Chevy grabs two big cen­tres, picks up skill and grit on wings

Winnipeg Free Press - SundayXtra - - NHLDRAFT - By Tim Camp­bell

PHILADEL­PHIA — Hockey smarts, size and bal­ance marked the Win­nipeg Jets’ 2014 draft list, com­pleted Satur­day with Rounds 2 through 7 at Wells Fargo Cen­ter.

Bal­ance, though, did not in­clude the se­lec­tion of any goalies this sea­son.

Win­nipeg ended the draft with seven picks — three cen­tres, two wingers and two de­fence­men.

And in the process that in­cluded two small trades (mainly draft picks, but also send­ing the rights to goalie Ed­die Pasquale to Wash­ing­ton), Jets GM Kevin Chevel­day­off man­aged to add a sixth- and sev­enth-round pick to his list of as­sets for the 2015 draft in Florida.

Adding to first-round pick Niko­laj Eh­lers, the flashy left-winger taken ninth over­all on Fri­day night, the Jets added de­fence­man Jack Glover from the U.S. un­der-18 de­vel­op­ment team in the third round; cen­tre Chase De Leo from the WHL’s Port­land Win­ter­hawks and de­fence­man Nel­son Nogier in the fourth round; for­ward C. J. Franklin of the USHL’s Sioux Falls Stam­pede in the fifth round; cen­tre Pavel Kraskovsky of the Yaroslavl ju­niors in the sixth round and cen­tre Matt Us­taski of Lan­g­ley of the BCHL in the sev­enth round. Kraskovsky is 6- 4; Us­taski is 6- 6. “A lit­tle bit of a smat­ter­ing of ev­ery­thing,” is how Chevel­day­off de­scribed his Satur­day at the draft. “We’ve got a big two-way de­fence­man early to­day and picked up some more skill and grit on the wing and we got some big cen­tremen at the end.”

Franklin and Us­taski are both 20 al­ready, but headed to play NCAA hockey. Franklin will go to Min­nesota State Univer­sity, Mankato, while Us­tan­ski will head to Wis­con­sin.

One of the themes of Satur­day’s se­lec­tions for the draft were con­nec­tions.

In De Leo, they have a team­mate of prospect Nic Pe­tan in Port­land, and one of prospect goalie Eric Com­rie’s best friends.

De Leo said he and Com­rie signed a pact when they were kids that they’d play on the same team.

“I heard about that,” Chevel­day­off said.

“We kind of chuck­led at the ta­ble. We knew they were best friends. Last year we ended up draft­ing (Andrew) Copp from Michi­gan, one of the best friends of Ja­cob Trouba. Maybe it’s a lit­tle bit of a trend there. It’s great to see some play­ers in our or­ga­ni­za­tion have a bit of a bond even be­fore they get to de­vel­op­ment camp or train­ing camp. We are try­ing to build one fam­ily here.

“It’s great to have a head start on it.”

De Leo, a na­tive of La Mi­rada, Calif., was thrilled with the fit when he spoke to re­porters on Satur­day af­ter his 39-goal, 81-point sea­son and a third straight trip to the WHL’s cham­pi­onship se­ries.

“Nic, he loves Win­nipeg,” De Leo said. “He has noth­ing but good things to say about the city. And with (team­mate) Brendan Leip­sic (of Win­nipeg), he’s also filled me in nicely. Can’t wait to talk to those guys and get to know more.

“I felt I had a pretty good (pre­draft) meet­ing with Win­nipeg. I ac­tu­ally texted Com­rie af­ter and told him, ‘Maybe I’ll go to Win­nipeg.’ It’s an ex­cit­ing time.”

He and the Tri- City Amer­i­cans No. 1 net­min­der have been close bud­dies since Com­rie moved to Cal­i­for­nia in 2005.

“We hit it off right off the bat and we still talk ev­ery sin­gle day,” he said. “He’s ob­vi­ously a dif­fer­ent char­ac­ter — and talk about drive — he’s the most driven kid I’ve ever met. I think it kind of rubs on me. See­ing how he car­ries him­self; he comes from a great fam­ily and I think I’m ex­cited to be (around him).”

De Leo isn’t big at 5-10, but he plays with some bite and has some rat to his game.

“I come from a pretty spe­cial fam­ily,” he said. “I’ve been taught to never ex­pect any­thing to be handed to me. I def­i­nitely earn ev­ery­thing I get.”

LARRY MACDOUGAL / THE CANA­DIAN PRESS FILES

Port­land Win­ter­hawks cen­tre Chase De Leo has an el­e­ment of rat in his game.

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