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Scheifele growing his game

Doesnt have to fill net to make contribution

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EDMONTON -- Throughout Mark Scheifeles fledgling junior hockey career, Dale Hawerchuk has served not just as his head coach but a wealth of information and guidance.

After all, when it came to Scheifele, Hawerchuk had been there, done that.

Drafted by the Winnipeg Jets? Bring a parka, said Hawerchuk, who was also drafted by the Jets as an 18-year-old in 1981.

Leading the Jets in pre-season scoring?

Just continue to play your game, said Hawerchuk. Enjoy the moment.

And it was Hawerchuk, the Jets superstar of the 1980s, who was the voice of reason amid the Scheifele hype at the start of the season, cautioning that the 18-year-old would be best served to dominate with his Barrie Colts before graduating full-time to the NHL.

Now Hawerchuks proteg© is four games into his Team Canada experience at the 2012 World junior championships, and the goals havent come so easy. Just two, in fact, and both on the power play in a 5-0 round-robin victory over the Czech Republic.

Not exactly the bounty that might have been expected from a seventh overall pick of the 2011 NHL draft, who began the tournament as Canadas No. 1 centreman -- with every intention of scoring the part.

Hawerchuk, however, has been there, done that, too. And his advice?

"Its a collection of great players," Hawerchuk said, reached in Barrie. "If theyre going to be successful you just cant have two or three (players) going all the time, you have to have the full unit going. Theyre all pieces of the puzzle. You have to understand that. Sure, youre going to want to score big goals or whatever... but you have to play to win. Youve got to do so many other things well.

"This tournament really helps round out the whole game for players," the former Jet added. "He (Scheifele) will learn that. Will he be the guy at times? He might be, he might not be. Somebody will be the guy or it will be a combination of everybody."

How would Hawerchuk know? How about playing on a Team Canada outfit at the 1987 Canada Cup that featured a forward lineup that included Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Michel Goulet, Brian Propp and Mark Messier?

Grinding

After all, Hawerchuk might have been a 100-point sniper with the Jets. But on the 1987 Canada Cup, he was the guy who tugged ever-so-slightly on the jersey of a Russian backchecker to allow megastar Gretzky the space to set up Lemieux for the winning goal in what has been considered one of the greatest international tournaments in the games history.

On the Jets, Hawerchuk was a prolific sniper. On the 1987 Team Canada, he was grinding it out on a line with Brent Sutter and Rick Tocchet.

Said Hawerchuk: "You learn when you start playing with the best against the best."

Turns out, its a lesson young Scheifele is taking to heart.

"Ive been working my hardest, doing whatever it takes to help the team, if it means playing good defence or doing what the coach wants," Scheifele noted. "Obviously, people think I should be scoring a bit more or producing that way. But I think Ive progressed definitely throughout the tournament.

"I didnt have the best pre-competition games, but after I got that over with... I think Ive been adapting to what coach Don Hay wants. Ive got my chances and Ive been setting up guys. We just havent been getting the greatest bounces. It happens. Im just going to continue playing my game and, hopefully, I can get a few bounces go my way a few times."

In fact, Hawerchuk caught a few of the pre-tournament games on TSN.

"I thought early on he was trying to force it (the play) at times," Hawerchuk said. "His timing was a little bit off when he tried to push the pace and got too far ahead or too tight to the defenders instead of waiting and having a little space."

So on Christmas Eve, Hawerchuk texted Scheifele with the following advice: "Gear down. Gauge your speed. Move when you have to. Find your spots. Dont get ahead of yourself."

Make no mistake, Scheifele wants to score the big goal. With the medal round looming and Canada advancing to Tuesdays semifinal -- awaiting the winner of the Russia-Czech Republic quarter-final -- that could still happen, too.

For Scheifele, however, the bigger goal remains the same.

"You just have to give it your all every shift," he said. "Its a tournament that you have to find where you fit in. The coaches are helping us find our way. Each guy has accepted whatever role theyre given. Everyone knows that its a team-first goal. Whatever it takes to win a gold medal, thats what we want to do."

Somewhere, Dale Hawerchuk is nodding in agreement.

randy.turner@freepress.mb.ca;

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 2, 2012 C4

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About Randy Turner

While attending Boissevain High School in the late 1970’s, Randy Turner one day read an account of a Winnipeg Jets game in the Free Press when it dawned on him: "Really, you can get paid to watch sports?"

Turner later graduated with a spectacularly mediocre 2.3 GPA from Red River Community College’s Creative Communications program. 

After jobs at the Stonewall Argus and Selkirk Journal, he began working on the Rural page for the Free Press in 1987. Several years later, he realized his dream of watching sports for a living covering the Winnipeg Goldeyes and Bombers.

In 2001, Turner became a general sports columnist, where he watched Canada win its first Olympic gold medal in men’s hockey in 50 years at Salt Lake, then watched them win again in Vancouver in 2010.

He also watched everything from high school hockey and volleyball championship to several Grey Cups, NHL finals and World Junior hockey tournaments.

In the fall of 2011, Turner became a general features writer for the paper. But he still watches way too much sports.

Turner has been nominated for three National Newspaper Awards in sports writing.

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