ST. PAUL — His name is Mark Scheifele and he will forever be remembered as the first player selected by the reborn Winnipeg Jets.
The Jets made Scheifele, a centre with the Barrie Colts, their first selection in the 2011 NHL entry draft, selecting him seventh overall.
Friday night, Scheifele — whose head coach with the Colts was Jets’ legend Dale Hawerchuk — couldn't hide his enthusiasm: "I’m just so excited right now. This is a moment I’ve always dreamed about and to go to the Jets and a team that has such a great organization and be the first pick since they’ve been back... there’s no other feeling like walking up the stage.
"My legs were shaking, my head was racing. I’m just so excited.
"It’s definitely a surprise. In every draft there’s always picks that are unexpected. Some people go later, so for me to go early is definitely a dream come true of mine. I’m just so happy right now."
As for all the screaming Winnipeg fans watching from the stands at the draft: "It was definitely really cool to have that many fans here and hear them screaming.
"They told me back in the arena in Winnipeg they were going bonkers. It’s great to have a great fan base, especially here in Minnesota because it’s so far away."
Interestingly, Scheifele was ranked 16th by Central Scouting and the Jets passed on the opportunity to grab another highly-ranked centre, Sean Couturier. The Hockey News had him ranked 41st overall.
The Edmonton Oilers, picking first overall for the second straight year, selected Red Deer Rebels centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins first overall. The Colorado Avalanche followed by grabbing Kitchener Rangers left wing Gabriel Landeskog second overall with St. John’s SeaDogs centre Jonathan Huberdeau rounding out the top three.
The New Jersey Devils held the fourth overall pick and chose Swedish defenceman Adam Larsson, the top-rated European skater, followed by the New York Islanders, who selected Niagara IceDogs centre Ryan Strome at No. 5. Picking just before Winnipeg, the Ottawa Senators grabbed Swedish centre Mike Zibanejad.
Winnipeg doesn’t have a pick in the second round after it was traded to Chicago but does have eight more selections in the draft — all on Saturday. They’ll pick 67th, 97th, 108th, 133rd, 149th, 157th and 187th and 194th overall.