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Winnipeg's Scheifele might be destined for another learning year

The SportsXchange

What to do with center Mark Scheifele?

That's the question the Winnipeg Jets' brass will no doubt have bouncing around its head all summer as it attempts to figure out where its first draft pick from 2011 should play in the fall of 2012.

Scheifele, whom the Jets selected seventh overall last June in St. Paul, Minn., played in seven games for Winnipeg last fall, and even scored his first NHL goal, but it was clear he wasn't ready for the big time. The Jets returned him to the OHL for just his second season of major junior hockey.

Scheifele appeared in just 47 games with the Barrie Colts due to his NHL stint and injuries, but he scored one more goal than he had in 66 contests the season before. Perhaps most important, he improved his plus-minus rating by a whopping 43 points, from minus-22 to plus-21.

"I learned a lot about defensive responsibility, being a leader," Scheifele told the Winnipeg Sun. "I don't think it's one thing, but I improved on a lot of things this year and a lot of things I learned. I just have to continue to be an all-around player and think about both ends of the ice."

The Kitchener, Ontario, product didn't have the greatest world junior tournament for Canada, which had to be disconcerting to Jets management, but he did produce five goals and seven assists in 13 playoff games.

The Jets assigned Scheifele to their AHL squad, the St. John's IceCaps, for the rest of its playoff run, and he picked up one assist and had an even rating over 10 games. He didn't get an abundance of ice time and was a healthy scratch at times, but that was to be expected considering he joined a good team that made it all the way to the Eastern Conference final.

The bottom line is Scheifele, 19, probably could use one more year in the OHL. He can continue to learn how to play the game from his Colts coach, Jets legend Dale Hawerchuk, and build up more confidence. That's what he was lacking with the Jets last fall.

That would also fall in line with Jets management's way of thinking. General manager Kevin Cheveldayoff wants his players ready to be contributors when they arrive in the Manitoba capital.

Add it all up, and Scheifele is probably still a year away from becoming a regular in the Jets' lineup.
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