Jets hopefuls have final audition
KEN WIEBE, QMI Agency
|Forward Carl Klingberg has been sent to the St. John’s IceCaps of the American Hockey League. (QMI Agency)
WINNIPEG - Welcome to the Last Chance Cafe, where several Winnipeg Jets hopefuls are planning to leave a lasting impression before the axe comes down on the final round of cuts.
Prior to the Jets hosting the Nashville Predators, head coach Claude Noel announced four more roster moves on Friday morning.
Forward Carl Klingberg was reassigned to the St. John’s IceCaps of the American Hockey League and forward David Koci was released from his tryout offer, while defenceman Brett Festerling and forward Spencer Machacek were placed on waivers.
Should Festerling and Machacek clear waivers, they will report to St. John’s.
The Jets now have 32 players remaining in camp — including the five injured players: Dustin Byfuglien, Eric Fehr, Aaron Gagnon, Ben Maxwell and Kenndal McArdle.
The trio of Manitobans in camp also remain, though defenceman Derek Meech, left-winger Jason Gregoire and right-winger Troy Bodie will all be watching from the stands on Friday.
Bodie is still without a contract, as is goalie David Aebischer.
Noel also said the Jets are considering starting the season with eight defencemen, which could bode well for Meech.
The final round of cuts is expected this weekend and Noel made it clear that all players should take Friday as an audition, whether it’s for a spot on the roster or for an expanded role.
“There’s no doubt — even guys who have contracts are auditioning to a point, to see where they’re going to fit in the ladder of minutes,” said Noel. “My priorities haven’t really changed. Now you’re starting to split hairs, that’s what you’re doing. What’s the difference. What keeps one guy here versus the other. You’re trying to finalize decisions, regarding everybody. And it’s hard to see the future.”
Speaking of that future, what happens with 2011 first round pick Mark Scheifele continues to be a hot-button topic of discussion.
No decision has been made, but it sounds like Noel would like to keep him around for a longer look once the regular season starts.
“You project, can he get hurt by staying? Will he get hurt by leaving? You don’t know,” said Noel. “That’s what makes it difficult.
“I know I’m showing my hand, but I like him a lot.”
One of the players on the bubble and battling for a spot among the 13 forwards is Tim Stapleton.
“I look at it like the rest of the guys who are trying to fight for a spot on the team,” said Stapleton. “I wasn’t one of these guys' original picks. I’m treating it kind of like a tryout too and I’m going to play the best that I can. I’m just trying to make this team.”
The Predators have a little local content in the lineup as well, with Jordin Tootoo, Colin Wilson and head coach Barry Trotz all having ties to the community.
“I’m excited for Winnipeg. I was around when Winnipeg lost the team,” said Trotz, who hails from Dauphin and worked previously with the University of Manitoba Bisons hockey program. “You see how much vitality a sports team can bring to a city and it’s fun to watch from afar. Watching the preseason games, they seemed like playoff games. That’s a great atmosphere and it will be a real fun year for all Jets fans, I’m sure.”
“This is going to be different, with all of the hype around the NHL and getting the Jets back,” added Wilson, who played at MTS Centre as a member of the Milwaukee Admirals. “All of friends got to see me play in the AHL, but now everybody can see me play in the NHL, in my hometown, so it will be very exciting.”