WINNIPEG – Winnipeg defenceman Jacob Trouba’s advice to this year’s crop of Jets rookie prospects is pretty much what he practised last year—enjoy the moment.
“Just have fun, I mean it’s what you’ve dreamed of your entire life,” he said Tuesday.
Second-year players Trouba and Mark Scheifele, the centre whose rookie debut last season has earned him a top-six forward spot, are doing what they can to provide support to newcomers like Nik Ehlers, Nic Petan and Josh Morrissey.
“I’ve talked to Morrissey a little bit,” said Trouba, who cracked the Jets lineup at 19, straight from his freshman year on a U.S. college team.
“He’s kind of bounced some questions off me and I think he’s a really good player and if he does what he can and shows how he can play he’ll be fine.”
Scheifele says he is also trying to be as much help as he can to the new crop, which also includes promising six-foot-five centre Adam Lowry, but at the same time says he still has a lot to learn as well.
“I want to be that player like Jonathan Toews and (Sidney) Crosby that get put out every single d-zone draw when you need a draw, when you need a guy to shut down the other team’s top line,” says Scheifele, who is expected to start the season on a line with top team scorer Blake Wheeler and Evander Kane.
“I think that’s what I’ve been trying to work on the last year, trying to work on my defensive game. I think offence comes from good defence.”
That’s something coach Paul Maurice preaches regularly but he says it remains very much a work in progress as camp continues.
Scheifele, now 21, and Trouba, 20, both had breakout rookie seasons, despite injuries that limited their playing time. Scheifele had 13 goals and 34 points in 63 games and Trouba had 10 goals and 29 points in 65 games.
Defensively, Scheifele was second only to veteran defenceman Mark Stuart a plus-9 rating to Stuart’s plus-11.
The Jets won their first pre-season game 2-1 Monday night against the visiting Minnesota Wild. On Wednesday they host the Edmonton Oilers, who, like Winnipeg, are a young team looking to build through a draft-and-develop philosophy.
Maurice says the Jets lineup will remain pretty similar as far as the young players are concerned as he tries to evaluate their NHL readiness, but minor injuries may mean some veterans are absent.
Scheifele and Trouba didn’t dress for that first game but are expected to get ice time Wednesday.
He too says they know they have to improve their defensive game this season.
“If you look at prior teams that have won Stanley Cups, that’s the main thing, goals against, and that’s something we’ve got to improve on.”
The Jets finished 2013-14 with 84 points, in last place in the Central Division, and Trouba says the team is hungry to do better. The franchise has made just one playoff appearance in its history (2007), when it was still based in Atlanta, and made a quick first-round exit.
“I think we know what Paul brings and where he’s been . . . and he knows what he’s talking about,” Trouba said. “If we just kind of absorb what he’s saying and learn as much as we can and if we play the system how it’s meant to be played as one group . . . I think it will work and we’ll be fine.”