Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Swimming in Jets' stream

It's all new for No. 1 draft pick, but he's eager to learn

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Just last week, Jacob Trouba was a 19-year-old college freshman in Ann Arbor, Mich., trying to find a balance in his daily routine.

Those priorities usually involved, in no particular order, school, hockey, girlfriend, working out, buddies -- all the usual distractions/responsibilities that can consume a teenager's life from sunrise to sunset and all the hours in between.

So imagine the change, let alone the culture shock, of now being thrust into an intense, pressure-packed environment here in Winnipeg, where his new teammates are in a desperate push for a playoff position.

New city. New friends. New experiences. New role. And now, new digs.

"It's been busy, pretty chaotic," Trouba said Monday after practice. "My parents just got out of here yesterday and I moved into my billet house, so everything's going well and I'm just starting to settle in.

"The billets I've moved in with are extremely nice people. They'll help me as much as they can and do a lot for me, so I'm thankful to have them and have them open their home to me. Everything's going pretty well."

Asked if he had any chores as part of his new living arrangement -- vacuuming, cleaning, shovelling, etc. -- Trouba just grinned, then said:

"They're pretty nice. I don't have too much I have to do, other than keep my room clean, communicate and be on time for dinner. That's what we're doing."

And curfew?

"I don't have a car," he added, "so I don't think there's anywhere I'm going too quick."

Now, despite the pressures that may exist because of the hype surrounding the arrival of the Jets' 2012 No. 1 draft choice, there remains no timetable to get the gifted young defenceman into the lineup.

Instead, as GM Kevin Cheveldayoff stated last week after signing him, the decision to bring Trouba to Winnipeg is as much about the experiences as it might be about seeing him in action. It's about him studying how the pros operate, dealing with the media and handling the daily routine of a National Hockey Leaguer -- quite different than the one he had at the University of Michigan.

So getting settled in with the billets was big. And facing another media scrum on Monday was part of it, too. But just as important to Trouba's acceptance was seeing him pushed into the middle of the circle after practice Monday by a teammate to lead the post-workout stretch.

"It's just about fitting in," he said. "They've tried to lighten me up and keep me laughing. You can't be too serious out here, because you're playing hockey and you're supposed to have fun. They're just trying to make sure I'm not too tight and not too worried about what's going on.

"I'm just practising, learning, watching games and trying to pick up and seeing what I can learn from everybody out there. I'm just trying to get better. Everybody's been really nice. They've welcomed me here and have been helping me out as much as they can, so I'm thankful for that.

"It's definitely a little faster and bigger guys. But I think I can keep up and just try to blend in and not be noticed in a bad way. I'm just trying to go out there and do what I do. I'm just trying to do everything I can to help. That's all I can really do, because there's a bigger picture. It's not about me or getting to play, it's about this team making the playoffs. I'm just trying to do what I can do to help make that happen."

The bonus on Monday, albeit temporary?

With Zach Redmond having left for St. John's to pack up some of his belongings still there from his time with the IceCaps, Trouba was camped out in a regular stall between goaltenders Al Montoya and Ondrej Pavelec (on Sunday his nameplate was above a folding chair in the dressing room near a shelf that held the bubble gum and remote controls).

"I moved up from the chair, so that's good. I do (miss it)," Trouba said with a sly smile. "I'm sure I'll be back tomorrow when Redmond gets back. It's all part of being the young guy."

Ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 9, 2013 D2

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