- The Washington Times - Friday, June 24, 2011

ST. PAUL, Minn. — The official address of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft reads St. Paul, Minn., but if you listened to the crowd, you’d think the event was taking place in Winnipeg.

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins went first overall to the Edmonton Oilers, but Friday night was all about the NHL’s seventh Canadian franchise. The relocated Thrashers had the seventh overall pick and used the opportunity to finally reveal their new name as chairman Mark Chipman said GM Kevin Cheveldayoff would make the selection “on behalf of the Winnipeg Jets.”

With that subtle touch, Chipman set off a cascade of cheers from Winnipeg fans and others at Xcel Energy Center. Even before the draft started, big groups of fans in red, white and blue chanted “Go, Jets Go!” It wasn’t a well-kept secret that True North Sports & Entertainment changed its mind amid public pressure and decided to call its team the Jets.

What was more surprising was their pick of center Mark Scheifele, who was ranked the 16th-best North American skater by NHL Central Scouting. Scheifele was happily surprised, and he said family members started crying. He was handed a black jersey with an NHL crest in lieu of a Jets jersey that hasn’t yet been unveiled.

“It’s a little funny to look at it and think, ‘Yeah I did get drafted in the NHL.’ I’m still shaking from it,” Scheifele said more than a half-hour after stepping off the stage. “I haven’t stopped smiling since I got picked.”

The same could be said about Nugent-Hopkins, who joins a young Oilers nucleus that includes last year’s No. 1 pick, Taylor Hall, and 2008 first-rounder Jordan Eberle.

“Just joining a group like that is very exciting for me,” Nugent-Hopkins said. “I just can’t wait to get started.”

NHL-ready left wing Gabriel Landeskog was the second pick to the Colorado Avalanche, center Jonathan Huberdeau went third to the Panthers, big defenseman Adam Larsson went fourth to the Devils and center Ryan Strome rounded out the top five by going to the Islanders.

Scheifele was thrilled to go to Winnipeg, but fans chanted “We want Sean!” in the minutes before the Jets announced their selection — in reference to 6-foot-4 center Sean Couturier. Instead, he got snatched up by the Flyers, who could look to get Couturier ready sooner rather than later after shaking up their roster Thursday by dealing away Jeff Carter and Mike Richards.

“For sure my main goal’s gonna try to make a spot on the roster and we’ll go from now and keep working hard during the summer to improve myself and be ready for camp,” Couturier said. “And once I get there I just wanna show what I got.”

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