What's next for Winnipeg Jets prospect Mark Scheifele?
The team's first-round pick (No. 7 overall) in the 2011 NHL Draft wants desperately to play for the big club this season, but is he ready for the National Hockey League?
We're going to find out soon.
After tearing up the Ontario Hockey League, the spotlight will be on the 20-year-old Scheifele when NHL training camps open in September. He's been given an audition with the Jets in each of the last two seasons, only to be sent back to the Barrie Colts of the OHL. Failing to make the team this time would result in a ticket to the American Hockey League to play for the St. John's IceCaps.
"My goal is to earn a spot on the Jets, and that's what I'm going to go to camp and do, and do whatever it takes to get that spot," Scheifele told the Canadian Press. "So I think I'm looking for big things in myself. I'm definitely pushing myself to get that spot."
Incidentally, Scheifele has appeared in only 11 NHL games. Sean Couturier (Philadelphia Flyers) and Dougie Hamilton (Boston Bruins), drafted No. 8 and No. 9, respectively, have played a combined 165 games to date. That fact hasn't been lost on Jets fans, who are anxious to see one of their top prospects contribute in the NHL.
So what does Scheifele have to do to stay in Winnipeg? It partly depends on what the Jets have in mind for him, but there's no doubt they could use the depth and skill up front. The defection of Alexander Burmistrov to the Kontinental Hockey League has opened the door for Scheifele to potentially center the team's third line. However, Scheifele has to prove that he's ready to play two-way hockey and strong enough to handle the physical style of the NHL.
With soft hands and a nose for the net, he seemingly has the skills. This past season in the OHL, Scheifele scored 39 goals and added 40 assists in just 45 games. He led all skaters with 41 points in the playoffs, as he carried the Colts to Game 7 of the league's finals. Moreover, the official site of the National Hockey League, NHL.com, ranks Scheifele as Winnipeg's second-best prospect.
At the very least, Scheifele will get his shot. What happens next largely is up to him.