WINNIPEG - Super-rookie Mark Scheifele may get some more time, beyond this week, to prove he can play with the big boys.
Head coach Claude Noel Tuesday hinted the Jets could use the provision in the collective bargaining agreement that allows teenagers to get their feet wet in the NHL, while retaining their junior eligibility.
“We’ve got a little bit more time on our side, if I’ve got my rules down,” Noel said. “I believe we’ve got nine games to make a decision, regular-season games, provided he’s signed. We would take that time and put it on our side.
“It’s still a man’s league, and come the regular season you see it’s a man’s league. Sometimes you need that extra time.”
Noel stopped short of saying Scheifele will definitely start the season with the Jets, but that may be because the 18-year-old, first-round draft pick hasn’t signed a contract.
If and when Scheifele does sign, he could play nine regular season games without losing the first year of the standard, three-year entry-level contract.
So he could come back next season and still play three years before his contract is up.
Scheifele, though, is gaining confidence every day, and says he doesn’t need another year of major junior hockey.
“I don’t think so,” he said. “I can be here. The games are going to get tougher, but I can adapt. I can be one of those guys that will work their way up and will be able to be challenged here, but also perform.”
Noel refuted the notion that Scheifele must be a first- or second-liner to stay with the Jets.
“Development happens in different ways,” Noel said. “Burmistrov is an offensive guy ... put in a defensive situation, and it’s healthy for him. It helped him, a lot. You know now you can trust him defensively, so it makes him a completely different player.
“The best assessment is can he, is he, an NHL player, at 18 years old? That’s the first thing you look at.”
The Jets play their last two pre-season games here, Wednesday against Carolina, Friday against Nashville.
Scheifele, the top pre-season scorer with three goals and three assists, is penciled into Wednesday’s lineup.