Scheifele sets his sights on world juniors

Playing in front of Winnipeg Jets fans who are over the moon about getting their NHL team back was a dress rehearsal for Mark Scheifele.

Playing in front of Winnipeg Jets fans who are over the moon about getting their NHL team back was a dress rehearsal for Mark Scheifele.

The atmosphere in the three games Scheifele played at Winnipeg’s MTS Centre will be comparable to the charged environment in Edmonton and Calgary during the 2012 world junior hockey championships starting Dec. 26.

“If I were to play in that, it will probably be very similar and be very cool to be able to play for Team Canada and be able to wear that jersey for world juniors,” Scheifele said Monday from Barrie, Ont.

“Just watching it growing up, it’s crazy, especially when it’s in Canada.”

Winnipeg’s decision to return the 18-year-old forward to the Ontario Hockey League’s Barrie Colts is a boon for the country’s junior team. Scheifele is expected to play a prominent role for Canada in the tournament.

“He’s an offensive talent,” Hockey Canada head scout Kevin Prendergast said Monday. “From our standpoint, it’s huge to have him back. He has all the attributes we need right now because of all the players who are still in the NHL.”

With centres Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Edmonton), Ryan Johansen (Columbus) and Sean Couturier (Philadelphia) still with their respective NHL clubs, Scheifele and Ryan Strome of the Niagara IceDogs are currently Canada’s top two centremen.

“Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is playing really well and also Sean Couturier is playing really good with Philly too, so we’ll see how they pan out,” Scheifele said. “I wish them all the best luck and not just because I want to be on the Canadian team. Hopefully they stick.”

Scheifele played between wingers Matt Puempel of the Peterborough Petes and Tyler Toffoli of the Ottawa 67’s at the junior team’s summer camp in Edmonton.

But if Johansen remains in the NHL, Canadian head coach Don Hay will need a suitable replacement centre for impressive wingers Jonathan Huberdeau of Saint John Sea Dogs and Mark Stone of the Brandon Wheat Kings.

Selection camp will be held in Calgary in December.

Canada, a silver medallist the last two years, opens the world junior championship in Edmonton versus Finland. Canada plays its pool games in Edmonton’s Rexall Place.

All medal games will be held in Calgary’s Scotiabank Saddledome.

Scheifele, six foot two and 184 pounds, appeared in seven games for Winnipeg. He’s relieved to have cleared the hurdle of scoring his first NHL goal before his return to Barrie.

He scored in Toronto last Wednesday. Scheifele, pronounced SHIFE’-lee, anticipated the arrival of the souvenir puck.

“It’s being shipped to me as we speak,” he said.

The Kitchener, Ont., native was drafted seventh overall in June with much fanfare as Winnipeg prepared for the return of an NHL team after a 15-year absence.

Scheifele led OHL rookies in scoring last season with 22 goals and 53 assists in 66 games. The Colts are coincidentally coached by former Jet and Hockey Hall of Famer Dale Hawerchuk.

Scheifele raised his draft stock further at the world under-18 championships in April with six goals and two assists in seven games for Canada. That helped him earn an invitation to the under-20 team’s summer camp.

“I’d probably describe it as a whirlwind,” Scheifele said of the past year. “I was happy I was able to stick with Winnipeg as long as I did and given the opportunity.

“It’s definitely my favourite building to play in. The fans are screaming so loud.

“Especially the first game, being my first NHL game and getting to play in the first Winnipeg Jets game since they’ve been back was an honour and historic and something I’ll remember with a great feeling.”

After experiencing the bright lights and big cities of the NHL, teenagers often feel let down upon their return to the junior ranks.

The prospect of playing in the world junior tournament, which will be watched by millions of Canadians, helps take the sting out of the demotion.

“I’m sure everyone when they get sent down is a bit disappointed and I was too when I was told the news, but you have to think of it as everything happens for a reason,” Scheifele said. “You can’t get down on yourself. You’re playing the game of hockey and something you love to do.

“I’m going to keep working hard and hopefully make that world junior team because that will definitely make the pain easier.”

Nugent-Hopkins, the first overall pick in this year’s draft, has five goals and two assists in seven games for the Oilers. He’s making a case to play in the NHL as an 18-year-old.

