After a few days' deliberation, Jacob Trouba's heart told him it was time to try the NHL.
"It's definitely going to be a challenge," said the Winnipeg Jets' newly signed defenceman, the 19-year-old who was the ninth-overall pick at the entry draft last June. "I'm not going to get any better if I don't challenge myself. It's my goal to play in the NHL and I feel like I'm ready... for the change."
His one season at the University of Michigan yielded a selection to the Central Collegiate Hockey Association's first all-star team and the league's offensive defenceman of the year award after 12 goals and 29 points in 37 games.
The Wolverines didn't have the greatest of regular seasons (10-15-3) but streaked in March and made it all the way to the CCHA's championship game, where their season ended with a 3-1 loss to Notre Dame.
In the middle of the season, Trouba was at the world junior championship in Russia, where he was named the tournament's top defenceman and his United States squad won gold.
"It didn't change too much what I was thinking," Trouba said of the tournament. "I knew... to me, we got pretty lucky that tournament. Everything kind of fell right for us.
"Playing against those guys that are the best under-20-year-olds in the world, seeing how you compare to them, then go back to playing college and playing against older guys, seeing how you compared to them... it's tough to worry about how the NHL's going to be but it's something you've got to try to do and try to adjust to it."
The adjustment will begin in Winnipeg sometime today, when Trouba arrives.
Trouba has agreed to a three-year, entry-level contract. It's a two-way deal, as all entry-level contracts must be, and it's been reported it's for the maximum salary of $925,000 each season, plus a $92,500 signing bonus for each season. The deal ends his college hockey eligibility.
The Rochester, Mich., native is likely to be on the ice here in the next day or two but Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said there have been no promises of playing time.
"We'll see how everything unfolds but there's no guarantee of games played but having said that we'll still have an opportunity to assess as we move forward," Cheveldayoff said.
The GM wants expectations to remain low, but realistic would be more accurate.
"There really is no expectation from within," Cheveldayoff said. "There are no expectations being put on Jacob. This is a pleasant opportunity, certainly something we are very pleased when Jacob had indicated there was thought of wanting to turn pro.
"We welcome it as an opportunity to get him acclimated to our organization on a more day-to-day, intimate basis.
"How it plays out from the playing standpoint, we've been very clear with everybody that this isn't something we're trying to create any expectations."
Trouba said he's simply going to be here to get started with the next phase of his career.
"I want to learn as much as I can being around the Jets and just trying to soak up as much information as I can about what it's about and what it takes to play there and what I need to do this summer to put myself in a position to be with the Jets next year," Trouba said Wednesday.
Will he play for the team this season?
"That's not up to me," he said. "That's up to the coaches. I'm just going to come in and work as hard as I can, just try to get better as a player and as a person, just learn and kind of take it all in. Whatever happens, happens.
"They're in the heat of a playoff race and I just want to come and try to help and do what I can. That's up to the coaches."
He was clear that despite the decision to leave school, he enjoyed his freshman season at Michigan.
"There's a lot. I mean, it's been a great year on and off the ice, just being a part of Michigan, being part of this university," he said. "It's pretty cool. It's a pretty special place. That's definitely something I'm going to miss but this is a goal of mine, to play in the NHL."
PROSPECT UPDATE: Cheveldayoff said Wednesday he hopes to soon have an agreement with 2011 third-round draft pick Adam Lowry, 20, to join the AHL's St. John's IceCaps for the rest of the season. Lowry had 45 goals and 102 points for Swift Current of the WHL this season but his junior days are now likely over. "We've had quite a bit of discussion with Adam Lowry's group," Cheveldayoff said. "We're trying to work out a deal. I think there is an opportunity for Adam to make his way to St. John's on an (AHL) contract and hopefully that's something that can happen here very shortly."
The best of the bunch
Jets' top prospects, after first-rounders Jacob Trouba and Mark Scheifele, both of whom are signed:
1. Patrice Cormier: 22, second-round pick of '08, much-injured banger has played just 40 NHL games including 10 this season with the Jets. Reassigned Wednesday to St. John's.
2. Ivan Telegin: 21, fourth-rounder of 2010, sparked much hope with a superb final junior season but the left-winger has been so-so (3 G, 7A, 34 games) in St. John's as a rookie.
3. Adam Lowry: 20, 6-5 forward played mostly centre for the Western Hockey League's Swift Current Broncos this season. The 2011 third-rounder scored 45 goals and had 88 points.
4. Eddie Pasquale: 22, Pasquale was on recall to the Jets for a couple of weeks but didn't get any action. The goaltender was excellent last season in St. John's, less so this season.
5. Carl Klingberg: 22, Atlanta's second-rounder of 2009; left-winger is finishing his second full season in North America, has nine goals and 21 points this season.
6. Scott Kosmachuk: 19, the right-winger has had seasons of 30 and 35 goals for the Guelph Storm (Ontario Hockey League), is junior-eligible again in the fall.