When the Winnipeg Jets drafted Mark Scheifele in the first round in the 2011 draft, many scoffed at the selection as the Jets passed on a seeming no-doubt player like Sean Couturier. Scheifele’s play in training camp and throughout the preseason has done wonders for his own reputation and that of the Jets scouts and GM Kevin Cheveldayoff as he’s looked like a mature player with a ton of skills.
With all that going for him, the Jets took care of the business side of things and signed Scheifele to his three-year entry-level deal to bring him on board to the NHL to start the season. Scheifele will likely get a lot of looks through the Jets’ first nine games of the year before coach Claude Noel and Cheveldayoff decide whether or not to send him back to junior hockey, but with the dearth of forward talent in Winnipeg and the need for bonafide playmakers, Scheifele is likely there to stay.
At 6’3″ 175 pounds Scheifele is a big kid with room to fill out physically. Last season playing for Barrie in the OHL, Scheifele had 22 goals and 53 assists and the Jets are going to need that kind of play out of him if they’re going to be challenging for a playoff spot at all in the Eastern Conference. With guys like Bryan Little, Nik Antropov, and Alex Burmistrov originally set to be the team’s top three centers, Scheifele will slot in there while Little goes back to his more natural home on the wing.
With Scheifele getting a shot to impress here with the Jets, at the very least he’ll get the experience of a lifetime getting to be there opening night in Winnipeg to see what he’ll have to look forward to nightly should he get sent back. If he excels, however, getting to live that all season as an 18 year-old would be as close to a dream come true as you can get.
Update (11:17 a.m.): Ken Wiebe of the Winnipeg Sun reports that Scheifele’s deal is worth $2.1 million over the three years plus bonuses and comes with a cap hit of $1.625 million per year. Standard fare for an entry-level deal for a top ten pick.