The Winnipeg Jets hit the ice for Day 2 of training camp and just as Claude Noel predicted we would do, media members were all abuzz about the line combinations he assembled in the lab.
As it turns out, he didn’t take my advice and try to Blake Wheeler with Olli Jokinen and Evander Kane, choosing instead to place the smart and slick Kyle Wellwood with the two speedy trigger-men (can’t say I blame him, but wonder if he might have tried Wheeler if this were a normal three-week training camp instead of five days).
Jokinen raved about both his new linemates, Kane did the same and Noel wondered aloud if Wellwood might be the glue that keeps the unit together.
Wheeler was happy to be back with Bryan Little and captain Andrew Ladd, while Alex Burmistrov slid into the middle between Alexei Ponikarovsky and Antti Miettinen.
The energy/checking line saw Jim Slater at centre with Chris Thorburn and Mark Scheifele, while Spencer Machacek and Maxime Macenauer were the extra forwards and slotted in with several units. Nik Antropov remains sidelined with an upper-body injury.
On the back end, it was Dustin Byfuglien with Toby Enstrom, Mark Stuart with Ron Hainsey, Paul Postma and Grant Clitsome and Derek Meech with Zach Redmond.
There was a lot of talk about Scheifele when Noel stepped to the podium for his daily briefing.
As we mentioned the other day, the Jets weren’t about to just hand the 2011 first round pick a spot on the top line. He’s going to have to earn his keep and Scheifele said he was happy to be do whatever job was asked of him, offering up this timeless classic in his media scrum.
“Wherever they put me, first line, second line, third line, fourth line, whatever it is, I’m going to be working my hardest to help that line out as much as possible and help the team as much as possible,” he said.
Scheifele was also quick to give props to his new linemates (veteran move by the rookie).
“Slater and Thorburn, they have a lot to teach me. Being shutdown kind of players, it’s good to have them (around) to help me,” he added.
One of my stories focuses on where Scheifele is starting out, but a few nuggets from Noel that didn’t make the paper include:
“Young players want to play as soon as they can, for a lot of different reasons and we have to figure out (what’s best) in the big picture for him.”
Best fit at centre?
“Do I see him long term as a right-winger? The answer would be not really. But I think it’s healthy that he’s willing to take part as a right-winger and learn that position. That will only make him better down the road. I think he’s a centre, I like him as a centre. But I like him as a right-winger. It’s about development, if he can be a contributing member of our team and stay in the lineup and play, that’s going to be the task.”
Can he make it playing more of a checking role?
“That will depend on a lot of factors.”
Does he see a big difference in Scheifele’s game from last year’s training camp?
“Yeah, I see maturity and I see more comfort. Like most young guys, he’s putting a lot of pressure on himself, trying to assess every move you make.”
As much as this is a short week, there’s plenty of time for the Jets to come to an assessment of whether Scheifele is ready for the rigours of the NHL game or if he’s best suited to returning to junior. It’s not like he has to play the first five games of the season.
It’s not like they’re going to hold him out of the lineup for an extended period of time, but a lot can happen, whether it be injuries or whatever.
Scheifele’s best chance to succeed is at centre on a scoring line, but that opportunity might not be there for him right now. Putting him with a checking line might help put his mind at ease and allow him to focus on doing the little things it takes to earn the trust of his head coach.
Noel reiterated the lines could change as the week goes on and he’s not 100% sure where Scheifele will fit in as Saturday’s season opener against the Ottawa Senators draws nearer.
No matter how it plays out, you can be certain media members and management alike will be watching Scheifele’s each and every move.
One of the other interesting developments on Monday saw new assistant coach Perry Pearn handle a lot of chalk talks, as the Jets worked on defensive zone coverage and some battle drills.
The Jets are back at MTS Centre on Tuesday morning before shifting over to the Iceplex on Wednesday as Blue Rodeo takes centre stage at MTS Centre.
Our Tuesday coverage (also available at www.winnipegsun.com) includes Paul Friesen’s column on Pearn, a piece about the Kane/Jokinen/Wellwood combo and a look at the online buzz created by the Jets decision to move away from traditional paper tickets.
My stories include a look at where Scheifele is starting in the camp, a piece on D-man Mark Stuart and a notebook topped with Claude’s thoughts on Alex Burmistrov.