Drafting 17th at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft in Minnesota, the Montreal Canadiens first round pick, barring some incomprehensible deal to trade up, will be one for a player who will make the team in a two to three year period.
That in mind, the Eyes on the Prize crew of Bruce Peter, Andrew Berkshire, Stephan Cooper and myself pooled our preferences together into a list of candidates to find the player we deemed needed down the pipe.
Standing between 6'2" and 6'3", depending on which site you look at, Scheifele already brings something clearly missing in the Habs lineup to the table, a big right-handed center. His lanky 173 lb frame will certainly beef up through development.
If Lars Eller isn't up to the task, perhaps this Kitchener, ON native will be the answer to the missing piece of the puzzle up front in the Canadiens future.
With the Colts in rebuild mode, they were willing to start fresh and acquired Scheifele from Saginaw at the start of the season. With an offer to play for Cornell University in hand, he felt he had a better opportunity to take advantage of the ice time offered by coach Dale Hawerchuk in Barrie.
"I always had it in my mind that I was going the NCAA route, and then when Barrie acquired me and after meeting the coaches it started to get me to think what was the best opportunity for my hockey career," Scheifele told The Scouting Report in a November 2010 interview. "I thought that by working hard I could have a great chance in Barrie."
It certainly appers to have been a good move. By mid-season, he was tied for third in rookie scoring, 48th on the ISS rankings and was 21st amongst North American skaters as ranked by the the NHL's Central Scouting.
"He's done better than most people thought," Hawerchuk told NHL.com. "I never like to pencil a guy or pigeonhole a guy. This is what I expect from him. The opportunity was there for him and he ran with it.
"He’s going to be so much further ahead this time next year for having to play against top lines and 19- and 20-year-olds night in and night out," Hawerchuk added.
"Somebody told us he’d be our hardest-working player and they’re not far off," said Colts assistant GM Jason Ford in a Hockey News feature. "He treats practice like it’s a game, he’s just a quality kid from a quality family.
Scheifele says he likes to pattern himself after one of the game's best defensive forwards, Pavel Datsyuk.
Statistically, compared to his teammates his defensive awareness stands out. His -22 is rather impressive, considering the other two top-three scorers on the Colts were -42 and -50. His defensive/five-on-five ability certainly blossomed under Hawerchuk as the season progressed, as he was -5 in his his final 29 games.
Chris Edwards from Central Scouting sees it too. ""Mark protects the puck very well and will take it to the net while fighting through checks. He's got a great work ethic. His Barrie Colts have struggled this season and he has been relied upon to provide offense. He sees the ice very well and his play-making ability is very good. He gets back quickly and works hard defensively."
While his offensive skill set is there, many scouts feel he needs to shoot the puck more, especially considering his ability to get pucks through traffic. But given the fact he finished the season 22 goals and 53 assists, while playing against the OHL's top defenses, it's a matter of time before that begins to evolve. Or maybe it has, as he led Canada in goals during the Under-18 World Championships this past spring and his best goal-scoring months with the Colts came in February and March.
His performance in the tournament landed Scheifele 16th on Central Scouting's final NA rankings and he skyrocketed to 17th on the ISS rankings.
"He was simply Canada's best forward and displayed excellent commitment and desire to do what it took to get the job done," was how ISS saw it on HockeysFuture.
"He was everywhere when he needed to be and when the games got tough, Scheifele seemed to bring out a new gear that other players just did not have. Scheifele's performance should allow him to leapfrog several spots including some occupied by some of his Canadian teammates."
If Scheifele's work ethic continues with at least another year in Barrie, and he begins to bulk up (he was 182 lbs at the NHL Scouting Combine), the Canadiens could have a very solid safe bet, two-way center in their organization.
The question is, with his improvement in the second half of the season, will he still be available in real time?
You can read who our fellows have been choosing on the SBNation Mock Draft by clicking this link.