WINNIPEG - Mark Scheifele took another big stride toward making his dream a reality.
We wholeheartedly acknowledge it was merely an NHL pre-season game — and the first one at that — but the Winnipeg Jets first-round pick in 2011 continues to serve notice that he’s here to make it awfully difficult for the team to send him back to the Barrie Colts of the OHL.
After playing two dominant games out of three at the Young Stars tournament in Penticton, B.C. last week, Scheifele picked up two goals and added a pair of helpers in a first-star performance as the Jets defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets 6-1 on Tuesday night at MTS Centre.
By the end of the night, the hometown fans were chanting his name.
“Unreal. The fans are amazing here and to hear how loud they were, I couldn’t even hear myself think,” said Scheifele. “Again, I was getting the chills to have (the first star) announcement. I may have got it once in the OHL and to get it in the NHL pre-season, it’s one of the best moments of my life.”
Scheifele banged home a pair of rebound goals, one late in the first period for what proved to be the game-winner and another in the third, on the power play, for an insurance marker.
The skilled centre also had nice feeds to set-up Winnipegger Kevin Clark at 16:34 of the second period and Russian rookie Ivan Telegin at 4:43 of the third.
“He looked like the best player on the ice,” said Jets head coach Claude Noel. “He looked like a guy who was a veteran guy. He played big, smart, clever. Was around pucks. What can you say? You know it’s four days in, but you can’t argue. He’s doing the right things. Things he needs to do to stay.
“But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There’s a process here.”
Of course, Scheifele wasn’t the only story on the day that NHL pre-season action involving the Jets took place for the first time since 1995.
On the day powerful defenceman Dustin Byfuglien found out he was facing four charges after a boating incident on Lake Minnetonka, he needed all of one shift to make his presence felt.
Byfuglien found Brandon product Matt Calvert in his sights early and then crushed Tomas Kubalik with another big hit before dropping the gloves with Cody Bass.
The crowd roared after all three acts and on his way to the penalty box, Byfuglien smiled and nodded his head, suggesting that Jets fans should get used to what they were witnessing.
There could be some stressful times ahead for Byfuglien as it pertains to the charges against him, but on Tuesday he served notice that the arena might serve as his refuge and he was quite capable of being one of the best players on the ice, finishing with three assists and just a goal shy of a Gordie Howe hat trick.
Even Byfuglien was impressed by the rookie.
“Scheif, welcome to the NHL,” said Byfuglien. “Wow. The kid was amazing.”
Clark was one of five Manitobans suiting up in the game and the fact he scored in his first NHL pre-season game, in his hometown no less, is sure to make it a memorable night.
“It’s up there, especially with the circumstances,” said Clark. “You can’t really put a price on it, to play in this one and pot the goal. The crowd was electric and it’s a cool feeling that the NHL is really here.”