PITTSBURGH, Pa. – Winnipeg Jets fans can expect big things from top draft choice Jacob Trouba.
The 18-year-old American defenceman, taken ninth overall in Friday’s first round of the NHL draft, stands six foot two and weighs 187 pounds.
But his father and grandfather are six foot eight and his uncle is seven foot one.
Trouba hopes to grow a little more himself. “I want another inch or two, if I can.”
His immediate goal is to get bigger and stronger.
“I like to play physical. That’s something I’m really going to need to improve on, playing at the next level.”
Trouba had some three dozen friends and family in town for the draft.
“It was nerve-wracking going though it, but I’m excited to get picked, especially to Winnipeg. A great city, a great hockey team,” he said.
Not too nervous to take a nap before coming to the arena, however.
He clearly knows his Manitoba capital after a trip there with the U.S. under-17 team.
“We lost. It was disappointing losing, but it’s a great city. It was pretty cold. I’ll have to get the boots out,” the native of Rochester, Mich., said with a laugh. “But it’s a good city and it’s a cool city.”
“I know they were pretty excited last year to get a team back,” he said of the Winnipeg fans. “They’re a great hockey city and have been in the past. .. I’m excited to be a Jet.”
Trouba is headed to the University of Michigan this fall.
“I’m exited to get my education under way and play with coach (Red) Berenson,” he said.
He becomes the first draftee to wear the Jets’ uniform. Last year, they wore generic jerseys.
“He’s someone that obviously has good size and plays the game with an edge,” said general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff. “Has good character, has been a captain over the course of his playing days. Someone that has an enthusiasm for the game and we believe is going to grow into a very tough guy to play against.”
Trouba clearly has a good head on his shoulders already, knowing that stepping onto the stage Friday at the Consol Energy Center doesn’t mean that much.
“You’ve got to realize that it’s only the first step. You’re not really accomplishing anything getting drafted by Winnipeg. My goal is to play in the NHL and play in Winnipeg.”
Trouba likes watching Nashville’s Shea Weber play and, growing up near Detroit, used to enjoy Nicklas Lidstrom.
He admitted that he didn’t think much of hockey at first, after tagging along with his brother T.J. He started skating at age four.
“At first, I really didn’t like it all and I was crying but my dad kind of made me stick it out with a little tough love. Good thing he did because I really fell in love with the sport.”
Especially when hitting was allowed. He was about 11 or 12 at the time.
“I was one of the bigger guys back then, yeah. Then I kind of fell off. Now I’m starting to be one of the bigger guys again.”
Just how big remains to be seen.