Mark Scheifele desperately wants to be wearing a Winnipeg Jets jersey for the regular-season opener next month. And so any chance he gets to impress the organization’s brass is critical in chasing that goal.
The Winnipeg Jets rookies took to the ice at MTS Iceplex Thursday morning before preparing to leave for Penticton, B.C. and the Vancouver Canucks Young Stars tournament this weekend. Scheifele said he is "just under 200 pounds" – all of it muscle – and that speaks to his growth both as a player and a man since being the club’s first-round draft choice in 2011.
"I have to show my progression throughout the summer and that I’ve gained a lot over the last few months since development camp and just continue to show what I can do on the ice," said Scheifele, who spent the summer working with ex-NHLer Gary Roberts on his strength and conditioning. "Gary wants you to get strong, wants you to get bigger but he doesn’t want to take anything away from your speed. He does a good job at that and I feel good."
There’s a spot on the Jets’ depth chart for Scheifele, providing he can earn it during camp.
"That first year I felt a little awestruck… not knowing what to expect, not knowing how to adapt to playing against guys like (Dustin) Byfuglien and (Zach) Bogosian and huge guys like that," he said. "Now that I’ve went through it two years and seen what it takes to handle playing against big guys like that I definitely think my mental side has gone a big way since my first year.
"To be able to grow as a player and to be able to go back to Barrie (Colts) and learn from Dale (Hawerchuk) and then coming back for camp each year, you definitely gain that confidence each and every year. You get more comfortable with being around the rink and knowing what to expect. That helps a lot."
The Jets are bringing 24 players to the tournament in Penticton, including Scheifele and fellow first round draft picks Jacob Trouba (2012) and Josh Morrissey (2013).