Drafted with the 7th overall pick in 2011, many were surprised that the first name the new look Winnipeg Jets called out was that of Scheifele. Ranked 16th entering the draft by NHL Central Scouting, few thought he would go any higher than that and even fewer predicted he would go inside the top 10.
A relative unknown in comparison to other top prospects entering the season, his name rose out of nowhere to being one of prominence on day 1 of the draft. He played only one season of major junior with the OHL’s Barrie Colts before being drafted, but under the guidance of former Jets star and Hall of Famer Dale Hawerchuk, who is his coach with the Colts, Scheifele continued to impress as the season went on scoring 75 points in 66 games on a Barrie team that finished dead last in the league with a 15-49-2-2 record. He also played for Canada in the IIHF U18 World Championships in Germany prior to the draft, leading all Canadian forwards with 8 points in 7 games.
Jets fans are hoping they have similar success with Scheifele as they did the last time the franchise had the 7th overall pick, 16 years ago. In 1995 they took a young Alberta kid named Shane Doan with their first selection. While he only played one season in Winnipeg before they moved to Phoenix, the Jets hope Scheifele follows a similar career path as Doan, as a building block for the organization and a future captain for a Jets team that stays in Winnipeg.
Early indications were more than the Jets could have hoped for as Scheifele came out flying in training camp and led the team in preseason scoring with 8 points in 5 games, making the opening night roster. He played 7 regular season games with the big club, scoring only once before being returned to his junior club. He did not let the demotion affect him, tearing it up with 42 points in 27 games for the Colts who currently sit 5th in the OHL’s Eastern Conference standings.
It also gave Scheifele a chance to suit up for Canada’s entry into the World Junior Championships, where he centered one of their top lines, playing primarily between Blues 2010 first rounder Jaden Schwartz and Habs prospect Brendan Gallagher. He helped lead Canada to a bronze medal scoring 6 points in 6 games.
Coming in at 6’3 and 184lbs, Scheifele is blessed with the total package, bringing size and skill to the table, and a great work ethic to boot. His best attribute might be his awareness on the ice, a cerebral player, he possesses excellent on-ice vision and a hockey IQ off the charts . A gifted playmaker, he is the type of centre who makes those around him better.
If there is one knock on Scheifele as a top level prospect it might be his skating and overall strength. While he may not have the explosive speed or the same top gear as some other blue chip prospects, he skates well and is shifty in traffic. He has significantly improved in this area as he has put on more muscle and improved his overall core strength since the draft, trying to be harder to knock off the puck as he moves towards an NHL career.
A native of Kitchener, Ontario he played for the hometown Kitchener Dutchmen junior “B” hockey club before he was taken in the 7th round (134th overall) by the Saginaw Spirit in the 2009 OHL Priority Draft.
Following that year he had a decision to make; play in the OHL or go south of the border to play NCAA hockey, where he had made a verbal commitment to Cornell University. He opted to go the major junior route, where his rights were subsequently traded to the Barrie Colts prior to the 2010-11 season starting.
He put on the #19 Colts jersey that year, and the rest as they say, is history.
Upside Potential: Top line playmaking centre
NHL Comparable: Paul Stastny
NHL ETA: 2012-13
*Mark Scheifele at the 2012 World Junior Championships
“The Prospect Report” is a weekly feature at The Hockey Writers that profiles NHL team prospects. Check back next week for the next profile and follow Carl on twitter @maloney3383 for more articles.