CALGARY - If Barrie Colts forward Mark Scheifele makes a smooth transition from centre to right wing for the world junior championship, some of the credit will go to Hockey Hall of Famer Dale Hawerchuk.
Hawerchuck has coached and educated his young star on the finer points of the game in the past two-plus seasons in Barrie.
So when the possibility arose a few weeks ago that Scheifele would be shifted to the wing to play alongside a couple other high-end teenage talents in Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jonathan Huberdeau, Hawerchuk began working with Scheifele in practice back home in Barrie.
"We were working on getting the puck out, chipping pucks out, hitting the centreman," the six-foot-two, 185-pound Scheifele said. "Playing centre you have a lot more defensive responsibility down low compared to the wing where you're up high blocking shots."
Hawerchuk was a natural centre in his playing days in the NHL, but he also occasionally had to play out of position. The one everybody remembers was when he lined up alongside Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux every now and again during the 1987 Canada Cup.
Hawerchuk told his prize student stories about his centre-to-wing transition, and also preached patience to Scheifele about the importance of working hard along the boards and reading when an opposing defenceman decides to pinch in from the blue-line in Canada's defensive zone.
"It's a good opportunity," the 19-year-old Scheifele said. "We'll need to develop good chemistry every day. We'll need good communication to make sure I go to the right spots."
This will be the Kitchener, Ont., native's second tour of duty with the Canadian junior team. Scheifele played on last year's bronze medal-winning team, but this time around he feels stronger and more experienced.
He opened last season with the Winnipeg Jets, but was returned to junior after seven games. Scheifele then not only played for Canada and the Colts, he played in 10 Calder Cup playoff games for the St. John's IceCaps last spring.
So who is 17-year-old phenom Nathan MacKinnon of the Halifax Mooseheads rooming with at the Canadian junior selection camp? Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
Although, the 19-year-old Nugent-Hopkins did not make the cut in his only try to make the Canadian junior team two years ago, he has plenty of experience. He played with the Edmonton Oilers last season, for Canada at the 2012 world championship alongside and agains NHLers nearly twice his age, and in the last couple of weeks with the Oklahoma City Barons in the AHL.
Ouellett on the mend
Defenceman Xavier Ouellett tested his ankle in morning practice and reported he felt fine. Two weeks ago, the 19-year-old blue-liner who plays for the Blainville-Broisbriand Armada, fell awkwardly into the boards in a game.
He began skating again on Saturday back home and will need to be cleared by Canadian team doctors before he's allowed to see some game action.
Boone to his all-around play
There is only one player eligible for the Canadian junior team who has scored as many times as Oshawa Generals forward Boone Jenner has this season, and that's Brett Ritchie of the Niagara IceDogs. Both arrived at the Canadian selection camp with a remarkable 27 goals in 32 games.
But despite his goal-scoring prowess, Jenner, one of six returning players, will be asked to do more than score goals. He'll be asked to shut down opponents. He'll be asked to perform some penalty-killing duties. He'll be asked to be physical with his six-foot-two, 205-pound frame.
"I'm totally aware of that," the London, Ont. native said. "I'm totally fine with that. This is a high-class tournament. We have a lot of high-class talent coming in here.
"Whatever role they have me playing, I'm going to be happy with it. I'm a two-way forward and looking forward to getting into the scrimmages and earning a spot on the team again."
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