Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Jets draft mix of size, smarts

Chevy grabs two big centres, picks up skill and grit on wings

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PHILADELPHIA -- Hockey smarts, size and balance marked the Winnipeg Jets' 2014 draft list, completed Saturday with Rounds 2 through 7 at Wells Fargo Center.

Balance, though, did not include the selection of any goalies this season.

Winnipeg ended the draft with seven picks -- three centres, two wingers and two defencemen.

And in the process that included two small trades (mainly draft picks, but also sending the rights to goalie Eddie Pasquale to Washington), Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff managed to add a sixth- and seventh-round pick to his list of assets for the 2015 draft in Florida.

Adding to first-round pick Nikolaj Ehlers, the flashy left-winger taken ninth overall on Friday night, the Jets added defenceman Jack Glover from the U.S. under-18 development team in the third round; centre Chase De Leo from the WHL's Portland Winterhawks and defenceman Nelson Nogier in the fourth round; forward C.J. Franklin of the USHL's Sioux Falls Stampede in the fifth round; centre Pavel Kraskovsky of the Yaroslavl juniors in the sixth round and centre Matt Ustaski of Langley of the BCHL in the seventh round.

Kraskovsky is 6-4; Ustaski is 6-6.

"A little bit of a smattering of everything," is how Cheveldayoff described his Saturday at the draft. "We've got a big two-way defenceman early today and picked up some more skill and grit on the wing and we got some big centremen at the end."

Franklin and Ustaski are both 20 already, but headed to play NCAA hockey. Franklin will go to Minnesota State University, Mankato, while Ustanski will head to Wisconsin.

One of the themes of Saturday's selections for the draft were connections.

In De Leo, they have a teammate of prospect Nic Petan in Portland, and one of prospect goalie Eric Comrie's best friends.

De Leo said he and Comrie signed a pact when they were kids that they'd play on the same team.

"I heard about that," Cheveldayoff said.

"We kind of chuckled at the table. We knew they were best friends. Last year we ended up drafting (Andrew) Copp from Michigan, one of the best friends of Jacob Trouba. Maybe it's a little bit of a trend there. It's great to see some players in our organization have a bit of a bond even before they get to development camp or training camp. We are trying to build one family here.

"It's great to have a head start on it."

De Leo, a native of La Mirada, Calif., was thrilled with the fit when he spoke to reporters on Saturday after his 39-goal, 81-point season and a third straight trip to the WHL's championship series.

"Nic, he loves Winnipeg," De Leo said. "He has nothing but good things to say about the city. And with (teammate) Brendan Leipsic (of Winnipeg), he's also filled me in nicely. Can't wait to talk to those guys and get to know more.

"I felt I had a pretty good (pre-draft) meeting with Winnipeg. I actually texted Comrie after and told him, 'Maybe I'll go to Winnipeg.' It's an exciting time."

He and the Tri-City Americans No. 1 netminder have been close buddies since Comrie moved to California in 2005.

"We hit it off right off the bat and we still talk every single day," he said. "He's obviously a different character -- and talk about drive -- he's the most driven kid I've ever met. I think it kind of rubs on me. Seeing how he carries himself; he comes from a great family and I think I'm excited to be (around him)."

De Leo isn't big at 5-10, but he plays with some bite and has some rat to his game.

"I come from a pretty special family," he said. "I've been taught to never expect anything to be handed to me. I definitely earn everything I get."

 

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 29, 2014 B3

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