The Jets’ two youngest players have many things in common.
Both Mark Scheifele and Jacob Trouba were drafted in the first round of the 2011 and 2012 NHL Drafts, both spent the summer training in Toronto with Gary Roberts, both had standout seasons in 2012-13 and both came into camp this year with the common goal of making the jump to the NHL. One would think they were meant to be great friends. But the reality is, both were sworn enemies until just a few months ago.
“I actually hated him,” stated Scheifele, smirking in Trouba’s direction.
“It’s true, I punched him in the face once,” shrugged the 6’2” defenceman from Rochester, MI.
“We didn’t really know each other besides the fact that we were drafted by Winnipeg because it was during the lockout. We didn’t really meet each other… or did we?” asked Scheifele, looking quizzically at his teammate.
Trouba thought for a minute and nodded. “Yeah, development camp but that was very limited,” he recalled, referring to the five-day development camp in Winnipeg July 9th - 13th, 2012.
Then with a smile, Trouba looked at Scheifele and added. “I’ve got a story for you: When I got drafted, Scheifs followed me on twitter, just being a nice guy so I thought, ‘oh, he’s pretty cool’. Then right before world Juniors he unfollowed me, then followed me again afterwards,” he shook his head as Scheifele laughed and defended himself. “Yeah, well we battled it out. We went hard against each other in the corners, it was just war.”
“It was good resentment for me,” Trouba teased as Scheifele rolled his eyes. “Yeah, he still gives me the gears. Anytime anything Hockey Canada comes up it’s always ‘Ah, remember that Scheifs?’ Just... just bad.”
Canada’s loss in the 2013 World Junior Championship still stings for Scheifele, who came home from Ufa, Russia without a medal. Trouba on the other hand, took home the gold with team US who defeated Sweden 3-1 in the finals for their third title since 2010.
The competitiveness developed during that championship is still apparent between the two rookies. “Whenever we go up against each other, like in development camp and stuff, we’d always try to go against each other. And working out this summer, we always tried to pair up because we pushed each other,” said Trouba.
But according to Scheifele, there are no hard feelings. “It’s healthy competition. It’s not like we want to go and rip the guy’s head off,” said the centreman as Trouba chuckled in mock disbelief. Scheifele smiled but pressed on. “We want to battle as hard as we can during the drill or during the workout but after that it’s done. It’s not like we’re going to go out and play basketball and I’m going to smash him into the wall,” he said with a laugh, giving Trouba a friendly shove.
But the 19 year-old defenceman isn’t so sure his new roommate has put everything behind him. “He doesn’t like the past experiences that we’ve had playing against each other,” he admitted. “He’s a really nice kid though, a good guy to be around. He loves hockey. He loves being around hockey and anytime he gets a chance he watches it. He’s a little kid,” said Trouba, the younger of the two.
Scheifele is quick to correct him. “We both have our kid moments. I’m a bit more of a kid than him but he’s a good guy. What I’d do for him he’d do for me, we’re both in it for each other’s best interest.”
After getting off on the wrong foot, it’s clear the two teammates are now very close friends, all thanks to an intense game of basketball earlier this summer that finally broke the ice.
“Starting off at Gary Robert’s [High Performance Training Centre], we didn’t know each other at all going in. I lived with [Lukas] Sutter and he lived down the road, but we were around each other a lot and we all kind of hung out together,” explained Trouba. “Then one day we went out and played basketball with one of his buddies from Toronto and that’s when we really got to know each other and things kind of took off from there.”
“It was a very, very cool experience,” nodded the Kitchener, ON, native. “My buddy, he’s from Toronto, so it was that classic street ball…”
“It was caged in!” Interjected Trouba.
Scheifele laughed. “Yeah, we were in this cage with 10 other guys. It was pretty intense.”
After that, the two quickly became friends and eventually roommates. “I was with Morrissey for a while and he was with Lowry,” said Trouba, explaining the rooming arrangements over training camp in early September. “We were right next door to each other at the hotel. And then I moved in with Scheifs and we’ve been together on the road as well. I usually sleep in the bed next to the door to protect the wife,” he added with a grin as Scheifele almost choked on his chocolate milk.
Having each other as support while trying to prove themselves and make the team through training camp and the early part of the season was a big advantage. The jump from Development Camp and the Young Stars Tournament in Penticton to the NHL was an adjustment for both Trouba and Scheifele on different levels.
“Development camp is not as much a team mentality, it’s more learning different skills,” explained the 20 year-old centreman. “I think [in the NHL] you can still be a leader in your own way. Being on the ice, you can always work your hardest and give it your all and be a leader that way. It’s a little different not being as vocal because you’re a younger guy, but you learn from the older guys like Ladd, Bogosian, and Stuart. You learn from those leaders and you try to model yourself after them.”
Trouba also found his first few games difficult, but is gaining more and more confidence as the games add up. “For me, I think just playing games and trying to adjust to that [was tough]. I struggled in my first game and throughout preseason I kind of figured out what I could do and what I couldn’t do. The biggest help for me was being here last year and seeing practice and what goes on.”
Scheifele had more experience coming into camp for his third straight year, but agreed with Trouba. “It’s a different kind of tough [this year]. You try to do more things and try to gain your confidence. The biggest thing I found is the confidence level,” he stressed. “The last two years I’ve kind of come in and been unsure and intimidated because you’re playing with guys you’ve looked up to as idols, and then you’re up against them taking a draw. So now I kind of look at things differently, but I think every year I got more confident and more comfortable.”
With the help of the coaching staff and veteran teammates, Trouba and Scheifele are carving out their place in the roster and adapting to the high-tempo game. “Everyone’s always trying to help us along as much as they can,” noted Trouba. “Especially Bogosian for me; he’s really helped me playing-wise and off the ice, showing me how to do things and what goes on. And on the ice he’s really helped keep me calm and not let me get too high or too low, just going about my business and not really worrying about what others are saying.”
After each scoring on opening night against the Edmonton Oilers (Trouba’s first NHL goal), the pair are feeling much more comfortable in their new roles and have gained Coach Noel’s confidence. With an entire season ahead, the two young former enemies will be spending a lot of time together on and off the ice.
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