Scheifele wins Jets over

Jets forward Mark Scheifele (left) gets a hug from teammate Blake Wheeler during practice Monday in...

Jets forward Mark Scheifele (left) gets a hug from teammate Blake Wheeler during practice Monday in Winnipeg, Man. (BRIAN DONOGH/QMI Agency)

KEN WIEBE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:51 AM ET

WINNIPEG - He quickly won over the fans.

He’s won over the coaching staff.

And he’s won over the Winnipeg Jets management team.

Perhaps most importantly, Mark Scheifele has won over his new teammates.

Since the day Scheifele was chosen seventh overall by the Winnipeg Jets at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft — a pick that raised more than a few eyebrows at the time — the 18-year-old wunderkid has been oozing positivity.

There have been very few moments where the million-dollar smile hasn’t been pasted across his face.

He’s given the organization plenty of reasons to grin as well, especially after Scheifele signed his three-year, entry level contract on Monday.

Scheifele essentially introduced himself to the hockey world with a stand-out performance at the 2011 Young Stars tournament in Penticton, B.C., and the spotlight has been shining brightly on him throughout the course of main camp and through the pre-season.

Scheifele hasn’t let all of the attention become a distraction — or let it go to his head.

There hasn’t been a hint of cockiness surrounding Scheifele either.

“Some guys can be like that, but he’s the farthest thing from it,” said Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff. “He’s a humble person. He didn’t put any expectations on himself other than to enjoy camp and let everything fall where it falls.

“That’s a strength with him. A lot of people might have got caught up in the situation, but to his credit, his family’s credit, his agent’s credit, he’s been very grounded since the moment we drafted him.”

This has been duly noted by his veteran teammates.

“Amongst the players, we’ve talked about what a good kid he is and you pull for a guy like that,” said Jets goalie Chris Mason. “Obviously, the fans have taken to him and he’s really earned that in training camp.He’s really respectful, has a great attitude and he’s fun to be around.”

There was a scene prior to a game at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville last week that caused me to take notice.

Scheifele was coming off his two goal, four-point outing in his NHL pre-season debut but when there weren’t enough stalls to go around, the youngster found himself getting dressed on a chair.

Rather than pout or stew about it, Scheifele showed his sense of humour and recognized it was merely another part of the process.

Not that Scheifele needed the reminder, but his teammates simply wanted to make sure he’s keeping a level head.

What’s been perfectly clear during the entire process was that Scheifele has genuine passion for the sport and is pushing himself to get better each and every day.

“Loving the game of hockey is the biggest thing,” said Scheifele. “When you love it, you’re always going to be happy, no matter what happens.

“To do it for a living, it’s an unbelievable feeling. That’s what kind of drives me and motivates me. I always want to have a smile on my face because I’m always happy I’m at the rink. I get to do what I love every day and get paid for it. I’d do it for free.”

The debate over whether Scheifele will actually be able to last the full season in the NHL will continue to rage on over the next month and change and figures to be riveting in itself.

Know this, at the end of the day Scheifele’s performance will be the determining factor.

The Jets are not going to rush him, that much we know for sure, but to this point Scheifele has risen to every challenge and he just might show them ultimately that he is ready to be a full-time NHLer right now.


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