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Comeau believes Jets will score high with No. 9 pick

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PHILADELPHIA -- He's heard all the analysis and some of the disappointing reviews of the NHL Draft class of 2014 but Winnipeg Jets director of amateur scouting Marcel Comeau seemed quite certain of one thing on Wednesday.

The Jets, if they stick with their position of No. 9 in Friday's first round at Wells Fargo Center, will be getting a good prospect.

"I think we'll get a good player in the top 10," Comeau said in between scouting meetings at the team's downtown hotel. Many scouts have lamented that after this year's first five players, quality drops alarmingly.

"Last year was an exceptional year and it may not be quite at that level but there are some real good, solid players here and we're looking forward to getting one."

Comeau, since his promotion to directing the amateur side of Jets' scouting, gets pretty good marks if you can judge a short period of just three years.

The team's first picks in 2011 and 2012, Mark Scheifele and Jacob Trouba, are already on the NHL roster, and 2013 first-rounder Josh Morrissey, just 19, is well on his way.

"We hope to turn things a little quicker here," said Comeau, who was part of the franchise's scouting staff in Atlanta. "We haven't tasted the playoffs yet and last year moving to the other conference was a bit of an eye-opener, a higher level of competition. We were 11th in the conference and we've got to get to eighth somehow. We're all slugging away here trying to make that happen as quickly as we can.

"We think we're making some headway and we have to keep at it."

The ever-quickening NHL game poses a challenge for many scouts -- simply to be aware how the league is evolving.

Skill and skating are important, as always, Comeau said. Another area on which he and GM Kevin Cheveldayoff agree completely is that hockey sense might trump it all.

"As the game gets faster, it becomes more crucial because you have to make split-second decisions on who to distribute the puck to, which passing lane to take away, who to pick up on a backcheck," Comeau said. "The faster the game is, the more important that facet is.

"Those are the players coaches love to coach, GMs love to manage and scouts love to find. We're looking for guys who think the game through."

Comeau, a former WHL, IHL and AHL coach, said he and his staff are also all-in on development, namely the stuff that happens in the immediate years following a player's selection.

"Guys like Scheifele, Trouba and Morrissey and (Connor) Hellebuyck are showing good growth and progress in their game," he said. "But it takes a while to impact at the NHL level. It's against men. A guy like Trouba got there faster (but he's not the average). Some of our later picks are still in the pipeline and these guys are going to challenge for spots.

"Chevy and (assistant GMs) Zinger (Craig Heisinger) and Larry (Simmons) have stressed the development side. They have Jimmy Roy and Mike Keane, two guys who are former players and have an idea what it takes to get there and are willing to put the time in. The development part is something... we've paid a lot more attention to here in Winnipeg. That's the way we have to get there and they're willing to put resources towards that."

 

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 26, 2014 D4

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