Rookie not your average teen
J.T. McVeigh Photo --- Barrie, Ontario --- November 23, 2010Barrie Colts rookie Mark Scheifele pulls back after taking a shot in front of the net during a recent practice. The 17-yer-old Kitchener native has been making waves in his first season in the OHL ranking in the top 20 of the league rookies for the NHL entry draft.
If hockey is a thinking man's game, then Mark Scheifele's got the right tools to be a winner.
The Barrie Colts rookie forward has had a successful season to date, both on and off the ice.
Scheifele sits fifth in Ontario Hockey League rookie scoring with 24 points, and received the OHL's Central Division Academic Award for October.
It's been some of the work in his exercise science class at Innisdale Secondary School that's been getting his attention.
"I like learning about the human body," Scheifele said. "You find out how the muscles and bones work. We learn about the negative effects of steroids, and how you can effectively use proteins.
"This is stuff that you can use for your whole life."
These are useful things to learn in his line of work.
"It does help you as a hockey player," said Scheifele, who was recently ranked 19th among OHL prospect skaters by the NHL's Central Scouting Bureau for next year's draft.
"You find out how to use your muscles, how to stretch properly, and all of those things."
The interest in exercise science almost led to him not coming to Barrie at all.
"I was looking at a physiology program at Cornell University," said Scheifele, who was considering going the NCAA hockey route before a trade with Saginaw landed him in Barrie.
"But looking at the opportunity I had coming here, to play a key role and lots of minutes, knowing that I would be able to grow as a player, helped me to choose the OHL."
It's not like doing so closed off the academia route, either.
"Getting the four-year postsecondary package (with my OHL deal) was an important thing to have as a backup," said the 17-year old.
While he's still in school, Scheifele needs to find somewhere to fit it into his busy schedule.
"With the time commitment for hockey, you don't have a lot of time for schoolwork or anything else," said the Grade 12 student. "I have to plan out my day, when I can do homework and other things around my hockey schedule."
And while he balances the two, Scheifele's got the support of his parents back home in Kitchener.
"They want me to get good grades, but they haven't really pushed me to do anything," Scheifele said. "They trust me to make the right decision."
Scheifele's taken a bit of ribbing from teammates after winning the academic award.
"They'll sometimes call me a nerd or something like that, but I know that they're just joking around," Scheifele said.
The important thing, at least from a hockey player's standpoint, is how he can use those brains to help him on the ice.
"He's got that innate ability to see the ice better than a lot of players today, and that's going to help him out with next year's NHL draft," said Colts assistant coach Todd Miller.
Scheifele does so by spending time scouting the opponent.
"Sometimes I'll watch a game of a team that we're playing soon to learn their tendencies," Scheifele said. "Even during a game, I will keep an eye on another centreman or a defenceman and look for their weaknesses."
The coaches have found his work ethic, during and between games, to be a positive sign.
"He's the first guy to come to the coaches' office to watch video," Miller said. "He sits down with (fellow assistant coach) Dave Bell and goes over absolutely every shift, which is great to see from a young player.
"Scheif's a smart kid, and has all of these abilities going for him. It's great to see a rookie already doing all of those things."
If he has to take the school route, Scheifele's looking at kinesiology or something to lead towards law school.
But in his mind, there's no doubt what his first choice is.
"I want to go pro," Scheifele said. "That's my main goal, and I'm going to work my hardest to get there."