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Welcome to Winnipeg, Scheifele

Franchise makes OHL centre its first pick

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ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Winnipeg has dominated the NHL story landscape for going on a month now and it continued right into Friday night's first round of the annual entry draft.

The new franchise had a hundred or so loud and demonstrative fans in the Xcel Energy Center.

They heard Winnipeg welcomed back to the league after 15 years by commissioner Gary Bettman, they chanted through the six teams picking ahead of them and then they erupted when True North chairman and governor Mark Chipman confirmed at the podium the organization has decided to adopt the Jets team name.

"It shows the passion of our fans, that they travelled here to be part of a special day for this franchise," Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said.

Cheveldayoff then wrapped it all up nicely with his first pick, centre Mark Scheifele, a rookie from the Barrie Colts who's coached by none other than the former Jets organization's only first-overall pick Dale Hawerchuk.

Winnipeg earlier in the day introduced new head coach Claude Noel.

The record will show that the head of the 2011 draft class was Red Deer's Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to the Edmonton Oilers.

Gabriel Ladeskog followed to the Colorado Avalanche and Jonathan Huberdeau went to Florida in a pair of mild surprises just slightly higher than what many experts were picking. That left top European skater Adam Larsson to the New Jersey Devils, who had moved from eighth to fourth by winning the draft lottery.

The Islanders snatched centre Ryan Strome with Pick No. 5, a player some thought Winnipeg coveted. Ottawa also went for a centre with Mika Zibanejad, leaving Winnipeg to go slightly off the board for Scheifele, a player The Hockey News had ranked well into the second round at No. 41.

There were at least five trades during or at Friday's first round, including a huge deal that sent Minnesota defenceman Brett Burns to San Jose and a pick next year for forward Devin Setoguchi, Friday night's first-round pick Charlie Coyle and next year's first-rounder.

Winnipeg's impact on Friday's proceedings stretched throughout the arena.

"I thought the reception and the cheers were louder for Winnipeg than Minnesota," said former Jets GM John Paddock, who hails from Oak River, Man. "It can be a long drive here. People have enthusiasm, probably forced them into calling them the Jets with the groundswell.

"I think it's all unbelievable."

Paddock said that Winnipeg's presence back in the NHL family after 15 years -- he was the GM of the team that left town in 1996 -- no doubt stirred something in him Friday.

"It certainly stirs an emotion that the people are being rewarded by Mark (Chipman) and his group for his work and vision and they're being rewarded for keeping that spirit alive for the last 15 years.

"Not too many people thought there'd be a team there again. But a new system, a new rink and the Canadian dollar, wow."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 25, 2011 C1

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