Scheifele packs on some muscle

GENE PEREIRA - Special to the Examiner

Mark Scheifele lined up for the penalty shot after leading his Team White in a scrimmage against Team Red at the Barrie Colts training camp.

The talented second-year centre moved on goalie Mathias Niederberger and, with a couple of nice moves, fired the puck past the German import.

Sporting an ear-to-ear grin and whooping it up, Scheifele raced over to the bench to celebrate with his teammates like he had just won them a playoff game.

Scheifele is having fun and feeling pretty good these days.

And who could blame him?

The 18-year-old is coming off a dream off-season, going seventh overall to the Winnipeg Jets in the 2011 National Hockey League Entry Draft in June and then taking part in Canada's world junior team selection camp in August.

Now, with an invite to the Jets training camp just around the corner, Scheifele can't help but be excited.

"It was probably the best summer I've ever had in my life," said the Kitchener native, who finished second in Colts scoring as a rookie last season with 22 goals and 53 assists in 66 games. "It's something I'll always remember, but (Colts head coach Dale Hawerchuk) told me the easy part is over.

"There's a lot more hard work, but I'm willing to put it in."

Scheifele made sure to take it all in, but not at the sacrifice of his workouts. He didn't spend too much time relaxing.

"Not a lot. Evenings were my time," he said. "A lot of the days were jammed packed with working out and on the ice. It was a good summer. It was fun just to be drafted. I kept a smile on the whole time, just because I'd look back and I'd kind get the chills.

"I (managed to) put on a few pounds of muscle, so it was a good summer."

Hawerchuk is making sure his young star doesn't rest on his laurels. His message is clear: If Scheifele wants to be a pro hockey player, he has to first be a dominant player and a winner at the Ontario Hockey League level.

"That needs to be his goal, to be a dominant hockey player every night and make his team win every night," said the Hockey Hall of Famer, who knows a thing or two of what it takes to thrill Winnipeg hockey fans. "That's the sign of a first-rounder. Most first-rounders become winners, and he needs to take that step now."

After a season where they finished dead last in the OHL and missed the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, the Colts believe they're ready to step back into contender status with the acquisition of veterans such as Ivan Telegin, Gregg Sutch and Reid McNeill, not to mention the arrival of rising young star defenceman Aaron Ekblad, who was chosen with the top pick in the OHL Priority Selection.

Expected to lead the revival is Scheifele.

"That's what (Hawerchuk) told me, you have to dominate. There's no more rookie mistakes," said Scheifele, who leaves for the Jets' rookie tournament in Penticton, B.C., on Sept. 9. "Today (in the scrimmages),

I made a few mistakes and I'm trying to get out of that. I want to get all that out before Winnipeg's camp.

"It's a lot of hard work, but Dale was talking to me about this. He said, 'use this camp as just ramping up and when you're out in Winnipeg that's when you're at the top of the ramp', so that's my goal for this camp. And to show leadership, as well."

Many believe Scheifele will return to play this season in Barrie, but first-round picks sticking is nothing new in the Jets organization.

Their previous three top picks - Alexander Burmistrov, Evander Kane and Zach Bogosian - all made the Atlanta Thrashers on their first crack.

Scheifele hopes to make it four in a row.

"My dream is to make that team right off the bat," said Scheifele, who would join a lineup with former Colts stars Burmistrov and Bryan Little. "They said if I come in ready, we'll have you here. So I just want to come in and show them I can play with them, and that I was worth their pick."

To make the jump to the NHL, Scheifele knows he has to get bigger and stronger and it's a reason why he has worked so hard off the ice this summer.

One look at the talented centre and it's easy to see he's added some 10 pounds of muscle.

"I could be up more, but I lost a bit the last few weeks doing a lot more cardio," said Scheifele, who is expected to be named Barrie's captain this season if he returns to the team. "I put on a lot of weight and a lot more muscle.

"I just noticed myself that I'm a lot faster (and) a lot stronger on the puck, so I was happy with that and I just want to take that hard work into the season."

Colin Behenna spent almost the whole season on Scheifele's wing last year and the duo combined for 55 goals and 163 points in 133 OHL regular-season games.

The overager believes Scheifele has only begun to tap into his immense talent.

"He obviously came back bigger and stronger," Behenna said. "He's got a whole new confidence level (after) going seventh overall to Winnipeg. Any guy coming in that second year, the first year is always that adjustment period. You're adjusting to the bigger guys and stuff like that.

"Scheifele's going to be one of the bigger guys and one of the guys who is going to be really looked to," Behenna added. "He's going to be one of the faces of the league, being a seventh-overall pick, so it'll be an exciting time for the fans and an exciting time for him, too."

You only have to see that big smile on his face to know it is.

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