By Scott Billeck
Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said he was happy with his young hockey players and the Jets 2013-14 schedule, although he did admit there will be challenges with the 2014 Olympics in Sochi in February. Not the least of those challenges is the fact the Jets play only one home game in the entire month of February.
On Friday, the Jets wrapped up their annual development camp, held this past week at the MTS Iceplex. The camp brought together the best young talent in the Jets organization, and after an exciting week for players, fans and the club, Cheveldayoff said he was happy with what he saw.
“It’s pretty exciting,” said Cheveldayoff who spoke to the media after Friday’s final session. “Obviously drafting 10 players and having them come into camp for the first time is certainly great, and to see some new faces, and then to see the progression of the other players from other drafts. I also think it was very good to see a lot of free agent players, some very intriguing ones there – there are some great players that chose to come here for development camp and get exposure to the Winnipeg Jets organization.
“All-in-all, it was a very successful camp.”
The camp was purely developmental in nature. The Winnipeg Jets had players doing lots off the ice as well as the daily sessions on it. Nutrition, work-outs, and public relations were just some of the education the players received throughout the week, something that Cheveldayoff finds crucial to being a successful pro hockey player.
“It’s a development in all aspects of the organization, we are trying to develop good young men that are going to continue to grow and be future Jets,” said Cheveldayoff.
That didn’t mean that the Jets weren’t evaluating their prospects this week.
“We did stress that it was not an evaluation camp – it was a development camp with those regards – but nevertheless you always are evaluating, and again, there were some great things out there,” said Cheveldayoff. “Again the exciting thing for us, we talked about quite a bit, is the progression of players from year one, to two and into year three and just seeing the growth.
“There is no better example than Adam Lowry, who at 18 was a tall, kind of gangly player. To see him out there now, he’s fill out, he’s obviously had some good junior years and now he is turning pro.”
On the business side of things, the Jets and the rest of the league found out on Friday that the league would be participating in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, and with that the new NHL schedule that was released shortly thereafter. Cheveldayoff says that the news brings a unique challenge to the Winnipeg club, something that he and his staff will be working on diligently.
“It’s something that, now that it is out in the open, you get a chance to really start working on the different logistics of it,” said Cheveldayoff. “I think we are excited, it will be something that us as an organization and a coaching staff will talk about – how to manage the different nuances of it with the Olympic break, hows the best way to do different things, come out of the Olympic break.
“It is interesting, being on the road for the first week of February and then going into the Olympic break. It will be a real long period of time where there is no actual Jets home games – that will be different as well.”
On the NHL schedule itself, Cheveldayoff was adamant about a good start and knows that every game counts.
“It is one of those things where you want to be prepared, you want to make sure you have everything going in the right direction right off the start,” explained Cheveldayoff. “I think one thing that came abundantly clear last year was that each and every game is important, you just never know when those two points are the ones that you kick yourself in the end.
“Getting as close as we did, and as hurtful as it was to get that close, you hope those are the things that really resonate and really motivate and drive the group.”
Cheveldayoff will now direct his full attention to signing his three remaining restricted free agents, Blake Wheeler, Zach Bogosian, and Bryan Little. The arbitration period starts on July 22nd, so the next few days will be crucial if the Jets want to avoid the ugly arbitration process.
The Jets also agreed to terms with goaltender Eddie Pasquale on a new one-year, two-way contract worth $575,000 at the NHL level as well as agreeing to terms with goaltender Michael Hutchinson on a new one-year, two-way contract worth $600,000 at the NHL level. Both goaltenders will start their seasons with the St. John’s Ice Caps of the AHL this season.
The Winnipeg Jets 2013-14 schedule can been seen here in it’s entirety: http://jets.nhl.com/club/schedule.htm. The Jets open up the season in Edmonton against the Oilers on Tuesday, October 1, before taking on the Los Angeles Kings on Friday, October 4, at MTS Centre.