2011 NHL Draft Prospects: No. 16 Mark Scheifele

Although the NCAA has been grabbing more and more upcoming NHLers, the Canadian Hockey League still seems to have the advantage and pull when trying to recruit teenage hockey players. That advantage was apparent when center Mark Scheifele left Cornell before the season even started to play in the Ontario League – after the Barrie Colts traded their veteran goaltender and a draft pick to Saginaw to obtain Scheifele’s rights.

That turned out to be a great move for the budding junior player.

“Going over the pros and cons, they were kind of in a rebuilding stage so I knew that I’d get a good amount of ice and power play and penalty kill time,” Scheifele said in an interview with The Hockey News. “I just thought it’d be a good opportunity and knowing Barrie, they’re a good organization. I thought it was a good place to go.”

In 66 games this season, Scheifele potted 22 goals and 75 points – albeit with a minus-22 rating. But remember, he is playing on a team that is currently one of the worst in the OHL, after losing stars such as Aleksandr Burmistrov and Alex Pietrangelo.

“You look at our hockey club — if we had Kyle Clifford and Burmistrov, we’d be talking about a completely different team and maybe [Scheifele] would be playing a secondary role on our second line or third line — who knows?” Barrie head coach and Hockey Hall of Famer Dale Hawerchuk said in an interview with Hockey’s Future. “But that’s a part of junior hockey. We weren’t sure what was going to happen with those guys. We thought that there was a chance that they could be back, but we also thought that they could make it. So that changed the dynamics of our team a little bit. It’s put guys into positions that they might not have had otherwise. It’s a good thing for them and it’s up to them to take advantage of it.

“He gets pressure every night that he’s out there because a lot of times he’s out there playing against number-one lines and he’s got to be on his toes. But he loves that challenge,” Hawerchuk continued. “You see it in him as a player. It’s not an easy thing to do — you’re in your first year as a player in this league and all of the sudden you’re asked to play a top-line role, but so far so good.”

Scheifele has great size (at 6-foot-3, 175 pounds) and has both the stickhandling ability and hockey sense to succeed in the NHL. Although his skating and defensive play could use some work, the biggest thing he must improve is his faceoff ability, which is crucial to succeeding as a two-way center in the pros.

“I like Joe Thornton’s playmaking ability, but I really model my game after [Pavel] Datsyuk, just because of the way he plays defense and the way he is on offense — always going towards the puck and always around the puck,” Scheifele explained. “He’s such a well-rounded player.”

If Scheifele can become just half the player Datsyuk was (who, by the way, plays on the team Scheifele grew up cheering for), his NHL team will be dancing in the streets.

Alan Bass, a writer for The Hockey News and THN.com, is the author of The Great Expansion: The Ultimate Risk That Changed The NHL Forever. He has worked for the Philadelphia Flyers’ Fan Development department, going to schools throughout the tri-state area to teach about fitness and the importance of teamwork. He is the General Manager of the Muhlenberg College Division II hockey team as well. You can contact him at Alanbasswriting@aol.com.

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