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Jets need everything

BUt Chevy knows there is no immediate help with ninth pick in draft

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TORONTO -- The thousands of wannabe Winnipeg Jets general managers out there know their also-ran team needs something.

Or somethings.

Better goaltending, for starters. More depth at centre, where the organization is perilously thin at the moment. There's a desperate need to upgrade the third and fourth lines at all positions. And who can ever have enough good defencemen?

Kevin Cheveldayoff, the real GM and the man with his hands on the decision levers at Jets headquarters, is aware of all of the above and probably disagrees with none of it.

'Unless you're right at the top of the draft, there aren't many players that make an impact today. Some may make an impact within a year and that's been shown, even by some of our own draft picks'

-- Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff

But while those ready to give him free advice are prioritizing the team's needs, Cheveldayoff does not want them to be a focus when he gets to the NHL's Draft, which takes place in Philadelphia June 27 and 28.

Yes, Cheveldayoff may look at any number of deals are possible to improve his team, including involving the ninth pick overall this year, but in the actual drafting, only the most elite teams can afford to by picky by position.

"Unless you're right at the top of the draft, there aren't many players that make an impact today," Cheveldayoff said Saturday at the NHL's scouting combine. "Some may make an impact within a year and that's been shown, even by some of our own draft picks.

"But really, all the work that's gone into this week and the scouts' year, it's really about building the future of the organization. There is projection and there needs to be time given to these players to mature and develop to make an impact at the NHL level.

"Having said that, it's hard to sit here and project where you're going to be two years from now, three years from now as to what your needs are going to be."

Cheveldayoff said that it would be folly to have too narrow a focus, that what he's looking to build is a scenario where draft picks come along and start pushing -- even pushing out -- players currently on the team. When you get that, or too many players who turn out to be good at one position, then you're getting somewhere.

"Until you have those kind of things, when you trade out of your organization, you're creating a hole and maybe filling it with something else, but you still have a hole," he said. "If you're flush with a position, then maybe you can make a move with your depth."

Though it might seem like the standard reliance on a cliché, or an unwillingness to tip the hand, this is why Cheveldayoff and so many of his colleagues say they will simply draft the best player available when it comes their turn.

"And that's where the theory of the best player available comes into play," Cheveldayoff smiled. "One person may think a third-line centre with character and grit and all that is the best player over a potential projected second-line guy with some skill but maybe doesn't have something. Who's best player is the best player?

"That's why you see the draft veer off at some point. Sometimes it happens later, sometimes it happens early."

Those individual "tastes" in players always vary by team.

One thing you can count on from Cheveldayoff, however, is that the Jets will do their best to keep hockey sense at the forefront of most of their draft decisions.

"That's extremely high," the GM said. "Hockey sense is one of the core, foundation points for a hockey player. That's our belief. And it is something probably that's the hardest thing to measure and to gauge. Say you took five scouts and asked them what hockey sense is to them, you'll get five different answers. But it's one of the most important categories."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 1, 2014 B2

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