May 25, 2013 Sections
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has so far held true to his philosophy -- the team's prospects will develop at their own pace and they will not be rushed, at least by him.
In any discussion about draft picks and potential future Jets, he never fails to utter the caution.
Brennan Serville will be thankful for it.
The defenceman from Pickering, Ont., a sophomore at the University of Michigan, had his name called by the Jets in the third round of 2011.
A slice of instant fame, being drafted by a Canadian NHL team, has since been sometimes an ordeal, sometimes an education.
"I had a long adjustment period," said Serville, who went from the Ontario Provincial Junior A league before the draft to college hockey last fall.
"Coming from (Tier II), obviously the game play is a lot slower and guys aren't as strong.
"I felt like near the end of last season I figured out my role and played the best I could in that role."
Serville's long-serving coach, Michigan's Red Berenson, didn't sugarcoat the transition.
"Brennan, I told Winnipeg last year, he's a project," Berenson said.
"He came here, he was weak and he was slow and he really struggled off and on here last year with the speed of the game and the strength of the players.
"I think he's learned a lot and he's just starting to show some glimpses of improvement.
"I think his skating is a little better and his work ethic is a little better and he's trying to play more physical. The one thing I've noticed is that he's making better outlet passes. But he's still got to get stronger, both from the waist down and waist up."
Serville, still growing at 6-3 and 202 pounds, is paired so far this season with senior and alternate captain Lee Moffie.
For much of the Wolverines' 3-1 home loss to Notre Dame on Thursday, Serville was barely noticeable apart from good passing choices, always a plus for a defenceman.
It wasn't always so, and the 19-year-old admitted there were stretches of discouragement last season.
"A little," he said. "Half-way through the season, I was battling to stay in the lineup. Obviously that gave me a lot more motivation and at the same time, I realized I was going to have to play a lot better than that if I wanted to do good."
In eight games so far this season (he missed a pair due to injury), Serville is pointless but a plus-four.
And with more ice time, some improved passing and a better idea of how to put his size to use, Serville is aware of another step forward.
"I'd say the biggest thing for me is confidence," he said.
"The players here are a little faster and stronger and a little better with the puck and in the D zone. So everything is baby steps for me until I'm ready to make the next jump."
Aware he had a long way to go, he stayed in Ann Arbor over the summer to concentrate on preparation.
"I trained with the guys here and that was good for me," he said.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 17, 2012 C4