Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Four Manitobans see draft dreams realized

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PITTSBURGH -- A foursome of Manitobans have been selected at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, with goalie Chris Driedger going to the Ottawa Senators, forward Jordan Martinook to the Phoenix Coyotes, forward Brendan Leipsic to the Nashville Predators and defenceman Travis Brown to the Chicago Blackhawks.

Martinook was selected 59th overall by the Coyotes.

Driedger went 76th overall to the Sens while Leipsic went 89th to the Preds.

Winnipeg's Brown, of the Moosejaw Warriors, was selected 149th overall by the Blackhawks.

Driedger, born in Winnipeg, plays with the Calgary Hitmen in the Western Hockey League while Leipsic skates for the WHL's Portland Winterhawks.

The Predators traded up to get Leipsic.

"We really liked the player and were worried he wouldn't be there when we picked so we moved up," said Predators coach Barry Trotz.

Leipsic has been selected to play for Team Canada at the 2012 Canada-Russia Challenge in August and had 28 goals and 30 assists in 68 regular-season games for the Winterhawks. He added seven goals and eight assists in 20 playoff games.

"I didn't expect to go this high, but Nashville called a couple of times and I knew there was interest... then they traded up to get me -- it's great to know they like you that much," said Leipsic.

Preds' GM David Poile considers Leipsic a combination of speed and venom.

"He's a little bit (Jordin) Tootoo-ish, a little bit Brad Marchand. I'm sure that the best description would be that he's not fun to play against. Probably the opposition doesn't like him too much," said Poile. "This is the guy you love, but they hate. Not big in stature, but plays really tough."

Leipsic is listed as 5-9 and 175 pounds.

"Any time a team takes a chance on you, it's good. My size has always been an issue for others, but not for me. It's great to know they don't care about that and have your back," he said.

Some players travel to the draft but Leipsic stayed home in Winnipeg with his family and said his mom Kathleen was leading the household in excitement.

"She's jumping for joy here," he laughed.

Brown had seven goals and 31 points in 66 games with the Warriors last season and gained a big opportunity when teammate Morgan Rielly went down with an injury. Brown took up a large portion of Rielly's minutes and his draft stock rose.

"I was tuned in all morning since nine. It was fun sitting at home seeing where all your buddies go, and it's been a real great experience," Brown said from his Winnipeg home. "I was just refreshing my computer and when I saw my name -- it was so surreal. It's just such an honour to be taken by an Original Six team."

Chicago has another well known Winnipegger on its roster.

"I don't know Jonathan Toews, but being a teammate of his someday would be very special," said Brown.

"I tried not to focus on this and I tried to hang out with friends, but (Saturday) it got pretty intense. When I saw my name, it was like a weight off my chest."

Driedger, Brown and Leipsic all played together with the Winnipeg Monarchs during their bantam years.

"It's great to share the experience with those two. We're going to get together and talk about this. I'm so proud of both of them and this is such a great experience," said Brown.

Driedger went 24-12-3 last season, posting a 2.80 goals-against average with the Hitmen.

"I couldn't be happier going to a Canadian team, and I've always liked the Sens. It's a dream come true. I was sitting at home. I was laying in bed. I didn't want to watch it and then my agent called and said, 'Yeah, man, you got drafted.' I didn't expect to go when I did. I thought it would be later," he said.

Martinook scored 40 goals with the WHL's Vancouver Giants last season. Twitter: @garylawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 24, 2012 B3

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