Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Posted: 11/6/2013 1:00 AM | Comments: 0
The Winnipeg Jets crossed their fingers and hoped there would be days like this, when the light that is Mark Scheifele both blinds and illuminates a whole building.
After all, it was that potential -- particularly the soft hands, the hockey sense and the heavy shot -- which led them to go against the rankings and make his name the seventh called out at the 2011 NHL Draft.
And there it was in full display against the Detroit Red Wings Monday night when Scheifele, named the game's first star, picked up two assists in a 4-2 win while showcasing poise and vision with the puck and playing a responsible 200-foot game without it.
Of course, the Jets also knew there would be many nights when that same bulb would flicker and fade as Scheifele -- still only 20 and with all of 27 big-league games under his belt -- struggled to make the adjustment from junior to the bigs.
So while so many have been quick to have Scheifele shipped out on the next flight to St. John's on occasion already this season, the Jets seem quite willing to let him grow into his role.
"I thought I had been getting better every game at something," Scheifele said Tuesday. "That's been my goal: trying to get better at certain things every game and just trying to improve my game each and every day.
"I thought I played pretty well (Monday). It's tough to say it was the best (game), but I thought we had a good game team-wise. That's a big thing to look at: we had a good game as a team, and that's what we've all got to be focussed on."
Scheifele didn't veer too much from that sentiment on Tuesday during a six-minute chat with the media. He spoke of managing the highs and the lows, of keeping an even keel, of focusing on what he can control, of the win being the most important thing and yadda, yadda, yadda.
But in between the robotic answers there were also some very honest moments in which Scheifele, perhaps veering off the party line just a little bit, gave a glimpse of the personality the Jets became so enamoured with prior to the draft two years ago.
He spoke of adjusting to the different environment now that he is a pro. In junior, he could have a couple of bad shifts and still know he was going to be on the ice in the critical moments late in a contest. And now...
"It's definitely a lot different... it's a pretty good league here," said Scheifele with a grin. "It's nothing like juniors. You have to adapt, you have to deal with adversities. You can't get too down on yourself, you can't get too high with yourself. That's the biggest thing I've learned from a lot of the guys here: you've got to keep an even keel, keep your head down and work."
And then, during a discussion about being comfortable now with the Jets and getting past those 'pinch-me' moments that come with a first go-round in the NHL, Scheifele spoke confidently about his goal of not just attempting to fit in with his contemporaries, but grow his game so he is mentioned among the best.
"It was pretty cool playing Detroit," said Scheifele. "They were my favourite team growing up so it was pretty cool playing against guys like (Pavel) Datsyuk and (Henrik) Zetterberg. But it's just a stepping stone. I can't get too far ahead of myself and say my dream's fulfilled. My dream is to win a Stanley Cup. There's a lot of work to do.
"When you play against guys like (Patrick) Kane and (Jonathan) Toews, Datsyuk and Zetterberg... you don't want to be intimidated by them, you want to show that you're better than them. That's a huge thing that I've progressed at in the last three years. The first year I was maybe a little intimidated, a little 'Wow! I'm playing against these guys.' Now it's like, 'I'm ready to play against these guys. I'm better than any of these guys.'
"That's the confidence you have to go with." Now, quite clearly being confident is one thing, showcasing it night after night is quite another. And while Scheifele has a long, long way to go to be mentioned in the same breath as Kane, Toews, Datsyuk and Zetterberg, it's better to dream big than not dream at all.
That said, his biggest adjustment is this: turning Monday's solid night's work into another tonight in Chicago. And Friday versus Nashville, Sunday against San Jose...
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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 6, 2013 0
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