Jason Gregoire is hoping this is merely the first step, but also recognizes itís an important one nonetheless.
As the Winnipeg Jets prospects hit the ice for their first skate on Saturday at MTS Iceplex, Gregoire is sure to attract a lot of attention during the upcoming week.
While itís true that 2011 first-round pick Mark Scheifele and Swedish forward Carl Klingberg are viewed as the leading candidates to push for a job in main training camp, it would be foolish to dismiss Gregoireís chances.
The 22-year-old Winnipegger made an obvious impression on Jets management during his three seasons with the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux, which is why they were among the first teams to court Gregoire after he exercised a little-used clause in the NHLís collective bargaining agreement to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff made it clear from the official announcement of the signing that nothing was going to be handed to Gregoire ó or anyone else, for that matter.
The responsible left-winger with some offensive upside took those words to heart during his summer of training.
Gregoireís goal remains a spot on the opening-day roster.
ďAbsolutely. There are holes to fill but thereís a lot of guys fighting for those holes,Ē said Gregoire, who signed a two-year, entry-level deal with the Jets on July 7. ďIn tryouts like this ... you donít have time to get in a comfort zone. These games are going to be these building steps Iím going to need to be ready for camp and to come in and hit the ground running. Youíve got to distance yourself a little bit and I donít want that to come off in a bad way. Itís a team game and everyone is fighting to show their stuff.
ď... A lot of guys are going to try to be flashy and get out of their element. The best thing I can do is just stay calm. Thereís a reason Iím here and itís the game I play and Iíve got to stick to that.Ē
Gregoire, a graduate of the Winnipeg Blues of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League, is coming off a season in which he had a career-best 25 goals, 18 assists and 43 points in just 35 games.
ďThe way I like to think of my game is that if Iím not scoring goals, Iím still contributing a lot to the team,Ē said Gregoire, who skated on a line with Scheifele and Klingberg on Saturday. ďA lot of guys canít say that. Some guys are brought in to score goals and others to be defensive-minded guys. I bring both aspects of the game and that should help me in the rookie camp and going forward.Ē
Gregoire was one of the players who has been taking part in informal on-ice sessions with Jets veterans and his mentality is to make the best impression he can over the next week and earn that invite to main training camp.
ďItís not that different, youíre fighting for a job on any team youíre on,Ē said Gregoire. ď... Thereís just money involved now.Ē