As of Monday, the 19-year-old Couturier had two goals and two assists in seven games with the Flyers, who were to face Toronto at night. Johansen, also 19, has a goal in five games for Columbus.

Other teenagers currently in the NHL and eligible to play for Canada are 19-year-old wingers Brett Connelly (Tampa Bay), Devante Smith-Pelly (Anaheim) and Brett Bulmer (Minnesota), as well as defenceman Erik Gudbranson (Florida).

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

AstraZeneca vaccine is ready to be used at a homeless shelter in Romford, east London, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Frank Augstein
AstraZeneca-linked blood clot confirmed in Alberta

A case of an AstraZeneca-linked blood clot has been confirmed in Alberta,… Continue reading

The Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools Board of Trustees selected the name St. Lorenzo Ruiz Middle School to be built in the north end of Red Deer. (Photo Courtesy of  Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools)
Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools raises about $8,720 for Terry Fox Foundation

Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools raised about $8,720 for the Terry Fox… Continue reading

A nurse gets a swab ready at a temporary COVID-19 test clinic in Montreal, on Friday, May 15, 2020. Health Canada has reversed course on home test kits for COVID-19, saying it will now review applications for such devices. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Alberta declines Ontario’s request to send health-care workers

Alberta is “not in a position” to send health-care workers out of… Continue reading

The Red Deer Rebels allowed four straight goals from the Medicine Hat Tigers Friday night on the road. (Photo by Rob Wallator/ Red Deer Rebels)
Tigers hand Red Deer Rebels 10th straight loss

Tigers 4 Rebels 2 Through 17 games in the shortened WHL season,… Continue reading

Meghan Huizing has been selected by Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools as a finalist for the Alberta School Boards Association (ASBA) 2021 Edwin Parr Award. (Photo courtesy of Red Deer Regional Catholic Schools)
Red Deer Catholic names finalist for Edwin Parr Award

Meghan Huizing from St. Gregory the Great Catholic School in Blackfalds has… Continue reading

Red Deer Public Schools will not pilot the new draft curriculum at its elementary schools. (File photo contributed by Red Deer Public Schools)
UPDATED: Red Deer Public Schools says no to piloting new curriculum

Alberta Teachers’ Association support school boards

Brad Dahr, 53, is facing numerous charges. (Photo contributed by Alberta RCMP)
Alberta man charged for alleged sexual offences against children

An Edmonton man has been charged for alleged sexual offences against children… Continue reading

A person walks past a COVID-19 mural designed by artist Emily May Rose on a rainy day during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Monday, April 12, 2021. Employment lawyers say flouting COVID-19 public health orders when off the job or coming into work while knowingly sick could warrant discipline in the workplace. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Risky pandemic behaviour off the clock could mean workplace discipline: lawyers

CALGARY — Employment lawyers say flouting COVID-19 public health orders when off… Continue reading

Vials containing Russia's Sputnik V vaccine for COVID-19 are seen at the San Marino State Hospital, in San Marino, Friday, April 9, 2021.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Antonio Calanni
China, Russia using their COVID-19 vaccines to gain political influence

OTTAWA — China and Russia have been using their locally produced COVID-19… Continue reading

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa Tuesday, March 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau announces donation to Duke of Edinburgh’s award ahead of funeral

Canada will donate $200,000 to the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award as… Continue reading

Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry (Science) Will Amos responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, Dec. 11, 2020. The Liberal MP who inadvertently flashed his parliamentary colleagues says the fact that a screenshot of him in the nude was leaked to the media sends a troubling message about the corrosive state of politics in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle
Canada’s naked MP speaks out: leaked photo sends message ‘anything goes’ in politics

OTTAWA — The Liberal MP who inadvertently flashed his parliamentary colleagues says… Continue reading

In this file photo, a lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018. (By THE CANADIAN PRESS)
No winning ticket for Friday night’s $10 million Lotto Max jackpot

TORONTO — No winning ticket was sold for the $10 million jackpot… Continue reading

Opinion
Opinion: Canada’s self-esteem needs Trump

Well, it was fun while it lasted. For four years, with Donald… Continue reading

Harley Hay
Harley Hay: Shenanigans on the links

It must be something about my Scottish heritage but I seem to… Continue reading

Most Read