Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Trouba will give Jets some mean and mass

Will provide physical force in a few years

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PITTSBURGH -- Soft doesn't win games in the National Hockey League and Kevin Cheveldayoff had his fill of watching his team get run over last season. Friday night he took a big step in changing that.

The Jets used the ninth pick in the NHL draft to select Jacob Trouba from the U.S. National Development Team in an attempt to add beef and bash to their blue-line.

"We wanted to get bigger. There's no question about that," said Cheveldayoff. "He's a big character kid with a big shot. He just loves to play. He's a leader and he's the captain of his team. He plays the game hard."

The NHL is survival of the fittest and teams identify weakness and then exploit it.

The league painted the Jets as a club that could be worn down mentally and physically last season. Sooner or later, Cheveldayoff needed to begin to address both the psyche and size of his team. He added mean and mass in one quick stroke.

Coach Claude Noel will have to wait a while to get this player, but when he does come, Trouba will make the Jets harder to play against, something the bench boss knew was an issue this season.

Trouba is a long, young man at 6-2 and 200 pounds and likely to get longer.

"My dad is 6-8 and my uncle is 7-1. My grandfather is 6-8. I come from a big family. I'd like to grow another inch or two," said Trouba, who comes from Rochester, Mich., just outside Detroit.

The Jets had options when their time to pick came, but they had Trouba rated in their top-five players in the draft and quickly determined he was the way to go.

"We had him higher than No. 9. Much higher," said Cheveldayoff. "We spent a lot of time working on our list to ensure that we could draft off the list. There was a quick glance around the table and final confirmation and we went with it. Where we had him, we didn't think we'd have a chance to get him."

Many nights last season, particularly on the road, the Jets were an easy team to play against. Teams with size were able to pen them in their own end and dominate the puck.

The Jets just didn't have many physical answers against forward lines with size.

Trouba's development team coach, Danton Cole, says there's bite to the player's game.

"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."

Trouba will head to the University of Michigan to get some experience and is likely a number of years away from joining the Jets, but when he does, a major aspect of his game will be his physical play.

"I didn't really like hockey until you could start hitting," said Trouba. "No one in my family had ever played hockey before. My brother started and I tagged along. I was crying and didn't like it at first but with some tough love from my dad I stuck with it. I'm glad because I really came to love it."

The Jets are like every other team in the NHL, in that they have playoff aspirations. A player like Trouba can pay off down the road when the Jets are ready to make a run.

Small and soft doesn't work when the post-season pace picks up. Cheveldayoff looked down the road with this pick and saw a nasty piece of business working his blue-line.

Every successful team in the NHL has a bit of this. The Jets didn't, but now they do.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @garylawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 23, 2012 C3

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About Gary Lawless

Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and www.winnipegfreepress.com
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
After a Grey Cup winning stint with the Toronto Argonauts in the communications department, Lawless returned to Thunder Bay as sports editor.
In 1999 he joined the Free Press and after working on the night sports desk moved back into the field where he covered pro hockey, baseball and football beats prior to being named columnist.

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