Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Scheifele relies on smarts, agility to foil the big boys

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HE keeps getting tested and he keeps throwing up scores of A's and B's.

Yes, Winnipeg Jets' first-round draft pick Mark Scheifele has been a bit of a teacher's pet through three pre-season games -- he's tied for the NHL scoring lead, for whatever that's worth -- while showing occasional hints of greatness.

But now the intensity gets cranked up another notch or two, what with the Jets having just two pre-season games left before the real fun starts.

"Every day I get more and more comfortable, just getting used to the speed," Scheifele began Tuesday in front of another full media scrum. "Every exhibition game gets tougher and tougher, so I'll just keep working hard. It's been pretty good so far."

Actually, it's been more than pretty good -- save for Saturday's loss in Nashville, when the 18-year-old did seem a little tuckered out. He's got three goals and three assists in three contests, has shown a natural instinct for getting to open spaces and a deft passing touch while being solid in the faceoff circle.

All this against fully grown men who aren't at all caught up in the Scheifele feel-good story but would rather wallpaper him to the glass.

"They're definitely really strong, but you have to adapt to that by being smarter and more aware," Scheifele said. "There have been times where I've been able to outsmart the bigger guys just by being a little more agile. I've got to keep working hard at it and keep on adapting."

Scheifele wasn't on the list of 20 guys who were demoted to St. John's Tuesday, nor will he be. He'll either stick with the Jets or be sent back to Barrie of the OHL. Either way, he's answered any cynics who may have felt his draft position -- seventh overall -- was a reach.

THE CAPTAIN SPEAKS: Part of the fallout of the Jets-Senators' game was the double minor for spearing at the final horn, handed to the Jets' Andrew Ladd and Johnny Oduya. Sens tough man Chris Neil took exception and told reporters afterward he hoped the league would review the incident.

Here's Ladd's take on scrapping with Zack Smith at the end:

"I just got fed up with all the crap after the whistle, I guess. It's all part of hockey and good fun. There were a lot of scrums after the whistle. I don't know if (Neil) thinks he's on the bubble or what, but he was trying to prove something. We don't have a history. It's all part of hockey. You get that some games. That's his game -- he gets under guys' skin."

 

-- Tait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 28, 2011 C2

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