PICTURE the scene: the big three of the Winnipeg Jets’ hockey brain trust — Kevin Cheveldayoff, Craig Heisinger and Claude Noel — hunkered down in their offices at the MTS Centre attacking the long list of items on the to-do list.

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This article was published 9/9/2011 (3736 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

PICTURE the scene: the big three of the Winnipeg Jets’ hockey brain trust — Kevin Cheveldayoff, Craig Heisinger and Claude Noel — hunkered down in their offices at the MTS Centre attacking the long list of items on the to-do list.

  • Day after day after day after...
  • Gear ready for the NHL draft... done.
  • Set up farm clubs in the AHL and ECHL... check.
  • Augment roster in free agency... completed.
  • Finalize plans for training camp... working on it.

Every single item was critical in getting this franchise relocated and good to go by the Oct. 9 puck drop against the Montreal Canadiens. And, at times, the work must have been about as much fun as changing a flat in a driving blizzard.

Left-winger Carl Klingberg was born in Sweden but plays a typically tough North American style.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Left-winger Carl Klingberg was born in Sweden but plays a typically tough North American style.

All of which indirectly explains why Cheveldayoff & Co. are just as excited about the opening of Jets’ rookie camp on Saturday as the rest of this NHL-crazed province. Enough with all the talking, planning and meetings — it’s time to see some of these Jets’ prospects in flesh and blood.

"Zinger (Heisinger) and I were talking about it the other day," said Cheveldayoff. "From a hockey side of it, you can’t wait for the season to start because that’s when you know what to do. It’s not planning any more. You’re in the games and in the evaluating process. That’s the fun part of this.

"We’re going to be at the rink and that’s our element. We’re watching players, we’re ranking them, talking about their development and how they practised. We’re talking to coaches, we’re actually talking about the reality as opposed to the abstract. You can sit and talk all summer about, ‘Well, he’d look good with him and he would look good with that guy.’ But when you go out and watch a practice you start saying, ‘He LOOKED good with him’ or ‘He IS better with this guy.’ I can’t wait."

The Jets’ prospects, 22 in total, will report for medicals and physicals on Saturday before practising at the MTS Iceplex later that afternoon. The team will work out again Sunday before flying that night to Penticton to participate in the Vancouver Canucks Young Stars Tournament that features the hosts, the Jets, Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames and San Jose Sharks.

The Jets’ prospects will practice daily in Penticton and play three games in total against the Sharks, Oilers and Canucks before returning to Winnipeg next Thursday night and the opening of main camp.

The whole process is critical for a franchise that was forced to hit the ground running the moment the relocation from Atlanta became official on May 31. All the work involved in the move also meant the Jets had to cancel their prospect camp, held by most clubs, in July.

And it also means this weekend will be a bit of a meet and greet for the hockey staff and its future lifeblood.

"It’s an introduction of sorts," Cheveldayoff said. "This is the kickoff for everything for us.

This is really the jumping-on point for everything."

Not every player participating in the rookie camp will get an invitation to skate next week with the big club. Some will and others are on the bubble depending on how well they handle the tempo and pace of the rookie camp.

 

Cheveldayoff said when management first speaks to the prospects the marching orders will be simple: "The message will be, ‘Just go out and play. Just go out and have fun, but be serious about this and show us what’s gotten you to this point.’ "The whole point is this is about the future.

Now, the future might come quicker for some than for others, but that’s what we’re trying to gauge. Are they one year away, two years away, three years away? Or, are they not in the plans?

We’re not going to make those final determinations based on a one-week exhibition series. But you’ll get a chance to see the players get a couple of practices under their belt. It’s really truly about your own internal self evaluation about where your prospects are in their cycle.

"People shouldn’t read into the results of these games too much, whether we win or don’t win all the games."

The boss also made something else very clear: regardless of draft position or whether a prospect is a free-agent signee, they’ll all be treated the same. No silver spoons here. And the prospect rankings so many in the media business piece together in the summer? They mean diddly and squat when the first bucket of pucks is dumped on the ice Saturday morning.

"Inside the organization we treat everybody equal," Cheveldayoff insisted. "We give them the same speech: you’ve gotten here for a reason, now you have to do some certain things to ensure that you can continue to develop and get better to get to that next point.

"It’s kinda like your children: you don’t rank your children, you try and nurture them through everything."

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter:@WFPEdTait