Jets top pick pumped

PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:25 AM ET

WINNIPEG - Mark Scheifele’s first impression of Winnipeg was of a place in love with its new hockey team.

The Jets’ first draft pick is hoping some of that love extends to him this coming season.

Arriving for the first time, Tuesday, and playing a day later in the charity golf tournament hosted by his junior coach, Dale Hawerchuk, Scheifele says his goal is to follow in Hawerchuk’s footsteps and make the Jets as an 18-year-old.

“I want to make the team,” Scheifele told the Sun. “I think I can. I know it’s going to be tough. I’m just going to work hard, and hopefully I can at least make an impression.”

It didn’t take long for the city to make an impression on Scheifele.

“It’s a real nice city,” he said. “Just driving around, it’s real exciting. I think the first sign I saw was ‘Go Jets Go’ when we started driving to the hotel. It was pretty cool.

“It shows they’re so excited. They really respect their team and care for their team. It’s great to go into that exciting atmosphere.”

As good as Scheifele played for Hawerchuk’s Barrie Colts last season, scoring 22 goals, 75 points, odds are against the 6-foot-2, 182-pound centre sticking with the Jets his first season.

Because 18-year-olds usually need another year of junior, or a year in the minors.

Scheifele knows exactly how daunting the task is.

“Last year, like, four made it,” he said. “Not very many make it every year, so it’s definitely a hard road.”

Of course, as Scheifele said at the draft, odds were also against this Junior B product scoring a point a game in his first season at the major junior level.

It was that rapid development that caught the eye of Jets scouts, and the organization called his name seventh, overall, last June — after he’d entered the draft the 16th ranked skater in North America.

Hawerchuk has already acknowledged Scheifele may not be back in Barrie for another year.

Whether he sticks around Winnipeg or not in October, Scheifele promises Jets fans they’ll eventually get an honest, well-rounded player.

“Definitely a hardworking, two-way, playmaking centre that does whatever job he’s told,” he said. “I want to be in on the offence and I want to be a conscientious player on the defence, too.”

Scheifele’s stay in Winnipeg this week is short, as he’s returning to continue a pro conditioning camp at his home in Kitchener, Thursday.

He was hoping to check out his future hockey home, the MTS Centre, Wednesday night, after the golf tournament.

Next month, at training camp, he’ll try to move in for good.

“Being drafted is an honour,” Scheifele said. “But like Dale told me, the easy part’s over.”


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