After an impressive preseason stint, the Winnipeg Jets rewarded first-round pick Mark Scheifele with an entry-level contract on Monday.
Scheifele, who was taken seventh overall at the 2011 Entry Draft, led the Jets in scoring with 4 goals and 8 points in five exhibition games. He is expected to be in the lineup on Sunday, when Winnipeg plays its first regular season game in 15 years against the Montreal Canadiens.
"He's showing great potential," Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said. "Certainly we're very excited about his training camp and very happy to have him signed to a contract.
"There really are no expectations. He'll be in the lineup opening night and we'll take it day-by-day in those regards. There are no guarantees of anything. I met with him this morning and we're all on the same page in that we know it's an accomplishment of where he's gotten to at this point and we're just going to evaluate on a daily basis, on a game by game basis."
Scheifele, 18, has just one season of junior hockey under his belt. In 66 games with the OHL's Barrie Colts last season, Scheifele had 22 goals and 53 assists.
"I think the microscope is always going to be on him," Jets captain Andrew Ladd said. "I think especially for that first nine games, everybody is going to be watching and judging, obviously knowing that there is a big decision on that tenth game. He does a great job of staying away from that and just playing hockey. He has a great head on his shoulders, that's one of the things that's pretty impressive about him, he's smart and just plays hockey."
While it is possible that the Jets could return Scheifele to Barrie after nine games, the 6-foot-3 center was incredibly excited to sign his first NHL contract Monday.
"It was unreal, "said Scheifele. "I don't think I've had that big of a smile on my face for signing anything in my life. It was an unbelievable moment, definitely a big difference from junior.
"To [play hockey] for a living is an unbelievable feeling and that's what drives me and what motivates me to always have a smile on my face. I'm always happy to be at the rink. I get to do what I love everyday and get paid for it. I'd do it for free."
Material from team services was used in this report.