WINNIPEG – Mark Scheifele was sporting a split lip Thursday when the Winnipeg Jets took to the ice for the first time at camp this season.
But the young forward is more than willing to shed a little blood if that’s what it takes to make the team this season.
“It caught me pretty good, dazed me for that shift, but I didn’t want to be off the ice for too long,” he said after practice, his lip still bleeding a little despite the plastic stitches holding it together.
Scheifele has played 11 games with the Jets since he was drafted in 2011. The last two seasons he was sent back to the Barrie Colts, his junior team in the Ontario Hockey League.
He was a major force for the Colts during the playoffs last spring but was injured for the last game and the Colts missed out on a berth in the Memorial Cup.
The Jets know they need more offensive talent for a second and perhaps third line as they enter the more competitive Central Division and Western Conference under realignment.
Last season, Winnipeg consistently fielded only one solid top-six line — Blake Wheeler, Bryan Little and team captain Andrew Ladd. The Jets were unable to find the right mix to complement the obvious scoring talent of left-winger Evander Kane.
The four of them still scored almost half of the 128 goals the Jets scored last season and had a combined total of 152 points.
Olli Jokinen spent some time with Kane but failed to live up to the potential his statistics suggest is there. The Jets acquired Devin Setoguchi and Michael Frolik in the off-season to add more depth.
Kane, Scheifele and Setoguchi lined up at times in a scrimmage Thursday but all know it’s too early to say how things would shake out.
“It was good, we made some nice plays, we won the hockey game,” said Kane.
“(But) you know it was just a camp scrimmage, so it’s tough to kind of see what happens unless you play an actual NHL game.”
Kane would no doubt like to see himself on a line that can rival the Wheeler, Little and Ladd trio.
“I wouldn’t say anxious, I’m probably more on the excited part and hopeful we can find some chemistry and we can get things clicking early on,” he said. “Two points in October is just as important as two points in April and that’s kind of the mentality we have going into this season.”
Setoguchi said it’s way too early to predict where he might fit into the Winnipeg lineup.
At 26, he has played 384 NHL games over four seasons with the San Jose Sharks and two with the Minnesota Wild. His best campaign was with San Jose in 2008-’09, when he scored 31 goals and added 34 assists in 81 games.
“I thought today was kind of a feeler day,” he said. “The coaches they just wanted us to go out there and put in the work, kind of go through the systems a little bit and get used to it.”
Noel can’t predict what will happen yet but he knows where he wants to be when camp ends.
“You’d like to come out of training camp knowing the structure of your group, what you’ve got,” he said. “Your two offensive lines, potentially your third, with some players possibly being able to play up …
“You want to be a position where you know what your special teams are going to be, who’s killing penalties, who’s on the power play … You know that these things are subject to change with a lot of factors.”