WINNIPEG - Winnipeg general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff sees the NHL draft as the lifeblood of his organization and it’s been pumping through his own veins over the past couple of weeks.
“It’s an exhilarating process,” Cheveldayoff said during a conference call on Monday.
Winnipeg owns the seventh overall selection on Friday at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., and with that pick now just three days away, the anticipation is building.
With Winnipeg set to be a low-to-mid range salary cap team initially, making these draft picks count is of the utmost importance.
“The draft is a big, big process and for us moving forward we’re going to look at it as the lifeblood of our organization and the cornerstone of building this franchise,” said Cheveldayoff.
“The work that has been done over the course of the year by the scouts and the culmination of it at the draft upcoming is a very, very integral part of the process of building this team.”
While True North has dismissed former general manager Rick Dudley, director of amateur scouting Dan Marr, head coach Craig Ramsay, associate coach John Torchetti and assistant coach Mike Stothers, Cheveldayoff will be leaning heavily on the Atlanta Thrashers’ scouts this weekend.
“Any good general manager is going to rely on their scouts because that’s what they get paid to do,” said Cheveldayoff. “That’s their job. The goal is to make sure they draft well and get to the bottom of each and every pick and know a lot about them, on and off the ice. As the general manager or the assistant general manager, you’ll have some knowledge on the player but certainly not to the extent that the scouts have.”
Cheveldayoff and director of hockey operations Craig Heisinger are looking for a certain type of player, one that is high on character.
“We’re going to meet with the group of amateur scouts and discuss the type of things we are looking for — the qualities, the attributes we look for on and off the ice,” said Cheveldayoff. “We’ll talk about the individuals that could be in play and have a game-plan in place. If someone falls into our situation, we’re going to be ready to act.”
Naturally, the discussion turned to whether Winnipeg would be willing to make a deal, either to move up or possibly to move down.
“No one has kind of blown my socks off, with respect to anything like that,” said Cheveldayoff.
“There’s trading the actual pick for someone who can play right now. There’s moving up or moving down if you’re going to target a player you feel that strongly about. We’re not at that point yet to say that everything is in play or nothing is in play.
“Certainly, the phone lines are heating up with managers talking to each other here right now and getting the lay of the land. We’ve been very open to say the process of building through the draft is something we hold in high regard.”
There is still some debate as to whether a team name or logo will be in place when the selection is made on Friday and Cheveldayoff wasn’t dropping any hints on the subject — or was he?
“At this point and time, certainly there will be a sweater — whether it’s a team sweater or not remains to be seen,” said Cheveldayoff. “There have been different discussions about what to do. But the elation of any young kid to hear his name called at whatever pick in the first round, certainly at No. 7, will be one of exuberance.”
NHL entry draft
Round 1 - 7th overall
Round 2 - traded to Chicago Blackhawks
Round 3 - 67th overall
Round 4 - 97th overall
Round 4 - 108th overall (acquired from Montreal Canadiens)
Round 5 - dealt to New York Islanders
Round 5 - 133rd overall (acquired from Carolina Hurricanes via Florida Panthers)
Round 5 - 149th overall (acquired from San Jose Sharks)
Round 6 - 157th overall
Round 7 - 187th overall
Round 7 - 194th overall (acquired from Calgary Flames)