PITTSBURGH -- It seems the Winnipeg Jets like first-round draft picks coached by former Jets.
The NHL team chose defenceman Jacob Trouba with the ninth overall pick during Friday's opening round at the Consol Energy Center. Trouba, 18, has been coached by ex-Jet Danton Cole for the last two seasons with the U.S. national development team.
Last June, the Jets chose Mark Scheifele, whose Barrie Colts are coached by Jets icon Dale Hawerchuk.
"It was pretty nerve-wracking going through this," said Trouba, the Rochester, Mich., native. "I'm excited to get picked and especially to Winnipeg. It's a great organization and a great hockey city."
Two first-round curveballs ahead of the Jets helped them secure the player they had targeted in advance with their ninth pick.
The Anaheim Ducks, at No. 6, reached down and took big Swedish defenceman Hampus Lindholm, then the Carolina Hurricanes traded their No. 8 pick to Pittsburgh in the Jordan Staal deal and selected defenceman Derrick Pouliot.
That left the Jets with many options, likely also forward Filip Forsberg, and forwards Mikhail Grigorenko and Radek Faksa.
But it was Trouba they turned to, keying on 6-2 size and aggressiveness.
"One thing you don't know is where things are going to fall but you do know where your list is at," said Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff. "Pittsburgh, they were a little bit of an unknown. Carolina was picking ahead of us and we might have had a bit better handle on what their roster was and tendencies a little more.
"But we sat and waited but once their selection was made, we went into action to pick the guy next on our list."
The instant the Penguins selected Pouliot, Cheveldayoff and assistant GM Craig Heisinger had a few short words with head amateur scout Marcel Comeau and immediately the team's PR staff pulled out a folded-up jersey from under its table.
A long television break made it seem like the Jets were stalling.
Trouba is not likely done growing.
"He's a big strong person right now that's going to continue to grow and fill out," Cheveldayoff said.
"My dad is 6-8 and my uncle is 7-1," Trouba said. "My grandfather is 6-8. I come from a big family. I'd like to grow another inch or two."
Trouba said hockey was not an instant love as a kid.
"I didn't really like hockey until you could start hitting," he said.
"No one in my family had ever played hockey before. My brother started and I tagged along. I didn't really like it at first but with some tough love from my dad I stuck with it. I was crying and didn't like it. But I'm glad I stuck with it because I really came to love it."
Trouba graduates from the U.S. national development team this fall to go to the University of Michigan. He confirmed that Friday, though there had been some suggestion he might be headed to Kitchener of the OHL.
Cole, who coached Trouba, said Jets fans are going to warm to him quickly.
"The best thing about Jacob is just his competitive nature," Cole said. "He's big, he plays physical and he has a real good feel offensively and defensively. He's just a really good 200-foot player.
"We always compare him to a shark out on the ice. He's got a real good edge to him and competes, handles himself like a real pro.
Cole has a built-in bias, but he wasn't afraid to express it.
"Personally I think he's a steal at nine," he said. "He's a great pick. I was surprised he lasted that long. It's good for Winnipeg. They'll love him."
Cole said Trouba has climbed the development curve significantly in his time with the program, which saw him play in the World Under-17 Challenge in Winnipeg 18 months ago.
"His physical attributes were pretty good when he came in," Cole said. "He skated well but he needed to fill out like every 16- or 17-year-old.
"The good thing about Jacob is his frame and the nuances of playing defence, well, he just kept adding things. He came in as an elite player and his thirst for being better at the position is really good. He loves to practice and he wants to be the best player on the ice every night.
"He's one of the top kids I've ever had the pleasure of coaching."
"Claude (Noel, Jets head coach) and the guys, when they get their hands on him, they'll love him."