Can he make the jump?

Blue-liner Kichton struggles for respect, but gets job done Prospects, rookies open camp today

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He's a producer and yet Brenden Kichton continues to be an underdog.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 11/09/2014 (3010 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

He’s a producer and yet Brenden Kichton continues to be an underdog.

Now 22, the Edmonton-born defenceman got high marks for his first season in the Winnipeg Jets organization after being a seventh-round pick — almost a flyer at 190th overall — in the 2013 draft.

The story is well-worn, that after being drafted by the Islanders in the fifth round of 2011, the sides couldn’t come to an agreement despite Kichton’s WHL defenceman-of-the-year season in 2012-13.

Andrew Krech / The Associated Press Files Brenden Kichton hopes a year of seasoning in the AHL and a renewed emphasis on fitness will help him earn a job in the NHL.

As a rookie pro, Kichton seemed not to miss a beat, putting up 10 goals and 48 points in 76 games last season for the AHL’s St. John’s IceCaps, incorporating more brainpower into his game than most players.

Yet overlooked and underestimated still seems to be a theme as Year 2 with the Jets gets underway later this week. Kichton will be a member of the Jets’ prospect team that will play three games in Penticton, B.C., at the Canucks Young Stars Classic tournament.

“For sure. I still view myself as that,” Kichton said this week as he wrapped up final training camp preparations at home. “Coming into camp here, pretty big underdog again but I trained pretty hard this summer for the short summer that it was.

“I’m looking to make a huge impression on the coaching staff there in Winnipeg and hopefully I’ll play good enough and maybe earn a good look there.”

The opportunity that awaits him when the Jets’ main camp opens one week from today is unknown, but it’s worth noting GM Kevin Cheveldayoff is quite fond of saying that he’s eager to see prospects and draft picks creating their own openings, even demanding them with their performances.

“I’m just going to go in there and play how I know I can play and that will take care of itself,” Kichton said, declining to speculate on what NHL jobs may or may not be open in Winnipeg. “Even if there’s no jobs open or you fight to make a job open, that’s just the main thing I’m focusing on, just playing my game.

“I’m not worried who’s here and who’s there. I’ll focus on being the best player I can be.”

That will start with this week’s rookie tournament, where Kichton has been talking about a leadership role — a wise approach given his age and his pro experience in 2013-14, when the IceCaps played their way to the AHL’s Calder Cup final in June.

It was a 106-game campaign in total for the 6-0, 190-pound blue-liner, one that included some heavy minutes in the IceCaps’ 21 playoff games.

That role on a very successful AHL team earned him a pass for the organization’s summer development camp.

The summer was already short without it, but Kichton and others have not taken the easy road on off-season training.

The mission statement from Jets coach Paul Maurice in last season’s final week — fitness, fitness and fitness are projected to be the top three priorities — reached far and wide.

“I was definitely aware of that and in the exit meetings they told us to be prepared physically for training camp,” Kichton said. “I think I’ve done a lot this summer. I know Paul is a big fitness guru and you’ve got to come into camp and be in great shape, work really hard, and he’ll take notes on things like that.”

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

 

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