ST. PAUL -- Mark Scheifele said he had a feeling the Winnipeg Jets might have more than a passing interest in selecting him during a meeting with the team Thursday.
"At the end of the Winnipeg meeting they said, 'How do you pronounce your last name?'" Scheifele told NHL.com. "So that gave me a feeling, but I didn't want to be crushed if they didn't pick me. I wasn't totally sure."
He's sure now.
The Jets, in their first draft since 1995, selected Scheifele with the seventh pick of the 2011 Entry Draft on Friday.
Last season with the Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League, Scheifele was second on the team with 53 assists and 75 points. He followed that with a team-best 6 goals in eight games for Canada at the World Under-18 Championship.
"Mark protects the puck very well and will take it to the net while fighting through checks," NHL Central Scouting's Chris Edwards told NHL.com during the regular season. "He's got a great work ethic. His Barrie Colts have struggled this season and he has been relied upon to provide offense. He sees the ice very well and his playmaking ability is very good. He gets back quickly and works hard defensively."
Barrie finished with the fewest points in the OHL this past season, which makes Scheifele's numbers that much more impressive, as he had to play against the best defensive players in the OHL on a nightly basis.
"It's been tough having to go against players like (Avalanche first-round draft pick Joey) Hishon and defensemen like (Maple Leafs second-round pick Jesse) Blacker," Scheifele told NHL.com earlier this past season. "It's been tough, but you've got to take it as a challenge and this is going to make me better, it's going to help me become the best player I can be. It's definitely tougher to get points and tougher to get opportunities (but) it's a fun challenge. Sometimes it's harder when they're hitting you and stuff, but it's definitely a challenge I like to take."
Helping Scheifele hone his craft this season has been a player with his own ties to Winnipeg -- Barrie coach and legendary Winnipeg Jet Dale Hawerchuk.
"Dale was a great person to learn from because he knows the game so well," said Scheifele. "He's a great person to learn from. He helped me a lot. My hard work and determination really helped me throughout the year."
"One of the reasons our guys felt so strongly about that young man is largely to do with Dale's endorsement," Jets Chairman Mark Chipman said. "He coached him and thinks very highly of him. Our guys were ecstatic to get him."
Scheifele is just as ecstatic to be going to Winnipeg.
"All the guys were saying you're going to be on all these trivia questions," said Scheifele. "I'm kind of starting to soak it in. … To be able to go to Winnipeg and a franchise that's just starting, it's unbelievable."
As for when he gets to the Jets, that remains to be seen. At 6-foot-2 and 182 pounds, he needs to add weight. He also has just one season top-level junior hockey under his belt; he played for a Junior 'A' team in 2009-10 while deciding on playing in Barrie or going to Cornell University.
However, Scheifele believes his rapid ascent can continue with a spot in the NHL next season.
"With a good summer, getting stronger in my legs and getting stronger overall, I think I can be ready," he said.
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK