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30 in 15: Jets seeking right fit for Scheifele

by John Kreiser continues its preview of the 201314 season, which will include in-depth looks at all 30 teams throughout September.

There's no question the Winnipeg Jets would like 2011 first-round draft pick Mark Scheifele to make the team this season. They're spending the preseason trying to figure out where he fits in.

Scheifele, the seventh player taken two years ago, got a seven-game taste of the NHL as an 18-year-old and a four-game cameo last season. With the Jets desperate for secondary scoring, the 20-year-old center has been getting plenty of work during the preseason in an effort to find the job that's best suited for him.

He's not fussy.

"I'm prepared to play any role," Scheifele said. "I'm going to work my hardest and give it my all. You have to adjust to playing with different players and playing against different lines. The quickest people that adjust are the people who make it."

The Jets have no doubt Scheifele has the offensive chops to make it in the NHL; he is coming off a season when he scored 39 goals and 79 points in 45 games with the Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League. He began the preseason centering a line with high-scoring left wing Evander Kane and newly acquired Devin Setoguchi, a trio that could wind up as a second line behind the Jets' No. 1 group of Andrew Ladd, Bryan Little and Blake Wheeler.

But coach Claude Noel has played Scheifele with third- and fourth-line wings, and emphasized during training camp that he doesn't want to limit Scheifele offensively.

"If Mark's here, he's playing well and doing all the right things, what's his role going to be? That's something we'd like for him to think about," Noel said. "Is he going to be top six? Is he going to be bottom six? The roles change; you've got to be prepared. I don't want to put any pressure on him. He's an offensive player and he always will be, but he should look at the way he needs to play, because the roles change.

"A young player comes in the League, what should be your task? Your task really should be to be a good all-round player, an efficient player. How can you be better? If you're an offensive player, you'll probably get offensive opportunities such as power plays. But if you're in a third-line role, a fourth-line role, does that change? These are the things that I'd like him to think about."

There's no question the Winnipeg Jets would like 2011 first-round draft pick Mark Scheifele to make the team this season. They're spending the preseason trying to figure out where he fits in. (Photo: Patrick McDermott/NHLI)

Scheifele said he knows there are differences in playing on a scoring line as opposed to a checking line. He's prepared to do either if it will keep him in the NHL, and he's showing during preseason games he's capable.

"Obviously you have to change your mind set a little bit, kind of err on the side of caution," he said of playing on a defense-oriented line. "But for the most part you keep the same game and instincts. You just try to be a little more cautious."

Scheifele made the Jets in his first season after being drafted and scored a goal before being returned to Barrie. He played four games with the Jets early last season before making the trip back to juniors.

This time, he said he's ready for a full season in the NHL.

"I feel comfortable," he said. "I feel a lot more confident than I have the previous years. I think I'm maturing physically, and I just want to continue to progress upwards.

"I feel I'm able to swing with the big boys. I can go into the corners, win battles, get pucks out, be reliable. I feel more confident every game that passes, every day that passes. I want to continue to build off that. The quickest to adjust are the guys who are going to make it. I want to continue to play my game and be reliable. That's what I'm focusing on right now."


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