ST. PAUL -- Just for the record -- and straight from Mark Scheifele's mouth -- the pronunciation of the last name of the first pick in the 'new' history of the Winnipeg Jets is...
We bring this up today because it's something -- getting the name right, not butchering it -- that the 18-year-old Barrie Colts centre hopes one day is commonplace in Winnipeg. And we bring it up because members of Jets management were asking the very same thing in the interview leading up to the first round of the 2011 NHL entry draft prior to making him the seventh pick overall in the proceedings.
"I didn't get a full sense (of the Jets' interest) in the interview, but they asked how to pronounce my last name," Scheifele said. "I thought that was just because no one knows how to pronounce my last name. I didn't think I was going to go seven but to go seven is really exciting.
"I'm just so excited right now. This is a moment I've always dreamed about and to go to the Jets and a team that has such a great organization and be the first pick since they've been back... there's no other feeling like walking up the stage. My legs were shaking, my head was racing.
"(GM Kevin) Cheveldayoff actually said he winked at me before the pick. I didn't see it, but he said he winked at me. My agent gave me a nudge, my heart started racing and I was going crazy. And when I heard, "Barrie Colts' and 'Mark Scheifele'... I was just ecstatic."
A 6-2, 177-pound product of Kitchener, Scheifele scored 22 goals and added 53 assists in 66 games for the Colts last year and was a member of Team Canada at the 2011 World Under-18 Championship in Germany. He's got upside and Jets management was very impressed in their interview with him, so much so that they stiff-armed the NHL Central Scouting rankings that had him rated the 16th-best North American prospect.
"When I sat there with my scouts and they talked about this player, they talked with passion and they said if we get a chance to draft him, we'd like to draft him," said Cheveldayoff. "They watch the players night in and night out. They were passionate about him. When I talked about the values I wanted to bring to this organization, they just shook their heads and said this guy's got all of those."
That was evident in his scrum with the media after the draft. The kid couldn't stop smiling and the press gobbled up every ounce of his enthusiasm, scribbling in their notebooks and inching closer with cameras to capture his ear-to-ear grin.
"I definitely see myself as a two-way, playmaking centre," Scheifele said. "I can score, I think I've got a pretty good shot and I think I can play all aspects of the game. I think I can play penalty kill, power play, five on five. I think I'm an all-round good player.
"My goal is to make the NHL next year. People may say it's a lofty goal, but people also said I made a lofty goal by saying I wanted to have a point a game in the OHL. You've got to set goals high and shoot for the moon. It's going to take a lot of hard work, but I'm going to do everything it takes to make it there."
There will be questions about the Jets going off the form chart here with the pick -- the concern about Scheifele is whether he put up big point totals because of his skill set or as a product of getting a lot of ice time on a bad team -- but he insists there won't be any doubting what he'll do between now and September to improve his skating and overall strength to give him a shot at making the big club.
Oh, and there's this: He comes highly recommended from his junior coach, none other than Jets legend Dale Hawerchuk.
"Dale taught me a lot... every day, every practice, every workout he'd be teaching me something new and how to go about my day," said Scheifele. "He'd tell me things that would help with my hockey. One thing he actually said was when I was taking out the garbage to do it with straight shoulders so I could strengthen my shoulder muscles, to do wrist curls before you go to bed because it makes you tired. I did it and I worked hard at it. He taught me a lot on the ice as well. He's a great coach. He's the greatest coach I ever had."
Winnipeg has eight more picks in the six remaining rounds that go today. But Friday night, an enthusiastic 18-year-old from Kitchener with a permanent boyish grin was the man of a moment, the answer to the trivia question about the Jets' first pick in their new era.
"That's pretty cool," Scheifele said, grinning again. "I hadn't really thought about that. Thinking about it now... that's unreal, actually."