Mark Scheifele concluded his junior career with another remarkable season with the Barrie Colts and carried his team to within one game of an Ontario Hockey League championship title.
He led the league in playoff scoring with five goals and 41 points in only 21 games.
The 20-year-old’s impressive point tally came to a screeching halt when he was held off the ice for the decisive Game 7 of the Colts’ OHL Final due to a concussion suffered in Game 6.
"It was the hardest thing to not be there," said Scheifele. "To not be able to be there and help was the worst feeling ever. I tried to be ready but I just didn't feel anywhere close to right.”
The Colts were milliseconds away from securing a berth at the 2013 MasterCard Memorial Cup in Saskatoon. Instead, it was the London Knights who hoisted the Robertson Cup after scoring the winning goal with less than a second on the clock in the third period.
The end to the season left a bitter taste for Scheifele, who had completely dominated the playoffs. He received two OHL Player of the Week awards in the post-season and showcased back-to-back five-point nights in the finals.
"It was a good year," he reminisced. "It was the furthest I’ve ever made it in the playoffs and it was exciting to have that happen. To be part of the group of guys we had, is very memorable. To lose like that will be in my mind for a while but to get that far is a pretty nice feather in your hat for sure. I'll always remember this year, it was the most fun year of hockey I have every had and I’ll remember it for a long time."
The Kitchener, Ontario native finished the 2012-13 season with 79 points (39g, 40a) and a plus-minus of 27 in 45 regular season games. In addition to the busy OHL schedule, Scheifele suited up for Team Canada at the 2012 World Junior Championships in Edmonton and Calgary where he tallied six points in six games.
Winnipeg Jets General Manager, Kevin Cheveldayoff was more than impressed with Scheifele’s efforts this season and is looking forward to watching him make the jump next season.
“What the Barrie Colts did was great,” noted Cheveldayoff. “I’m sure they would have loved to have taken that next step and make it to the Memorial Cup, but Mark was a big part of their success as a team and we’re certainly proud of him and what he accomplished at the Major Junior Level. But we’re also extremely excited now to have him turn pro on a regular basis and we hope the best is yet to come.”
Scheifele credits most of the success and maturation over his three-year junior career to his coach and mentor, former Winnipeg Jets star and Hockey Hall of Famer Dale Hawerchuk.
"He's helped me in every aspect of hockey," he said of Hawerchuk. "Everything I've learned has come from him and he's helped me become a better overall player, not just offensive, and not just defensive. He got me to be a dominant force in all zones and that's what has really helped me. That's what he did as a player and that's what he instilled in me. He was a huge mentor to me in these last three years.
“Barrie is an unbelievable organization with unbelievable staff,” he continued. “Everything is grade-A. They really do help develop well-rounded people. It's the best development league in the world to link to the NHL and it's really helped me."
After taking some much deserved time to rest and recover, Scheifele will now turn his focus to training for his third development camp with the Winnipeg Jets next month.
"When I went back to Barrie (last season after four games with the Jets) I didn't sulk and didn't mope around," he explained. "I wanted to work my hardest (in Barrie) and bring a bigger and stronger and better Mark Scheifele back to Winnipeg next year.
"I just have to show them that I'm stronger and that I'm a better player then I was when I was with them this year and have to continue to get stronger and progress as a person. I’m going to be working my hardest this summer to get ready to show them that I’m ready to play in the NHL."
Scheifele said that although he'll miss many things from his time in junior hockey with the Colts, he's excited for his next challenge.
"It'll be tough to move away from guys you've basically spent everyday of the entire year with to not seeing them a lot,” he admit. “I will keep a lot of those friendships for the rest of my life.
"But becoming a professional hockey player has been the goal ever since I was a little kid. I'm hoping to be on Winnipeg for the whole year and finally getting to that dream stage. I know it won't be easy but I like a challenge and I like being pushed, so that's what I’m most excited about."