May 29, 2015


Record: 43 – 26 – 13

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Winnipeg Jets

By Gary Lawless

Scheifele's star shining

He's performing at both ends, looks like a lock for No. 1 centre

Most 20-year-old men can put on a few pounds and get a little stronger, but it is the rare ones who can have the puck follow them around in an NHL game like it did Mark Scheifele Tuesday night.

Scheifele has some physical maturing to do, but rest assured, when his body catches up to his mind, he's going to be a very effective NHLer.

The Capitals' Eric Fehr (16) two-hands Scheifele (55) in front of the Capitals bench during first-period action Tuesday.

TREVOR HAGAN / THE CANADIAN PRESS

The Capitals' Eric Fehr (16) two-hands Scheifele (55) in front of the Capitals bench during first-period action Tuesday.

Still very much a boy in a man's game, Scheifele has moments where he looks out of place, but more and more he's hunting the puck and finding it. It's a confidence thing, and when he begins to red-line on self-assurance, Scheifele will be an impact player. He might be closer to this than some of us think.

Scheifele has looked a tad vanilla at times, but he hasn't been a bad player or a drag on his team. Perhaps it's been a case of him wanting to walk before he tried to run, taking care of the defensive end of his game and earning the trust of his coaches.

Tuesday night, however, he looked confident and had impact playing on a line with Evander Kane and Blake Wheeler. Scheifele wanted the puck and wanted to make plays. He's developed the knowledge that he can take care of business in his own end, and it has freed him to become an aggressive offensive player.

The Jets didn't draft him to be a checker, but it's clear they've instilled in him the importance of being a two-way player. It's the old way in the NHL -- learn to play defence first, then let the scoring take care of itself. Lots of teams and players do it the other way these days, but Scheifele has been a bit of a throwback in his development.

The flash seen from him Tuesday night is a window to the future. He can and almost certainly will be this team's No. 1 centre.

There have been times when he has not looked physically ready for the NHL, but the Jets' lack of organizational depth at centre ice has afforded him the opportunity to learn on the job in Winnipeg rather than St. John's.

Some players crumple under such pressure, but Scheifele has begun to rise to the level of his competition. There might be a few more dips this season, but if he can string some games together like Tuesday's, the experiment will be successful.

He has one goal and two assists in his first 10 games, which won't be confused with setting the league on fire, but he was also even on the plus-minus scale while playing second-line minutes.

Timid would be too strong a way to describe some of his games, but he did have some seen-and-not-heard nights.

Tuesday, he ran the action in both ends of the rink. Dropping down low to take the first pass and then distributing to Wheeler and Kane, Scheifele ran his line and played like he belonged.

Coach Claude Noel played him just under 22 minutes in regulation, by far the most action he's seen all season.

The leap from junior to pro is massive and each player's game catches on at a different pace. For Scheifele to be effective, he needs to carry the puck and direct traffic with his passes. He's not a banger who can hide his shortcomings along the wall.

He must be in the middle and exposed at both ends of the ice. He's been smart to make sure he can take care of his defensive chores first. Any reluctance Noel has had to use him seems to be fading.

Scheifele has earned his ice and the more he gets, the better he'll show.

It's evident he's going to be an effective and impactful NHL player. He was on Tuesday. Maybe the future is now.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @garylawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 23, 2013 C3

Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby makes a save on a close-in scoring chance by Winnipeg Jets forward Michael Frolik during first-period NHL action at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg Tuesday.
Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby stops a shot by Winnipeg Jets forward Evander Kane in the first period.
Winnipeg Jets forward Anthony Peluso misses this opportunity to score on Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby during the first period.
Winnipeg Jets' Patrice Cormier (28) and Washington Capitals' Tom Wilson mix it up during the first period.
Winnipeg Jets defenceman Adam Pardy checks Washington Capitals forward Steve Oleksy during the first period.
Winnipeg Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec makes a save against the  Washington Capitals.
Winnipeg Jets forward Blake Wheeler misses this opportunity to score on Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby as Capitals defenceman Karl Alzner defends.
Winnipeg Jets players Michael Frolik (67) and Dustin Byfuglien are sandwiched between Washington Capitals players Troy Brouwer (20) and Alex Ovechkin in front of goaltender Braden Holtby during the first period.
Winnipeg Jets forward Evander Kane mixes it up with Washington Capitals' John Carlson.
Washington Capitals forward Eric Fehr lays the lumber on Winnipeg Jets forward Mark Scheifele in front of the Capitals bench during the first period.
Winnipeg Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec makes a glove save on Washington Capitals' Nicklas Backstrom as Jets defenceman Grant Clitsome closes in.
Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby stops a shot by Winnipeg Jets forward Evander Kane in the first period.
Winnipeg Jets forward Evander Kane collides with Washington Capitals' John Carlson during the first period.
Winnipeg Jets captain Andrew Ladd (left) and teammate Bryan Little celebrate Little's goal against Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby during the second period.
Winnipeg Jets captain Andrew Ladd watches the puck beat Washington Capitals' goaltender Braden Holtby for a goal by Bryan Little in the second period.
Winnipeg Jets forward Andrew Ladd and Washington Capitals defenceman Mike Green watch as a shot from Jets forward Bryan Little's blasts past Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby during the second period.
Washington Capitals' Jason Chimera (benhind net) celebrates Mikhail Grabovski's goal against the Winnipeg Jets during second-period NHL action.

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