TORONTO CANADA - JANUARY 19: Mark Scheifele #19 of Team Cherry gets a shot past Jordan Binnington #31 ofTeam Orr in the 2011 Home Hardware Top Prospects game on January 19 2011 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto Canada. Team Orr defeated Team Cherry 7-1. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
As a former seventh-round pick of the Saginaw Spirit in the OHL Draft, Mark Scheifele didn't expect to end up en route to the NHL Draft in his rookie season; in fact, the then 17-year old had already committed to Cornell University on a four-year scholarship before a trade to the Barrie Colts changed the Kitchener native's mind.
It appears that Scheifele's decision was a good one. In 66 games with the last-place Colts this past season, he led all OHL rookies with 53 assists and also led all Canadian forwards at the 2011 U-18 World Championships, scoring six times in seven games [NHL.com].
Thirty-six of Scheifele's 75 points this past season came on the powerplay (13G, 23A), where he was awarded significant ice time on the first unit by head coach (and former Winnipeg Jet) Dale Hawerchuk. The former defenceman also finished the season with one shorthanded tally, meaning that just eight of his goals came at even strength while he registered 30 helpers when the Colts were at evens, essentially splitting his production 50/50 between special teams and ES.
The Scouting Report's Scott Campbell had this to say about Scheifele at the beginning of the OHL season:
Obviously his skating still needs work as he doesn’t quite have that great acceleration or balance, but once he can rectify those two areas of his game, he will be a force in the OHL, and a very good NHL prospect. Scheifele has real good puck poise and the puck seems to follow him all over the offensive zone. The past couple of looks I’ve had of him, he’s really generated a lot of offense with his elusive agility and ability to utilize his quick release. I’m not trying to draw parallels, but his game is similar to that of Ryan Johansen [...]
Scheifele is one of those players coaches love: he works hard every night, possesses a well-rounded game and manages to positively influence a game in a variety of ways. Offensively, he can effectively use his his large 6’3 frame and surprising agility to protect the puck and play a strong puck possession type of game. Mark loves playing with the puck on his stick and always seems to make calm, intelligent decisions in all three zones. He displays impressive playmaking instincts, vision and smooth stick-handling ability. His skills may be underrated after being asked to be a primary offensive option for a terrible Barrie team. Scheifele never takes a shift off and will do whatever it takes to win: whether that’s chasing down a loose puck, back-checking to break up an odd man rush or absorbing some punishment to make a play in front of the net.
The biggest question surrounding Scheifele is likely one regarding his ultimate NHL upside, which at this point, seems rather limited. Can he produce enough offense to be a top flight offensive player? Probably not, but that possibility does exist if he continues to get stronger. He can also get caught into too much of a pass-first mentality at times, passing up on excellent shooting chances in an effort to set up a teammate. He’s certainly willing to use his body to make a play, but Mark could stand to be a little more physical and play with a bit more of a mean streak.
While Scheifele's EV/PP point ratio may raise a red flag for some, I think the fact that he was a rookie being fed some peachy circumstances by his coach has to be taken into consideration. I'd be a lot more concerned if we were talking about a 19 or 20-year old player who had already been drafted and was playing alongside much younger teammates and piling up points with the man advantage.
Drafting a player with what appears to be raw offensive talent who faces challenges in other parts of his game (i.e. skating) is always something of a risky move. There is the potential for a player to improve upon said trouble areas, especially a young player like Scheifele, but there is also the chance that his skill set doesn't transfer over to the pros. However, a team like the Flames that is offensively starved at every level can't afford not to take a risk with this pick; and if that means selecting a player like Scheifele if/when the likes of Sven Bartschi, Mika Zibanejad, and Mark McNeill have already been chosen, that's fine by me.
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