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Scheifele super-psyched

Determined to impress at World Junior camp

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Mark Scheifele has heard his name called out as a first-round National Hockey League draft pick.

He has suited up for seven big-league games with the Winnipeg Jets and, with a flair for the dramatic, scored his first NHL goal in Toronto against the Maple Leafs with family in the stands.

But he'll tell you nothing in his young career compares to wearing the red and white jersey with a Team Canada logo stitched on the front.

And so while it may have been a foregone conclusion that the 19-year-old Kitchener product would have his name included among the 37 players invited to Canada's World Junior Team Selection Camp beginning next week in Calgary, Scheifele wasn't about to assume anything. He plans to stay that way.

"I don't want to take anything for granted," Scheifele said Monday, not long after practising with his Barrie Colts. "That's my approach to everything. I take everything as a challenge. It's only going to make me a better person and a better player if you understand you have to work hard at everything.

"My goal right now is to make that team and, if I do, do whatever it takes to win gold."

Scheifele is one of six players invited back from last year's bronze-medal squad, including Dougie Hamilton, Scott Harrington, Jonathan Huberdeau, Boone Jenner and Ryan Strome. A seventh, defenceman Ryan Murray, is unavailable due to an injury.

"I'm thinking about it a lot," Scheifele said. "Getting bronze last year definitely leaves a bitter taste in my mouth and there's nothing I want more than to get gold this year. I'm going to do whatever it takes to make that team and, if I do, to win gold."

Scheifele entered last year's tournament in Alberta under the microscope, having led the Jets in scoring during preseason and suiting up for seven NHL games before being sent back to junior.

And while he finished the event with six points (3G, 3A) in six games, he didn't wow observers like so many had expected.

But since then he has developed more layers to his game under Colts' head coach and Jet icon Dale Hawerchuk and has shown a versatility that has impressed Team Canada brass.

Canadian head coach Steve Spott has already spoken to Scheifele about possibly playing on the wing in the tournament, which runs Dec. 26-Jan. 5 in Ufa, Russia.

"I didn't think (last year's World Juniors) went the best personally," admitted Scheifele. "I don't think I was as confident last year or had that edge that I like to play with sometimes. I didn't play terrible, but I wasn't my best.

"But now, going through the whole process once and playing the other countries and just being a year older I think is a really big step. I think you're able to take more of a leadership role and be more confident with the puck.

"Just the chance to play is a great opportunity. I haven't played the wing a lot, but I'll take that challenge."

Scheifele was the lone Jet draft pick selected to the camp and there were no Manitobans invited.

When the season started it was thought Saskatoon Blades forward Lukas Sutter, a second-round Jet pick in 2012, might get a look and Swift Current Broncos winger Adam Lowry, a Jet pick from 2011, has had an outstanding start to the season. Neither was named.

Said Team Canada head scout Kevin Prendergast about Sutter:

"Any kid that puts on the sweater at one time wants to come back and put it on again. But for whatever reason it just hasn't happened so far this season with Lukas."

All of this -- and with more talent available because of the NHL lockout -- understandably left Scheifele beaming Monday at just getting an invitation.

Jets' GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has seen Scheifele play a number of times this season with the Colts -- he leads the team with 44 points (21G, 23A) in 27 games -- and their post-game conversations always come back to the same thing.

"Every time I talk to him, there's not a conversation that doesn't happen between us where the World Juniors doesn't come up," Cheveldayoff said. "I saw him play in the Subway Series last month and he wore a letter (assistant captain) in the game and took the leadership role very seriously. I saw him play a very serious, very up-tempo game.

"Not to take away from regular-season and league play, but you could tell it was a game with special meaning. He knew these games were important to being named to the selection camp."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

The team at the camp

 

When: Dec. 11-13 at the Markin MacPhail Centre at Canada Olympic Park in Calgary.

Number of players: 37 (born 1993 or later), 31 of which were selected in either the 2011 or 2012 NHL Entry Drafts.

Of note: Of the 37, 13 were first-round picks while eight were second-rounders. Included are 2011 first overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who did not play in last year's tournament after cracking the Edmonton Oilers' roster.

Getting ready: Team Canada will hold a Red-White intrasquad game on Dec. 11 and play two exhibition games against CIS teams (comprised of players from Calgary, Alberta and Mount Royal Univerities) on Dec. 12 and 13.

The top scout says: Team Canada head scout Kevin Prendergast on Mark Scheifele: "When you go through the situation once and then come back a second time you're a better person for it. And in the summertime against the Russians I thought Mark was one of our best players.

"He's that much stronger than he was last year at this time and probably a little bit more mature. He's a high-end player and we're expecting big things from him."

 

--Ed Tait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 4, 2012 D1

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