Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Mark Scheifele's arrival should put all hands on deck

Jets' No. 1 draft pick making his way here

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THE Winnipeg Jets' roll call was nearly complete Friday ahead of Sunday's expected opening of NHL training camps.

Forward Kyle Wellwood made his first appearance on the ice with his teammates when they worked out informally for the better part of two hours at the MTS Centre.

There was also word that left-winger Evander Kane was in the city Friday and that forwards Nik Antropov and Alexei Ponikarovsky were believed to be arriving Friday. That pair had been playing in the KHL during the 113-day lockout that delayed the scheduled October opening to the season.

If that was accurate, then the only other known absentee invitee is 19-year-old Barrie Colts centre Mark Scheifele, the team's 2011 first-round draft pick who did not play an OHL game Friday night in Guelph, Ont.

Scheifele was likely to be travelling to Winnipeg today.

That list would give the Jets a camp of 24 players, at least to start and barring any further AHL recalls, free agent signings or tryout offers extended by Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff.

Wellwood, who had 18 goals and 47 points in 77 games a year ago, returns to a team that has made a few changes already up front.

One of the team's new forwards, Olli Jokinen, is potentially a linemate.

"It's something I'm pretty happy about, certainly getting Olli and (Alexei) Ponikarovsky adds a lot of size to our team and depth at forward," Wellwood said. "So when you get out there, especially being a smaller guy, you know you're going to have somebody to rag the puck down low and be able to handle themselves in the corners. That should help me a lot."

Wellwood said you won't hear him objecting to a line with an offensive emphasis.

"Certainly, but it depends on how things go to start the year," he said. "(Blake) Wheeler and that line with Laddy (Andrew Ladd) were getting hot at the end of last year. We're going to count on them to really be the offensive force and I think we're going to have a lot of depth on forward with guys who can play both offence and defence."

Training camp's start will reveal many things, Wellwood suggested.

"I think everybody will be in different spots," he said. "There will be guys in full-season form. There will be guys who haven't played games yet. There are guys who have been skating here and look like they're in good shape.

"It's going to be interesting to see how everybody does."

Wellwood's production last season earned him a raise from $700,000 to $1.6 million, at least on a full-season basis.

"That was great," he said. "Certainly coming back here is exciting, one of the few places where the fans are not really expected to have a letup and be happy that things are going again. It's exciting.

"I'm happy to be back. I know the guys. I know the coach. I know the community and I've worked hard to get myself into a position to contribute and be part of things here."

NHL clubs are allowed to start conducting medicals with players who agree, even though the lockout won't be officially over until the NHLPA's ratification vote on the new CBA is complete and the league and the players' union put signatures to the memorandum of understanding that ends the dispute.

The Jets will do some of those today, clearing an easier path for events on Sunday, when official business can begin and the team's coaching staff can finally get to work with its players.

That will leave the team just six days of practice before the anticipated season opener here next Saturday afternoon against Ottawa.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 12, 2013 C3

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