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Twists, turns may benefit Winnipeg

Squad ready to adjust sights as process unfolds on Friday

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PITTSBURGH -- There's no telling what could happen in the next 48 hours at the NHL's entry draft but as of Wednesday, the Winnipeg Jets were intensifying their efforts to finalize their prospects list ahead of Friday's first round.

With the ninth pick, GM Kevin Cheveldayoff and the Jets are doing what they must -- focusing on their game plan and readying to make that pick.

Deals could come into play among teams ahead of them. Cheveldayoff might even engage in his own trade discussions.

But a franchise with some acute needs must be ready for another important pick as it tries to start the development and depth-chart process going the right way.

Cheveldayoff & Co. can never be sure, but it seems likely Nail Yakupov, Ryan Murray, Filip Forsberg, Griffin Reinhart and Alex Galchenyuk are top-five-pick material, even if it's not in that exact order.

They're more likely to have had harder looks at prospects six through 11 on their own list, knowing Anaheim, Minnesota and Carolina will choose some directly ahead of them.

Even one curveball in the top eight selections could send a higher-quality player down toward the Jets' spot.

Here's where the Jets are almost certainly looking the hardest for in a 2012 first-round choice with just the right stuff:

Matt Dumba, D

It would take almost a miracle for Dumba to fall to No. 9, given the rave reviews he gets from so many scouts for his take-no-prisoners style of always being aggressive.

Some call the Red Deer Rebels defenceman a riverboat gambler, but it's rare when he's not all-in during a game or a rush.

Even though their most acute need is at forward, the Jets could certainly do with a major dose of that kind of approach -- as well as Dumba's high hockey IQ -- and probably wouldn't take long to settle on his name in the unlikely event he were still in the pond after eight picks.

Teuvo Teravainen, F

He's a slight figure, at 5-11, 165 pounds. But there's ability in this package, and Teravainen, the rookie of the year in the Finnish Elite League, can certainly dangle and make creative plays.

He seems like a humble sort -- easily willing to admit he was a bit overwhelmed and intimidated by the fitness testing at the NHL's scouting combine in early June -- but 17-year-olds are always granted time to fill out and mature physically. Certainly, Teravainen is a player whose stock is rising among scouts.

Still, more "small-ish" is not exactly what the Jets seek, even though there are strong indications of pro poise and high skill. This pick for Winnipeg would carry more risk than others in this zone.

Morgan Rielly, D

The Moose Jaw Warriors defenceman was part of the very large injury contingent that is present in the first round, having missed all but 18 regular-season games because of a torn ACL. "Great skater" and "dynamic" were some of the terms scouts were throwing around about Rielly, who's an offensive blue-liner known for great passing and also a high hockey IQ. Again, the Jets' most urgent need is not at defence but if Rielly's still undrafted when commissioner Gary Bettman turns to them on Friday night, they'd either have to know something or be fools not to consider picking him. Of note, almost all scouting services had Rielly ranked in the top six and among popular lists, only TSN had him lower than seventh.

Jacob Trouba, D

The 18-year-old from Rochester, Minn., has spent two years with USA Hockey's development team, including an appearance at the world under-18 in Winnipeg.

At 6-2, 196 pounds, there is a heavy force coming the way of most of his opponents and they usually feel it. Some scouts have questioned his consistency while others rank Trouba right up there with the top defencemen eligible for the draft, a competitive, physical force. Most certainly, the Jets will have probed him in interviews -- that's right, likely more than once this month -- to find out what makes him tick. If they're going to draft a defenceman instead of a forward, they'll be determined to cover all bases.

Radek Faksa, C

In our exercise here today, we have listed the prospects by their ranking in TSN's final list this week. But that's by no means definitive, as it is merely a consensus melded with some opinion.

But here's where it could get interesting. It's not possible that the agreed top five and the four listed above could all be gone by the time the Jets pick at No. 9. So one of those names is a very likely candidate as a Winnipeg pick.

But the Jets have not been shy about saying they will do what they decide to do, not go by others' lists or rankings.

Which leads us to Radek Faksa of the OHL's Kitchener Rangers. His assets of size (6-3, 203 pounds) and his position, centre, and his skill set are right up the alley of the Jets' most pressing organizational need.

One expert this week called the young Czech a "non-European European, someone who will help dispel the stereotype."

If that's true, and Faksa isn't pulled ahead into the top eight picks, then you could imagine a lot of reasons Cheveldayoff could call his name on Friday night.

It's also very easy to imagine a scenario where the Jets turn to Faksa and pass over a very good defenceman in this draft, if that's what faces them on Friday.

Cody Ceci, D

More than just a few scouts warmed up to Ceci, the Ottawa 67's defenceman, as the season progressed. And you could see why the Jets would be along that curve. Ceci, son of a former CFL receiver and Vanier Cup winner, has much of what Winnipeg needs in the size department, being 6-2 and 207 pounds.

What's striking about Ceci is he's a youngster (he turns 19 in December) who's got a big frame, with plenty of physical thickness already. If there's any more growth or maturing to come, he could turn into quite a rock on somebody's blue-line for a long time.

His offence was certainly present this season, with 60 points in 64 OHL games, so that's a bonus for many teams, too.

At the scouting combine, without knowing the league's confidential results, he seemed to test well and be very comfortable in his own skin in banter with teams and reporters.

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 21, 2012 C4

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