they be?  Many were not so much shocked with who we picked but more with who we did not pick. When the Ottawa Senators picked Mika Zibanegad with the sixth pick most Winnipeg hockey fans believed that there was no doubt that Sean Coutourier would become our first draft pick.

Coutourier is a player who started his season in the QMJHL as the player rated number one by central scouting. At 6’4 and 190 pounds he has the size to make an immediate impact in the NHL. He played well in last years World Juniors and he had two consecutive 96 point seasons with Drummondville of the QMJHL. If he went on to have a great career for the Philadelphia Flyers and Scheifele did not work out for the Jets it could have become an embarrassment for the new Jets franchise. It was a high risk/high reward move by the Jets. However I took some time to research Mark Scheifele and really see what this kid is all about. The more that I read I started to realize that although it was a bit of a risky move it looks like it was a calculated risk.

There are a ton of positives about Mark Scheifele. One of the biggest positives about this kid is his performance in his first year with the Barrie Colts. He was selected in the 7th round of the OHL draft in 2009 and in his first year with the Colts he put up impressive numbers tallying 22 goals and 53 assists good for 75 points in 66 games. As a rookie on a last place team there is no denying that these are impressive numbers and The 53 assists show that this kid has playmaking abilities. Now Scheifele has just finished the NHL preseason tied for the league lead in scoring.

Let's watch Scheifele's first ever goal with the Jets.

I also think that his size although a bit lanky is impressive. He is 6’3 but only 170 pounds. However at only 18 years old I believe this kid will fill out and I also believe that he will work hard and undergo a rigorous training program to begin bulking up for the NHL. By all accounts he is an extremely hard working and passionate kid and he will do whatever it takes to get to the next step. He also put up impressive numbers in the world under 17 tournament last year putting up 8 points in seven games. From all reports he is a smart two way player, he distributes the puck well and he sees the ice very well. He proved all of this in the preseason.

The new Winnipeg Jets are looking to build a club that has character and work ethic. They are not interested in quick fix free agent signings as Kevin Cheveldayoff has said from the start that this is not the way to build a winning hockey club. The Winnipeg Jets are looking to draft smart and bring guys up that will have not only solid hockey skills but also good character and passion for the game of hockey.

As I said before, former Jets legend Dale Hawerchuk spoke highly of his skill and character and it was a great endorsement for Scheifefle.

Was picking Mark Scheifele a risky move for the Winnipeg Jets? Yes. But his play on the ice in the preseason is quicky changing alot of minds in Winnipeg