Barrie Colts get Mark Scheifele back from Winnipeg Jets; can they retake place as a conference favourite in OHL?

Just like that, the Barrie Colts probably have their spot as the favourite in the OHL's Eastern Conference back. Franchise centre Mark Scheifele, who had held in healthy-scratch suspense by the Winnipeg Jets since the NHL season finally began, has been returned to junior.

Scheifele has been superb with Barrie and at times looked the part of the pro-ready prospect, but the output with the Jets spoke for itself. Suffice to say, there should be joy among the Colts' faithful.

How different has Barrie's performance been with Scheifele, who's played only one OHL game since the second week of December thanks to the world junior and the NHL call-up, as opposed to without him? The Eastern Conference-leading Colts have one fewer loss in the 30 games that the first-round pick has suited up for (posting a 22-7-0-1 record) than in the 20 where Scheifele has been indisposed (11-8-0-1 record) for various reasons.

Scheifele's ability to avoid the so-called NHL hangover that is said to afflict players after being returned to major junior is hardly a fait accompli, but let's be real, Barrie's prospects are much better with him as their No. 1 centre. His absence and the Colts' front office's choice not to load up at the Jan. 10 trade deadline has taken some shine away, but this might restore the state of affairs to something resembling the first half of the season. The Malcolm Subban-backed Belleville Bulls, since loading up a month ago, have generated some buzz as the favourite to come out of the conference, going 8-2-0-1 across their last 11 games.

One quirk of the OHL schedule is Barrie and Belleville only play twice a season in order to accommodate the Colts' interconference rivalry with the Owen Sound Attack. With Scheifele back in Colts' blue, those Feb. 18 and Mar. 9 games could well decide home-ice advantage through the first three rounds of playoffs.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to

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