With training camp and preseason now underway, the Winnipeg Jets are going through the usual ritual of preparing for the upcoming NHL season. Veterans are getting focused on hockey again, trying to improve on last year’s showing, while young prospects are battling for jobs, trying to get into the good books of coaches and management. One such player trying to crack the roster is Mark Scheifele.
The 2011 first round pick, has seen time with the big club, registering a goal in 11 games over two season. Scheifele has spent the majority of those two seasons, lighting up the OHL with the Barrie Colts. Scheifele was terrific last season in Barrie, posting 39 goals and 40 assists in 45 games for Barrie. He was even better in the playoffs, recording 15 goals and 26 assists in 21 games, as Barrie came within an eyelash of winning the OHL Championship and securing a berth in the Memorial Cup.
Those are great numbers Scheifele has put up since becoming property of the Winnipeg Jets, but now is the time to translate his game into the pro level. It is one thing to light up junior hockey. It is a completely different matter to dominate at the NHL level.
During his brief tenure in the NHL, Scheifele did show some promise, but lacked the strength and power to compete at the highest level. Far too often Scheifele would come across the blue line only to get knocked off his feet by a rugged defenceman, thus losing the puck and the opposition going the other way on a counter-attack. There was no denying Scheifele’s skill, but he needed to get stronger on the puck and improve his balance.
This offseason, Scheifele participated in Gary Roberts BioSteel strength and condition camp to aid in his upper-body strength. Roberts, the former Calgary Flame and Toronto Maple Leaf, was a fitness fanatic throughout his NHL career and his summer camps are legendary within NHL circles. Scheifele wasn’t alone. NHL stars such as Steven Stamkos, P.K. Subban, James Neal and Stephen Weiss also participated in the week-long session of on-ice and off-ice workouts, which concludes with a tournament at the end of camp.
Scheifele has come into training camp in the best shape of his young life and is eager to make his mark with the Jets. The coaching staff has put Scheifele on a line with Evander Kane and newly acquired Devin Setoguchi in hopes that Scheifele can finally fill a gaping hole in the centre position on the second line. Last night was the Jets first preseason game against Washington, and it was time to showcase that new line. They did not disappoint. Kane was simply flying all over the ice, scoring two goals, and looking like the power forward every team craves. Setoguchi assisted on both of Kane’s goals, while Scheifele picked up an assist on Kane’s second goal. The line also showed some early chemistry, and played better as the game wore on. While it is too soon to make this the permanent second line, the potential is there for this trio to make their mark before the season starts.
J.C. Lipon showed some promise in last night’s game as well. The 2013 third round selection showed some hustle and physicality throughout the game. Lipon will be heading back to Kamloops shortly for another season with the Blazers, but don’t be surprised if he’s wearing a Jets uniform sometime down the road. Eddie Pasqaule was solid between the pipes, making 35 saves in the Jets 4-3 shootout loss to Washington. Pasquale thwarted Alexander Ovechkin’s attempt in the shootout, which isn’t the easiest thing to do. There are some who believe that Pasquale could battle Al Montoya for the backup job this season, and his performance on Saturday night made that battle a tad more interesting. Jacob Trouba looked a bit out-of-place. The 2012 first round selection had difficulty keeping up with the pace of the game and looked reckless at times. Trouba did play better in the third period and overtime, but early returns show that Trouba will need a year in St. John’s to mature his game. Josh Morrissey will also need more seasoning. The 2013 first round selection struggled at times with zone coverage and was slow, moving the puck. Morrissey wasn’t expected to make the big club this season, and another year in Prince Albert will serve him well. Here’s hoping Morrissey can crack the Canadian World Junior squad, which would also aid his development.
You can follow me on Twitter @jstar1973