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'I want to be here'

Scheifele might get his wish; agent, Jets talking contract

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Prior to Thursday night's action, Winnipeg Jets rookie Mark Scheifele was leading the NHL pre-season scoring race with seven points in four games.

It's no more surprising than the fact the 18-year-old first-round draft pick is still here in Winnipeg, still apparently in the running for a job on Oct. 9, when the Montreal Canadiens will help the NHL officially kick off the league's return to Winnipeg.

And he'll play again tonight, when the Nashville Predators come calling at the MTS Centre for the Jets' final pre-season tune-up.

 

"I don't know if it's getting any easier but it's just getting more comfortable," Scheifele said Thursday, talking to reporters in what's becoming almost a daily routine.

"You get more comfortable with the speed, you get more comfortable with the strength of the players. You get to know tendencies of the players. So I wouldn't say easier, just more comfortable."

He added an assist on Evander Kane's empty-net goal Wednesday night -- more unspoken commentary from the coach in that Scheifele was on the ice in the final minute with a one-goal lead -- and has three goals and seven points in four exhibition games.

If Scheifele is going to be in the mix for the season-opener, then he will have to be signed by early next week, even though the Jets don't play until a week Sunday.

Scheifele's agent, Rob Hooper, told the Free Press in an email on Thursday that the discussion on that front is ongoing.

"I have had conversations with Larry Simmons (assistant to GM Kevin Cheveldayoff) about a contract for Mark," Hooper said. "I do not wish to discuss any details at this time. Mark loves Winnipeg and wants to be a Jet."

Scheifele made it pretty clear where he'd like to be at the end of next week -- "I want to be here so bad. I've been working my hardest, taking it day by day to work towards that day," he said -- but that for the moment, he's simply worried about the hockey end of this bargain.

"Honestly, I have no clue (about a contract)," he said. "My agent just wants me to focus on the hockey part.

"He doesn't talk to me about any of that (contract) stuff. It's just, 'Focus on your hockey.' I have confidence in him that if he's going to get something done... I just leave that to him."

The hockey part started well on Wednesday. He gave Hurricanes' defenceman Jay Harrison a slippery, fast-hands move on the first shift of the game and it continued into an evening of offensive chances playing with Kane and Jason Gregoire.

"Usually on the first shift, you're trying to get the puck deep and trying to get my feet going, get my feet wet," Scheifele said. "But to pull off a move, it kind of got me more into the game, to get a chance and a move in early."

About being back in tonight, he said he was happy, which has kind of been his daily story in this training camp.

"I'm just getting more opportunity and I just want to roll with it, keep on working my hardest and playing my game," he said. "I want to continue to go and prove myself."

As far as the battle for jobs goes, Scheifele said that being on the ice is the best part.

"I don't know if I'd say stressful," he said. "Maybe off the ice it's been a little more stressful but whenever I'm on the ice, it's always fun and it's always the best thing. I get to play hockey every day. That's the most fun I could have, in my opinion.

"Camp's always stressful on everyone. You always get the nerves but it's definitely fun."

-- -- --

Another of those forwards in the hunt for the jobs is Winnipegger Jason Gregoire, who has played three exhibition games and is apparently not going to play tonight.

"You can read as much as you want," said Gregoire, who signed with the Jets as a free agent out of college this summer. "I try not to. If you tried to read into everything, you'd go crazy. I've met enough guys along the way, one little thing gets in their head and it eats away.

"It's kind of out of my hands, unfortunately. I had been hoping to get in, that I could play myself in or out. Now it's a waiting game."

Gregoire wanted to make it clear he wasn't terribly disappointed with his game last Saturday in Nashville.

"A guy in my position is always looking for something better," he explained. "I could go out and score a hat trick and I'd still be looking for something more."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 30, 2011 C4

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