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Cheveldayoff prepares Winnipeg staff for first NHL draft

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The Canadian Press
6/20/2011 7:54:45 PM
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When Kevin Cheveldayoff calls Winnipeg's first draft pick to the stage on Friday night, the general manager isn't sure what sweater he'll be handing over.

A name and logo have yet to be unveiled for the team and it won't necessarily happen before the weekend.

"Certainly there'll be a sweater -- whether it's a team sweater or not, I guess that remains to be seen," Cheveldayoff said Monday during a conference call with a handful of reporters. "There has been different discussions about what to do in the case of a sweater not being available."

It's a busy week for the NHL's newest team. Cheveldayoff and assistant Craig Heisinger are still looking to hire a coaching staff, while the league's board of governors is scheduled to vote on the official sale and transfer of the franchise to Winnipeg during a meeting in New York on Tuesday.

The hockey operations staff is also trying to cram for the draft because of how little time they've had to prepare.

Cheveldayoff was hired less than two weeks ago and won't hold his first full meeting with scouts until after arriving in Minneapolis on Monday night. The group will also conduct interviews with six to 10 prospects in the coming days -- something the other 29 teams already did at the combine a couple weeks back.

Winnipeg's first selection will come at No. 7 when the first round is held Friday night at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. The team has another eight picks to make in the later rounds on Saturday.

"The draft is a big, big process," said Cheveldayoff. "Certainly for us moving forward we're going to look at it as the lifeblood of our organization and the cornerstone of building this franchise."

An important voice at the team's draft table will be Marcel Comeau, who served as Atlanta's head scout for the last eight years and continues to work for the organization. Even though Cheveldayoff anticipates filling "several" openings in the hockey operations department down the road, information gathered by the Thrashers scouts will play a big role in Winnipeg's first draft.

"Any good general manager is going to rely heavily on their scouts," said Cheveldayoff. "That's what they get paid to do, that's their job, that's their goal -- to make sure that they draft well and get to the bottom of each and every pick and know a lot about them."

The team appears to be closing in on its coach.

With Craig Ramsay and Craig MacTavish being told Monday they were out of the running for the job, according to a source, the list of possibilities was narrowed to Mike Haviland and Claude Noel. Haviland spent last season as an assistant with the Chicago Blackhawks while Noel was in charge of the American Hockey League's Manitoba Moose.

Cheveldayoff has been reluctant to put a time frame on making his final decision.

"(Heisinger) and I have conducted several interviews," he said. "The process is ongoing. Again, kind of true to our word, we haven't given a deadline per se to everyone yet. ... At this point, we're just kind of discussing things internally."

It's an off-season unlike any other faced by a team in NHL history.

However, Cheveldayoff remains enthusiastic about the mountain of work to be done, particularly during the upcoming draft where the new Winnipeg franchise will participate in its first major league event.

"I'm very excited," said Cheveldayoff. "It's an exhilarating process."

Kevin Cheveldayoff (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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