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Scheifele’s dreams could collide

Jets' No. 1 pick wants to make NHL, also wants to play in world juniors

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If he allowed his mind to wander just a tad, this is where two of Mark Scheifele's lifelong dreams could collide.

First, the 18-year-old first-round draft choice of the Winnipeg Jets would kill to be twirling around the ice at the MTS Centre on opening night for the franchise's rebirth against the Montreal Canadiens this October.

But just like every other kid who has pulled on a pair of skates in this country, Scheifele has also imagined himself in Canada's colours at a world junior championship.

And one dream doesn't always accommodate the other in the same calendar year.

Yes, it's true there is a scenario that could see the talented centre make the Jets' opening-day lineup and still suit up for Canada at the WJC. But the Kitchener, Ont., product -- one of 46 prospects attending Team Canada's summer development camp in Edmonton this week -- is also trying to live in the right here and now.

He won't allow himself to fast-forward to October in Winnipeg.

Or, for that matter, December in Edmonton and Calgary for the WJC.

Truth is, when we caught up with him for a telephone interview after practice Thursday his first priority -- after the chat -- was lunch. And then he was hoping to simply open some eyes in an intrasquad game Thursday night along with his linemates -- Ottawa 67s winger Tyler Toffoli (a second-round draft pick of the Los Angeles Kings in 2010) and Matthew Puempel of the Peterborough Petes (drafted 24th overall by the Ottawa Senators this year).

"There's a lot of talented players here and that makes for a good battle," Scheifele said. "It's also a chance for me to compare myself against some higher-end players and some of the older guys, which is good.

"To be chosen for this opportunity and to be at this camp... I mean, I watched this last year and guys like (NHL rookie of the year Jeff) Skinner and (Boston Bruins forward Tyler) Seguin were here so, for me, this is amazing. I've been working hard in the gym all summer and I worked hard all last year to show them I'm a serious player."

And it's here where Scheifele's dream becomes a little more complicated.

Among the 46 invitees to the development camp are some highly touted prospects who just so happen to also play centre -- Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, selected first overall by Edmonton; returning Team Canada centres Ryan Johansen (fourth overall by Columbus last year) and Sean Couturier (Philadelphia, eighth overall); Jonathan Huberdeau (Florida, third overall) and Ryan Strome (New York Islanders, fifth overall).

Scheifele's immediate task is to continue to prove why his stock is skyrocketing. The Jets surprised many NHL observers by selecting him ahead of Couturier in June and there are questions about whether he put up great numbers in his first year in the OHL -- 22 goals, 75 points -- because he was gifted, or simply as a by-product of a ton of ice time.

Consider this camp, then, the latest in a series of Scheifele coming-out parties.

"I can't think about all that stuff," he said. "You've just got to try and play your game. That's what the coaches said in our meetings: do what got you here and don't try to change your game to satisfy someone else. Do what you do best.

"I just want to keep working hard. I think I'm a good, two-way player who can score. I'm hoping to show that I can play that game, that I can be that versatile player who can put up some points as well.

"To be here at the development camp with the chance to represent Canada at the world juniors is something I've always dreamed about. Now it's just a matter of doing all I can to make the team."

As for the other dream -- the one without the short window of opportunity -- Scheifele will admit hearing his name called by Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff at the draft still occasionally gives him a quick chill down the spine.

"Almost every day I may watch a YouTube video of the draft just as a reminder," he said. "It's still an unreal feeling. Every kid dreams about that. It's sunk in a little bit but, I admit it still feels unreal sometimes.

"It's funny, a few of my buddies like Stromer (Ryan Strome) have teased me about going to Winnipeg and the team not even having a jersey yet. But I'm just so excited to be going to an organization that just came back and a city that got its team back. It's going to be great."

The development camp in Alberta features two Manitobans: returning winger Quinton Howden of Oak Bank and the Moose Jaw Warriors and Winnipegger Mark Stone of the Brandon Wheat Kings.

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: WFPEdTait

Jets becoming very deep in depth

The Jets continue to stockpile depth with the addition of defencemen Jason DeSantis and Jake Marto and former Manitoba Moose winger Jason King, all signed to AHL contracts with the St. John's IceCaps.

The 24-year-old DeSantis split last season between the AHL's Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and ECHL's Wheeling Nailers. He has played in 85 career AHL games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and the Philadelphia Phantoms after four seasons of college hockey with the Ohio State Buckeyes. Marto, 23, recently finished his senior season with the University of North Dakota where he played 157 games over four years.

King, meanwhile, has played the last three years in Germany, most recently with the Hamburg Freezers. A proud product of Corner Brook, NL, King has 59 NHL games under his belt with Anaheim and Vancouver and has appeared in 256 AHL games with the Moose and Portland. He is fourth on the Moose all-time goal-scoring list with 77.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 5, 2011 C5

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