Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Scheifele Conundrum

If there is one thing Winnipeggers are a seeming split on, it's what to do with rookie sensation Mark Scheifele.

Three months ago, newly minted Jets fans were turning to each other and scratching their heads when GM Kevin Cheveldayoff shocked the 2011 NHL Entry Draft by nabbing Scheifele at the seven spot.

Now, Jets fans are praising Cheveldayoff as a pure genius.

Not only is Scheifele having a tremendous pre-season, he leads all pre-season scorers after Monday night with six point (three goals, three assists) in only three games.

But let's just hang out a moment before we start calling Scheifele the next great Jet - in line to the throne of Dale Hawerchuk.

Two seasons ago, Scheifele was not even playing Junior A hockey albeit thinking about a career in the NHL full-time, or even being a first round draft pick.

Last season in Barrie, Scheifele picked up 75 points (22 goals, 53 assists) in 66 games, with 35 penalty minutes and a minus 22 rating on a Barrie Colts team that stunk up the OHL with a dismal 15-49-2-2 record under the same Jet legend Hawerchuk.

Before cracking an NHL lineup himself, Hawerchuk registered 103 point (37 goals, 66 assists) and 183 point (81 goals, 102 assist) seasons in the QMJHL.

He promptly went on to be the youngest player to ever score 100 points in a season, before Sidney Crosby cracked that record, in 1981-82 after getting nabbed as the first pick overall in '81.

Scheifele is a league of his own, however.

He is also in an era vastly different than that of his junior coach.

If anything, another year in Barrie with the Colts would improve Scheifele's chances of becoming a full-bred, full-time, impact-type NHL player. There is no need and no hurry to rush this kid.

Unlike the Jets of 1981-82, who had only Morris Lukowich and Dave Christian collecting over 60 points in the first two seasons of NHL hockey in Winnipeg, the Jets of 2011 have a plethora of young talent that is ready to reach its true potential.

With Bryan Little, Evander Kane, Alexander Burmistrov, Zach Bogosian, Toby Enstrom, Andrew Ladd, Dustin Byfuglien, and Ondrej Pavelec all at the age of 26 or younger, the Jets can afford to develop Mark Scheifele slowly until he is ready to make an impact in an 82 game NHL schedule.

Winnipeg fans have waited 15 years for their Jets to come back.

I think they have enough patience to wait for Mark Scheifele.

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