Jets' Scheifele shining after a little help from Hawerchuk

This is the latest in our weekly series tracking the emerging stars who played for Team North America at the World Cup of Hockey. We’ve also checked in on Auston Matthews, Connor McDavid, Colton Parayko, and Johnny Gaudreau.

Mark Scheifele isn’t afraid to admit it — he gets a little buzz when he opens a newspaper or checks a website and sees his name atop the list of highest NHL scorers.

“It’s pretty crazy,” Scheifele says. “I don’t think any kid ever believes he’ll be there. To see your name there is pretty special and an honour, but it’s also hard work. You see your name there and you want it to stay there.”

Scheifele, 23, has 10 goals and 20 points in 17 games and is tied with Tyler Seguin of the Dallas Stars for the NHL scoring lead. That doesn’t include Scheifele’s shootout winner against the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday — a goal that gave the Winnipeg Jets a 3-2 victory.

Winnipeg Jets crown L.A. Kings 3-2 in a shootout0:33

The 6-foot-3, 206-pound Scheifele has been on a steady path toward stardom since the Jets chose him with the No. 7 pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. His inclusion on Team North America, the group of 23-and-under players who performed beyond expectations at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, was further proof that Scheifele was now among the NHL’s elite.

There were growing pains, though.

Scheifele cracked the Jets’ roster in 2011-12 as an 18-year-old and had a goal in seven games before being sent back to junior to play with the Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League. What was most heartbreaking for the Kitchener, Ont., native was he left it all on the table and still wasn’t able to stick in the NHL. Scheifele said he wanted to make sure he had no regrets and that nobody would question his work ethic.

And yet it wasn’t enough.

“It was tough,” Scheifele says. “It definitely took me a while to get over. You are still playing in an unbelievable league, but you had a taste of playing in the best league in the world.”

Hawerchuk a ‘huge’ help

The good news was he was reunited with Dale Hawerchuk, the coach of the Colts who, like Scheifele, was chosen by the Jets as an 18-year-old and knew what it takes to not only play in the NHL, but make it to the Hockey Hall of Fame. To say Hawerchuk has been instrumental in getting Scheifele to the NHL is an understatement.

Hawerchuk was a constant source of information and inspiration for Scheifele.

“There wasn’t one specific thing he told me,” Scheifele says. “Everything I do in my game, a lot of it was taught to me by Dale. He probably taught me a new thing, whether it was on the ice or off the ice, every day. He was huge in helping me take my game to the next level.”

Scheifele had single-season highs of 29 goals and 61 points in 71 games last season and is on pace for 48 goals and 96 points this season. He admits he is more comfortable this season playing on the team’s No. 1 line between wingers Patrik Laine and Nikolaj Ehlers. Laine, the No. 2 pick in the 2016 draft behind Auston Matthews of the Toronto Maple Leafs, leads the NHL with 11 goals.

“I think every year as you gain experience you start to learn more about how the league works, how your coach works and how your team works,” Scheifele says. “I think about how I want my game to look each and every night.”

As for Laine, Scheifele is suitably impressed with the 6-foot-5, 206-pound 18-year-old.

“He’s got an unbelievable shot, first and foremost,” Scheifele says. “He is dangerous anywhere on the ice.

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CBC | Sports News