Plenty of folks simply couldn’t wait to get their first glimpse of Mark Scheifele in game action, even if it came in a game against fellow prospects in the 2011 Young Stars tournament.
Well, Monday night brought that opportunity and Scheifele didn’t disappoint.
The seventh overall selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft was quite simply the most noticeable player on the ice — and almost always for the right reasons as the Winnipeg Jets defeated the San Jose Sharks 4-0 at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
“There’s definitely a lot of pride,” said Scheifele, who had a goal and an assist. “It wasn’t the actual jerseys, but to be the first to wear the logo in the game was an honour. All the guys took it to heart and wanted to get the win in that first game.”
Among other things, Scheifele provided the highlight of the night — and some might argue, the signature moment in the Jets unofficial return — at 15:24 of the first period.
On a shorthanded breakaway, Scheifele demonstrated another one of the qualities that helped convince the Jets brass that he was the best player available at No. 7 in St. Paul, Minn. — even when a guy like Sean Couturier was still out there as well.
Scheifele showed plenty of poise as he walked in alone, and waited until he froze San Jose Sharks goalie Thomas Heemskerk.
That’s when his lightning-quick and equally soft hands took over as Scheifele moved effortlessly to his backhand and lifted his shot over the sprawling Heemskerk.
It was the type of moment that brings out the ooh’s and ah’s, whether you were at the game live or watching it on the internet. A moment that gives you a glimpse of the dazzling potential Scheifele carries with him each and every time he steps on the ice.
Scheifele, who centred the top unit with Carl Klingberg and Jason Gregoire, wasn’t done there.
In the opening shift of the third period, Scheifele showed ridiculous patience, carrying the puck into the offensive zone before freezing a Sharks’ defenceman before slipping the puck through his legs and onto the tape of Gregoire — who buried the pass at 22 seconds of the frame to make it 3-0.
The only small criticism is that Scheifele occasionally stays on the ice too long, which is a by-product of playing a lot in junior.
He can get away with it here, but now is the time to create good habits that will carry over into main camp.
We understand it’s nit-picking and we’re not here to rain on Scheifele’s parade at all but shortening his shifts is a must when the games against NHL competition begin.
However, what stood out most on this night is that Scheifele’s enthusiasm for the game is infectious and his skill-set becomes clearer with each viewing.
The scary thing is that the youngster only has one season of major junior hockey under his belt.
Scheifele seems to be getting better every day and he’ll need to, in order to realize his goal of making the NHL this season.
Whether or not Scheifele is able to beat the long odds against an 18-year-old stepping right into the lineup and making the Jets isn’t important right now.
What’s becoming crystal clear is that Scheifele is a bona fide talent and has a bright future ahead of him.
The present might turn out to be pretty darn good as well.
“His puck-handling, his creativity, I really thought he stood out with his 1-on-1 play,” said Keith McCambridge, who ran the bench for the Jets. “He has a lot of poise, a lot of polish.”
Winnipeg Jets 4, San Jose Sharks 0
The three stars
1. Jets F Mark Scheifele — A highlight-reel goal and an equally impressive assist as the seventh overall pick of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft lived up to the hype in his debut.
2. Jets G Edward Pasquale — A rock-solid performance for the Toronto product, as he turned aside 27 shots.
3. Jets F Klarc Wilson — The gritty winger was involved all night, throwing big hits, creating some havoc in the offensive zone on the forecheck and even dropped the gloves in a first-period scrap.
Levko Koper scored a pair, Scheifele had a goal and an assist and Winnipegger Jason Gregoire provided the offensive punch in what was a solid showing from the Jets in their first game of the tournament. Plenty of passion and pretty good attention to detail, considering the condensed time to prepare for game action.
The Jets face the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night at 9:30 p.m. in their second of three games in the tournament. The Oilers, whose roster includes 2011 first overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, smoked the Vancouver Canucks 7-2 in their tournament opener on Sunday.