Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Scheifele's fire still burns

After the disappointment of being sent down, prospect lighting it up

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His disappointment has largely passed and Mark Scheifele is back doing what he's determined to do -- working on making it to the NHL.

 

Post-lockout, the Winnipeg Jets' first-round draft pick of 2011 stayed with the team long enough to play in four more games, but they yielded no points and enough uncertainty the Jets decided he'd be better off finishing the season with the Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League.

Scheifele, who celebrates his 20th birthday on Friday, is doing more than just putting in time.

Since returning to Barrie, the Kitchener, Ont., native has played 13 games, recording 16 goals and 28 points.

That includes a pair of hat tricks, and more importantly, the Colts are back near the top of the OHL's Eastern Conference standings.

This season, Barrie is 13-8-0-1 when he's been out of the lineup, mostly at the World Junior or with the Jets. When Scheifele has been there, the Colts are 29-11-2-1.

"I'm just trying to show Winnipeg I'm a good player and to continue to grow as a player as well," Scheifele said via phone after Colts practice on Monday. "There are a lot of things to be learned at the junior level still and they sent me back with a lot of motivation to continue to be the best player I can be.

"So that's what I've done. I've just tried to do whatever it takes to help our team win. That's the biggest thing."

He said he was not sour when the Jets gave him the ticket to Barrie about five weeks ago.

"It was just a matter that it wasn't the right timing," likely referring to having no NHL exhibition games and a five-day training camp in January. "I handled it well. I know that I had a lot of things to work on and I feel I still had some things to do to become an NHL player.

"I left with confidence. I left knowing I could play in the NHL. I knew that was a big thing. It's the biggest thing I took -- I knew I could play there, I just had to continue to get better each day."

That his good friend and World Junior linemate Jonathan Huberdeau is having post-lockout rookie success with the Florida Panthers is not making him burn with envy, Scheifele said.

"I'm happy for him," he said. "He's one of my really good buddies. I talk to him maybe once a week still. It does make me think, 'I wish I could be there,' but it's more of not comparing yourself to other people.

"That's one thing they told me, you can't go comparing yourself to other players. Everybody has different situations. I'm just way more proud of him as a friend and not thinking about it like anything else."

Monday, Scheifele was named the OHL's player of the week after nine points in three games, all wins.

The playoffs are now just more than a week away and Scheifele said he's focused on crunch time.

"We have a very good team here, a lot of skill and a very good chance to advance far in the playoffs," he said. "Everyone's mind is on getting to the Memorial Cup and we think we have a legitimate shot at it.

"Being a leader on a team that has a chance to go far will be a great learning tool. It will help me become a better player, a leader, and that helps you become a better player. That's a big thing that Winnipeg wants me to grow at, to become a better leader.

"I talk to Dale (Hawerchuk, his coach) about that a lot. I think I've gotten better at it since I've been here."

During last year's brief stint in the playoffs, when the Colts lost in seven games to Ottawa, Scheifele was the focus and a target for his opposition in a lot of not-so-nice ways.

"It only makes you stronger," he said Monday. "It's a challenge you have to overcome, to know how to play against it. I learned a lot of things last year and I'm trying to take that with me, from last year's playoffs to this year's, including guys stuck on me on the offensive zone."

 

-- D-MEN UPDATE: News on three fronts about Winnipeg Jets defence prospects on Monday.

-- Arturs Kulda, who played nine games with the Jets and 63 with the St. John's IceCaps last season before heading overseas to the KHL, may soon be rejoining the club. The Jets are mum on the subject, but Kulda's KHL team -- HC Sibir Novosibirsk -- reported on its website Kulda and the club had mutually terminated his contract so he could join the Jets. Sibir Novosibirsk was eliminated in seven games in the quarter-finals of the KHL playoffs.

-- Jets' 2012 first-round draft pick Jacob Trouba was named Monday to the 2013 Central Collegiate Hockey Association All-Rookie Team for his work as a freshman with the University of Michigan Wolverines. The 19-year-old Rochester, Mich., native leads all CCHA defenceman in goals (10) and points (25).

-- And down on the farm, the IceCaps announced they have acquired defenceman Patrick Cullity from the Springfield Falcons for future considerations. Cullity has played in 61 career AHL games with Springfield, Abbotsford and Syracuse.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

-- with files from Ed Tait

All over the scoreboard

 

With 38 goals, 39 assists for 77 points in 43 games, the OHL has few, if any more impactful players than Barrie centre Mark Scheifele

 

-- Scheifele is currently 13th in overall OHL scoring, despite only playing 43 games; that's 1.79 points per game.

-- None of the dozen players ahead of him in the scoring race has produced points at that rate.

-- The next-highest player in the league scoring race who has played fewer than 50 games is Sault Ste. Marie's Ryan Sproul, who is 27th in scoring and has 65 points in 48 games.

-- Alex Galchenyuk of the Sarnia Sting, now a regular with the Montreal Canadiens, had 61 points in 33 games before the lockout ended.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 12, 2013 D4

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