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Scheifele playing things right

Jets' inaugural No. 1 draft pick comes 'home,' stays humble

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There aren't too many places in Winnipeg where Mark Scheifele can go without being asked to put his signature on something -- a hat, a T-shirt, a hockey stick -- or pose for a photo.

He always obliges, always grins for the camera, always slaps backs and shakes hands.


That scene played out in full on Wednesday when Scheifele returned to town for the Scotia Mortgage Authority Dale Hawerchuk Celebrity Classic at the Elmhurst Golf and Country Club.

"It's pretty cool to be back. It feels like home already," Scheifele said while signing a Jets hat for a fan.

"I got in Monday night and it already felt like home. I just hope I can be here next year."

If there were ever any concerns from Jets brass about what effect fame and fortune might have on their No. 1 pick from a year ago -- the potential evils and temptations of celebrity, so to speak -- then this likable teenager from Kitchener, Ont., instantly dispelled them in a 10-minute chat Wednesday.

So just for the record, a few updates about Scheifele...

-- He wasn't followed around at Elmhurst by a posse that included agents, handlers, PR types and cousins-turned-"advisers".

-- He hit the gym in the morning with the Jets' strength coach and has been following the advice of a team-appointed nutritionist for months.

-- He's religiously followed orders by the Jets to stay off the ice after his days with the St. John's IceCaps ended in May and until the squad's development camp in mid-July.

The reason? To rejuvenate his body after a gruelling year that saw him play for the Jets, the Barrie Colts, Team Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championship and St. John's.

The early results? When he left Winnipeg for Barrie last October, he weighed 177 pounds. When his OHL season ended, he was at 180. Now he's up to 190 and hopes to be in the 195-197 range by the end of summer.

-- Finally, he still lives at home with his parents and siblings in Kitchener and certainly hasn't gone on a wild spending spree since signing his deal with the Jets last year that would pay him $1.6 million if he sticks this year.

"I don't like to show off too much," Scheifele said with a shrug. "I bought a MacBook and an iPad, but I haven't spent a whole lot of money. I'm trying to be smart with it."

Heck, he's 19 and won't even take his first test for his driver's licence until next week. And then... Ferrari? Lambourghini? A pimped-out Cadillac SUV?

"Nah, I'm just going to get a decent car, nothing too expensive and something that is good on fuel," he said. "I still haven't made it (to the NHL) yet, and so there's no need to get a fancy car. Once I make it, I think I can. That's my mentality."

It's that kind of comment, that kind of commitment and humility that, in part, has made him such a fan favourite in Winnipeg. He's played all of seven NHL regular-season games and has one goal. But what Scheifele still represents is potential as one of the key future faces of the franchise.

Just how quickly that future begins unfolding will start to play out in training camp in a few months.

"Playing in those seven NHL games last year gave me the confidence that I know I can be there and play with those guys," Scheifele said. "But I know I still have to do the work. I still need to get stronger, I still need to get faster. They told me I needed to mature physically and get bigger and stronger so that I can handle the NHL lifestyle. It's a big part of what I'm working on right now.

"I have that burning more in my heart now, to make the team and stick all year."

Only then will he open up his wallet and spend some dough on new wheels.

In the interim? "Maybe I'll get a Ford Fusion, or something that is good on gas," he said. Twitter: @WFPEdTait


more NHL coverage c2, 8

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 28, 2012 C1

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