It seemed like such an easy assignment at the time, the sportswriter's equivalent of a tap-in goal.
The boss called Friday morning and asked yours truly to put a big, pretty bow on the conclusion of the Winnipeg Jets' first-ever development camp with a story on how the 38 prospects looked and whether the franchise's future is in good hands.
No problemo, right?
But after several hours of staring blankly at my laptop it dawned on me that I should have grabbed one of those old Magic 8-Ball fortune-telling toys that you shake for generic answers to yes-no questions.
Is Mark Scheifele the point-producing No. 1 centre the organization covets?
Magic 8-Ball: "You may rely on it."
Will Jacob Trouba be wearing a Jets uniform in a couple of years?
Magic 8-Ball: "Concentrate and ask again."
Let's face it, predicting whether a collection of teenagers and young pros with a year under their belt in St. John's will morph into the next Dale Hawerchuk or Zach Bogosian is a bit of a mug's game that puts the "inexact" in inexact science.
And as the Jets insisted over and over again this week, the five-day get-together was all about the developing, not the evaluating. It was more about the classroom stuff -- lessons on nutrition, training, sport psychology and cooking -- than whatever skills they flashed on the ice.
So this is what the Jets must have considered progress from their camp: Carl Klingberg cooked some chicken this week and none of his teammates ended up in intensive care.
"I made sure it was well fried," Klingberg explained Friday, "so no one got sick."
All this rambling isn't to say that we aren't developing some opinions -- not conclusions, not yet -- on players, based solely on the on-ice evidence. Consider this, then...
- Mark Scheifele could own this town one day. No one posed for more pictures and signed more autographs than No. 55. Young girls squealed at the sight of him. Fans oohed and aahed at every little dangle he flashed on the ice. He looks bigger and more confident, but the real test -- and he knows it -- comes this September at main camp. If he's on the Jets' opening-day roster and sticks, Scheifele jerseys will be everywhere.
- Jacob Trouba, the first-round pick this June, and Brennan Serville -- drafted last year -- will both be wearing Wolverine colours this fall. Their games are hardly carbon copies: Serville is an excellent skater and passer while Trouba looks like he could be a nightmare for opposing forwards and can crush his shot. And if legendary Wolverines' head coach Red Berenson had been peeking in at this week's camp, he would have left gleefully rubbing his hands together.
- Ivan Telegin may be a legit prospect, but all these appearances on the disabled list have got to have the brass gnawing their fingernails. The scouting report on the Russian forward goes like this: world-class speed... NHL scoring skills... and now, a bit of an enigma. Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said this week the club found out about Telegin's hand injury from his agent the draft and the details -- he apparently cut it on a fence but did not want to speak to the media -- seem a bit sketchy. So now this thought, especially knowing that Telegin was playing hurt for Russia at the World Junior Hockey Championships, was banged up at the end of the OHL playoffs and now sliced open his hand: Might it be best for the club to have him move to Winnipeg for the summer and then cover him in bubble wrap until main camp?
- The other under-the-radar picks could be sleepers. While Scheifele, Trouba and Telegin dominated discussions this past week, some of the other Jet draft choices jumped off the page. Lukas Sutter carries the family's brand proudly, Adam Lowry is a massive man who should be dominant this season in Swift Current, Scott Kosmachuk has a scorer's finish and Zach Yuen's 2011-12 WHL season -- he led the league in plus-minus -- could just be a sneak peek of what's to come. The prospect cupboard that looked so bare just over a year ago is being stocked.
- No matter what happens with the big club, IceCaps head coach Keith McCambridge is going to have some young beasts on his defensive corps on The Rock. Zach Redmond is NHL-ready and Julian Melchiori isn't far behind. Both players were solid all week. Cody Sol, a man mountain at 6-6, 242, could be a bit of a project in St. John's. We asked him how he develops a mean streak -- as the brass has suggested he do -- and if it meant he had to come to the rink in a sour mood. "Yeah," he said. "It has to be like someone (tinkled) in your orange juice."