BELLEVILLE, Ontario – Winnipeg Jets center Mark Scheifele has experienced brief tastes of life in the NHL over the past two seasons. But the first-round pick (No. 7, 2011) said he believes he's ready to make the jump full-time.
Scheifele, 20, made it extremely difficult for Jets brass to send him back to the Barrie Colts in the Ontario Hockey League in the fall of 2011, when he scored his first NHL goal during a seven-game audition at the start of the 2011-12 season. But he was ultimately sent back to Barrie, where he scored 23 goals and 40 assists in 47 games.
He was held without a point in four NHL games last season and was sent back to Barrie after the Jets opted not to use a year on Scheifele's entry-level contract on the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season. Schiefele finished with 39 goals and 40 assists in 45 games for the Colts.
Scheifele will open the preseason Saturday night skating on Winnipeg's top line with Evander Kane and Devin Setoguchi when the Jets play the Washington Capitals in the Kraft Hockeyville game at Yardmen Arena (7 p.m. ET, CBC, NHL Network-U.S.).
"I feel a lot more mature physically and mentally," Scheifele said. "I definitely think that I'm ready. I just have to continue to show that I am and continue to work my hardest. I think that's all I can do, just focus on what I can do myself and not worry about all the other things."
The main objective for the top line over the next two weeks will be to find the necessary chemistry to generate offense heading into the regular season. Winnipeg will visit the Edmonton Oilers on Oct. 1.
"I'm really excited," Scheifele said. "Obviously, practices are just practices. It's tough to see what's it like in a real game. But to get in a game playing with them, hopefully we can find some chemistry. In practices, we've been gelling a little bit. If we can do it in a game, we'll be able to feel a little bit better and hopefully we can find some chemistry out there."
Kane, another first-round selection (No. 4, 2009), is entering his fifth NHL season and will spend a portion of training camp trying to help Scheifele become a full-time player. Kane had 17 goals, 16 assists and 80 penalty minutes in 48 games for Winnipeg last season.
"He has some good skill," Kane said of Scheifele. "He moves the puck well, sees the ice well. He tries to make plays. I think he's trying to transition his junior game into NHL. I think that obviously is a process, and I think he's done a really good job so far.
"We've been practicing together the last couple of days and trying to build some chemistry and trying to figure out how each other plays. I think tonight will be a good opportunity for us to further [that]."
Saturday will be Scheifele's second experience at Kraft Hockeyville. The Jets earned a 3-1 victory against the Ottawa Senators in 2011 at Mile One Centre in St. John's, Newfoundland. He expected a similar atmosphere in Belleville on Saturday night.
"It's pretty fun," Scheifele said. "Two years ago playing in St. John's was a pumped-up building. It was a fun building to play in and we're looking forward to a good hockey game, for sure.
"It's unbelievable and it's a great idea. They do a good job at it, and I'm sure the crowd's going to do a great job as well. It'll give us that much more energy to feed off of."