Scheifele eager to lead the Winnipeg Jets youth movement

A few days before he turns 23, Mark Scheifele has 8 points in the last 5 games for the Winnipeg Jets. The young centre is playing on the Jets top line and is leading the teams pool of young prospects.

A few days before he turns 23, Mark Scheifele has 8 points in the last 5 games for the Winnipeg Jets

Winnipeg Jets' Nikolaj Ehlers (27) and Mark Scheifele (55) celebrate Scheifele's goal against New York Islanders goaltender Thomas Greiss (1) and Travis Hamonic (3) during first period NHL action in Winnipeg on Thursday, March 3, 2016. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods)

With just over two minutes left in the third period of a 2-2 game on Thursday night, Mark Scheifele got a pass from Blake Wheeler at the top of the circle, Scheifele sniped an absolute laser wrist shot over the shoulder of Islanders goalie Thomas Greiss. That goal, Scheifele's 17th of the season, put the Jets up 3-2 and if it weren't for a series of unfortunate bounces against the Jets, it could have been the game winner.

That goal was his second of the night and also tied Scheifele for second in goals for the Jets this season with Bryan Little and Andrew Ladd, behind only Blake Wheeler who has 18 goals this season. With Ladd traded away and Little now out for the season, Scheifele has been given an even bigger role to take on for the Jets. More minutes and often against the opponent's best. It's a lot to ask of a guy who still hasn't turned 23. Still so young that most car rental companies would make him pay a premium for being under 25. Scheifele though has said he's eager for the challenge and wants the opportunity, and now, he's showing that he is ready.

It wasn't just a tap on the shoulder from the coach and a 'you're up kid' moment for Scheifele, it's been a long road to get to the position he's in today. Scheifele has been here since the beginning. So even though he's in his third NHL season and has been a member of the organization for five years, it's been a long road to get here.

After getting drafted with the Jets 2.0 first draft pick in 2011, Schiefele played seven games that inaugural season and had one goal before being sent down to the Barrie Colts in the OHL.

"It's tough, it sucks to be sent down, it sucks to be cut from any team" said Scheifele after Friday's practice.

To prolong matters for the youngster, that second year was the year of the NHL lockout. Scheifele played with the Colts all fall and when the puck dropped on the shortened regular season Scheifele was there again, but that time only for a short four games. Returning to his junior club each time, he used those setbacks to learn, grow and get better.

"Having Dale Hawerchuk teach me is probably one of the best things I've ever had. He was such a great teacher, he
Carolina Hurricanes' Noah Hanifin (5) controls the puck in front of Winnipeg Jets' Mark Scheifele (55) during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016, in Raleigh, N.C. (The Associated Press/Karl B DeBlaker)
taught me the game. He taught more than just X's and O's. He taught positions on the ice, about my shot, about stick handling, just about all intricacies about hockey he taught me about in Junior I still use today"

Now that Scheifele is in a leading role with the Jets and doing really well with it - evidenced by his two big goals against the Islanders, and his 8 points in 5 games - Scheifele is now trying to be a leader for the other young guns. Players like Nikolaj Ehlers, Andrew Copp, Joel Armia, Marko Dano, Nic Petan and JC Lipon.

"It's tough, I'm only a year older than 'Copper', a few years older than some guys, but obviously I want to be a role model, I want to be a guy that teaches, lend a helping hand when I can, as hard on a guy when I can and try to be that leader in that sense." Scheifele adds that he learned a lot of that from outgoing Jets captain Andrew Ladd. Scheifele said that when he came up Ladd took him under his wing, and now Scheifele wants to be that guy for the younger players. It's a role that Paul Maurice said Scheifele leads by example in.

"We've seen that growth in his game, he's a great pro." Maurice added that if you wanted a scouting report on any team in the league and you had to ask a player, that Scheifele would be the guy you'd want to talk to. "He reads all the hockey stuff which means when he hits 24 and 25 all the little things are going to fall into place."

With the oldest of the Jets prospects leading the way, this young group will have the next 19 games to learn and grow together in front of 15,000 hockey mad fans.