Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Trouba, Scheifele in like Flynn

Youngsters will make team; only question is how good will they be?

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Mark SCHEIFELE and Jacob Trouba have made the Winnipeg Jets.

It was plainly clear Thursday night the new kids on the block are among this team's top 23 players. They belong. How high they can climb and how quickly is the next question.

Trouba's game and personality appear ready for the pressure and responsibility of playing defence in the NHL.

Scheifele needs to play with talented wingers. Maybe he could flourish on the third line and round out his game slowly, but why not find out if he can run a little quicker? He's done as much as anyone to earn the second-line centre spot. Give it to him and see if he can keep it.

Management's mindset is no secret. Trouba and Scheifele are the future and what's best for them as young players will take precedence.

Jets management has proven they are patient and GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has dropped the, "you can't rush or force development," maxim on us repeatedly.

The players will determine their own course, Cheveldayoff will just take care of the travel arrangements.

It was roundly accepted these two first-round picks would have to play their way out of jobs with the Jets this season and that has not happened. They'll be in the lineup opening night.

Trouba has steadily gotten better and is easily in the team's top-six defencemen right now. Some might argue he's pushing for work in the top-four.

Watching Trouba and determining what he needs going forward will be fairly straightforward.

He'll either continue to look comfortable and hold his place or he won't. Coach Claude Noel will trust him and keep putting him in the lineup or he won't.

If the latter occurs that will be Cheveldayoff's signal to step in and give the 19-year-old some seasoning in St. John's. The Jets have other defencemen that can play in the NHL. Trouba isn't a must-have for Noel. But right now he's taken the decision out of the coach's hands.

Scheifele has not been as loud a performer in the pre-season. But he was as good as anyone else in a Jets jersey on Thursday night and showed high-end skill on a tidy third-period goal.

Scheifele and his development will be more complex. The Jets don't have the same luxury at centre ice as they do on the blue-line. They're not good or deep enough down the middle for Scheifele to play anywhere but in Winnipeg.

The Jets must decide whether it's best to play him on the second line with Evander Kane and Devin Setoguchi or on the third between Matt Halischuk and Michael Frolik.

This decision will have a number of contributing factors, including the fate of Olli Jokinen.

The Jets must determine if Jokinen can still contribute and how best to position him to succeed.

Should they cede the second-line spot to Jokinen in the hopes of his game gaining momentum? Or can they take some pressure off him and see if he can find his game under the cooler lights of the third line?

Both those questions can also be posed with Scheifele, and considering he's going to be wearing a Jets jersey long after Jokinen has shuffled off stage, perhaps those answers should be considered more pertinent.

Scheifele's game comes alive when he's paired with skilled players. There appears to be some natural chemistry between him, Kane and Setoguchi. Why fight it? Why overthink it?

Noel will have to trust Scheifele but this kid has shown he wants to be a complete player.

Maybe there will be some lumps early on but last I checked the Jets weren't yet a contender. They can afford to give a young player some time to sand off the rough edges.

Cheveldayoff is right when he says you can't rush development. But the opposite is true as well. You can't slow it down.

Throw them in the deep end. My bet is they'll swim.

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

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 27, 2013 C4

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Updated on Friday, September 27, 2013 at 8:38 AM CDT: adds photo

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