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Mark Scheifele

Mark Scheifele has 10 goals and 45 points in 42 games this season. (Photo by OHL Images)

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Mark Scheifele has 10 goals and 45 points in 42 games this season. (Photo by OHL Images)

After making it to the Ontario League final last season, the Barrie Colts knew they were in for a rebuild in 2010-11 as players such as Alex Pietrangelo and Alexander Burmistrov graduated to the professional level.

With two overage goalies on the roster both capable of being the starter (Peter Di Salvo and Mavric Parks), the Colts wanted to trade at least one of them for a younger player who could help out this season and down the road. So they decided to ship Parks to the Saginaw Spirit and received 6-foot-3, 175-pound Mark Scheifele (pronounced shy-flee) in return.

Just 42 games into the center’s rookie season, he’s sitting second in team scoring with 10 goals and 45 points, despite the fact the Colts sit at the bottom of the league standings.

“We didn’t expect this,” said Colts assistant GM Jason Ford of Scheifele’s immediate production. “When he gets older and matures and the guys around him do the same and get used to each other, I think he’ll be similar to Bryan Little when he leaves the club in terms of stature in Barrie. He could get into the Team Canada stuff and all that – we’ll see. He’s a real smart player and he’s big.”

Currently tied for third in OHL rookie scoring, Scheifele is ranked 48th on the mid-term rankings from International Scouting Services and 21st among North American skaters on Central Scouting’s list. But while he’s excelling in the junior ranks, Scheifele was originally planning on attending Cornell and changed his route after the swap to Barrie.

“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 PK time,” Scheifele said. “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.”

Since arriving on the shores of Kempenfelt Bay, Scheifele has built a reputation on quiet dedication. Even though his stat line is impressive enough, the big pivot brings it at both ends of the ice, which makes him one of Barrie’s bright rising stars.

“Pretty much right from Day 1 when he came in, he saw the opportunity and he seized it,” Ford said. “Somebody told us he’d be our hardest-working player and they’re not far off – he treats practice like it’s a game, he’s just a quality kid from a quality family.”

Ford notes Scheifele has the ability to become a first- or second-line center in the NHL one day, but added that, if you want to nitpick, the one thing he could improve on is his skating. Though he is deceptively quick, Scheifele may look heavy-footed at times, but Ford stressed in the long run that’s not a big concern. Because of how Scheifele attacks practices and how driven he is to improve his game, there’s little doubt whatever tweaks need to be made, the Kitchener native will adjust accordingly.

And Scheifele, always striving for the best, styles his game after a couple of the NHL’s top pivots.

“Pavel Datsyuk, I like to play like him just because of his overall ability on the ice,” Scheifele said. “But also Joe Thornton because of his playmaking ability.”

His 35 assists indicate he is a playmaker, but centers tend to handle the puck a lot and therefore earn more helpers. Ford said that because he’s such a smart player, Scheifele always puts himself in the right spots and gives himself the best opportunities, so the goals will eventually come.

But for now, as the Colts continue to restructure, the rookie will take this surprise breakout and build on his career from here.

“I set goals for myself and I really strive to achieve them,” Scheifele said. “It is tough playing against the best players and losing players like (Dalton) Prout and (Darren) Archibald, but you just have to take it as a challenge and know that you’re playing against the best guys and just play your best and work hard.”

THN.com's Prospect Watch focuses on up-and-comers from the AHL, Europe, major junior, the NCAA and even minor hockey destined to become big names in the NHL.

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