December 9, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Life under the microscope can be a bit intense for any NHL first-round draft pick, especially those in the hockey-crazed markets.
In that respect Mark Scheifele is no different than a whole pile of prospects across the league.
But after two training camps in which he got a sniff of life as a big-leaguer, the 20-year-old centre is about to have the number of eyeballs critiquing his every move cranked up a bit.
He's no longer the fresh-faced youngster trying to push for work, he's now a player trying to nail down a juicy job waiting for him on the Jets' depth chart as the club's second- or third-line centre.
"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," said Scheifele after a morning practice session at the MTS Iceplex. "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."
Scheifele, along with 23 other players, headed to Penticton, B.C., after Thursday's practice for this weekend's Young Stars Tournament that features the San Jose Sharks, Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames and the Jets.
Scheifele has spent the summer training with ex-NHLer Gary Roberts in Toronto and has added more muscle to push his weight to 'just under 200 pounds' -- up from 175 the year he was drafted -- without a negative impact on his speed.
The Jets expect Scheifele to jump off the page at the Young Stars Tournament and then hope he shows he is ready for a regular NHL shift when main camp starts next week.
"He's got an opportunity to work on his game coming into main camp," said GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, "and work out the kinks and chisel off the rust a little bit that summer does bring about."
The Jets' GM also pointed out the differences from the summer Development Camp to the gathering in Penticton.
"(The Young Stars) is when the evaluation process starts," said Cheveldayoff. "That is going to be in full force here with the evaluation of the players both on and off the ice.
"This is a huge step in their development and in becoming pro hockey players. A lot of them are going to go back to junior at different points in time, but a lot of them are going to go off and start their pro careers."
NEW FACES: The Jets will have six players in Penticton on amateur tryouts: forwards Axel Blomqvist (6-5, 194; Lethbridge Hurricanes); Jean Dupuy (6-3, 195; Kingston Frontenacs) and Mitchell Theoret (6-2, 212; Barrie Colts/Niagara IceDogs) and defencemen Zach Bell (6-2, 228; Brampton Battalion) and Ty Stanton (6-3, 173; Medicine Hat Tigers).
Blomqvist stood out on Thursday because of his height, but he wasn't alone. Of the 24 players who headed to B.C., just two are under six feet tall.
"We have a few big boys," said Scheifele with a grin. "Cody Sol (6-6, 235) is one of them, Adam Lowry (6-5, 210) Blomqvist... a bunch of big boys. It's a little bit of protection, too."
Blomqvist had seven goals and 26 assists last year with Lethbridge.
"You see a player with his size and he's a good skater out there... it'll be a good opportunity for us to evaluate him, not only with our prospects but against others," said Cheveldayoff.
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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 6, 2013 0
Updated on Friday, September 6, 2013 at 9:29 AM CDT:
Replaces photos, adds videos