Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Jets sticking to long-term game plan

Chevy pleased with progress of eight prospects in juniors

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Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has been on message since the day he took the job.

He vows to build a future for the city's new NHL team. Trades will be simply an option.

In the 11 months since relocating the Atlanta Thrashers, Cheveldayoff's hockey department has had a long list of tasks that at times may seem overwhelming.

 

Among them is getting a handle on and keeping an eye on the franchise's future players, almost all of them chosen by those from another management regime. Even last year's draft picks were made by the scouts from the Thrashers, under Cheveldayoff's watchful eye, of course.

As playoff season intensifies, four of the eight Jets prospects playing in the major junior post-season are still on the ice. Here's an update on each of them from the GM:

 

Mark Scheifele: His inherited scouts pushed hard and Cheveldayoff called Scheifele's name last June in Minnesota. So far, the GM hasn't uttered any regrets, even though he sent Scheifele back to the OHL's Barrie Colts after seven NHL games last fall.

After 63 points in 47 OHL games, and 12 more in 13 playoff games, Scheifele's junior season is over. But he joined the AHL's St. John's IceCaps this week, leaving open the door to further development in a season of progress.

"(Colts coach Dale Hawerchuk) was working very hard at teaching him the pro game," Cheveldayoff said. "It wasn't just all about goals and assists and racking up minutes. In Mark's case, Dale wanted to make sure he spent time teaching him the two-way pro game. The assessment from that aspect went well.

"His understanding of the game continued to grow. Those are things that are going to have to continue in order for him to keep on maturing."

Cheveldayoff sees Scheifele's AHL opportunity as nothing but positive.

"He's not a guy who's taking anything for granted at this point," Cheveldayoff said.

 

Adam Lowry: The six-foot-four winger from Calgary lost the last half of his season due to a wrist injury that required surgery.

"He played through it for several weeks but ultimately the decision was made for surgery, which is best for his long-term development," Cheveldayoff said. "He's a big guy who certainly would have benefitted from continuing to play but we'll take it in stride and look forward to seeing a healthy player."

 

Zach Yuen: Yuen's still in the WHL playoffs with Tri-City, adding to the body of work that was a regular season with 12 goals, 38 points and plus 45. The Jets' GM has seen Yuen play a couple of games.

"He's a big part of the offensive side of that team," Cheveldayoff said. "They have a lot of offensive players. For him, taking on more and more responsibility in all aspects of the game will help determine how his development will go."

 

Austen Brassard: The right-winger scored 27 goals and 51 points in 64 OHL games this season, improvements on his draft-year numbers.

"He played a big role on that team, paired with some of the guys who are key leaders and he'd be considered one of them," said Cheveldayoff, who has also seen Brassard in live action this season. "They had good success. He's been someone we've been really pleased with in his development and the role he played on that team.

"I 'm looking forward to seeing him at development camp."

 

-- Julian Melchiori: Moving to the class of 2010, the large defenceman signed a contract with the Jets organization just a few weeks ago and after his OHL team, the Oshawa Generals, were eliminated from the playoffs, he was assigned to St. John's.

Melchiori, drafted as a 19-year-old, was sent back for a second major-junior season by the Jets and was traded from Kitchener to Oshawa mid-season.

"From that point on, he took on a greater role and it was a good opportunity for him to kind of blossom on a new team in a different role," Cheveldayoff said. "We were very happy with how it went, to the point we signed him to a contract."

It's worth noting that the Jets liked Melchiori's training camp here last fall and they believe his skating make him a bona fide prospect.

 

Ivan Telegin: Telegin, Scheifele's teammate in Barrie, was knocked out of the final game of the team's playoffs with a knee injury. The winger was in Winnipeg in the last week for minor knee surgery to repair problems, so he won't be going to St. John's. That seems to be the sum of the bad news about the fleet-footed forward.

"He also benefitted from the opportunity to play for Dale," Cheveldayoff said. "His second half was exceptional. Not just very good, exceptional. He took on a very large role from the offensive side of things. His best qualities are his size and speed. For a big man, he comes down on the defencemen very quickly and forces them to make difficult decisions at a quick rate."

Telegin may well be the major-junior prospect most ready for a crack at pro hockey.

 

Kendall McFaull: The defenceman from Rosetown, Sask., still playing for the Moose Jaw Warriors, will have Cheveldayoff watching him in WHL playoff action tonight.

McFaull, a sixth-rounder of 2010, is more of a stay-at-home defenceman.

"He's one of the leaders on their team and he's had a very good year," Cheveldayoff said. "They're up against a very strong Edmonton club here."

 

Cody Sol: The only draft pick still on the team's radar from 2009 is the large defenceman playing for the Kitchener Rangers, who are still in the OHL playoffs.

The Jets also pushed Sol back to junior where he could be a key player as an overage, instead of having a bit part in pro hockey. He was signed by the Thrashers just before the franchise was sold and moved to Winnipeg.

"He's used in all situations there, and plays a tremendous amount of minutes," Cheveldayoff said. "That'll only help his development. He's a big man and sometimes the acclimation process takes some time for big players but again, for his size and presence on the ice, it'll be interesting to see how he develops in pro."

 

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 25, 2012 C3

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