BELLEVILLE, Ontario – For the second time in three years, the Winnipeg Jets will be participating in the Kraft Hockeyville preseason game as they face the Washington Capitals on Saturday night at Yardmen Arena.
They're thrilled to be back.
"I think the whole concept around Hockeyville is just an exciting time," Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff told NHL.com in an exclusive interview Saturday morning. "It really brings everything back to the grass-roots level from all perspectives, especially from the guys' perspective. It's a little bit different than just a normal exhibition game. I think from that standpoint, it's exciting for them."
In 2011, the Jets earned a 3-1 victory against the Ottawa Senators in the Kraft Hockeyville game at Mile One Centre in St. John's, Newfoundland, home of Winnipeg's American Hockey League affiliate. Cheveldayoff admitted this preseason game can outweigh others for the players, as Saturday night's game will have special meaning for Jets forwards Austen Brassard and Eric Tangradi, who both played for the Belleville Bulls in the Ontario Hockey League.
Brassard, a fifth-round pick (No. 149) in 2011, will wear an NHL uniform for the first time Saturday night. He had 14 goals, 19 assists and 93 penalty minutes in 62 games for the Bulls last season.
"It's exciting for some of the players that have local ties to the towns," Cheveldayoff said. "A lot of the players come from smaller centers throughout Canada. It's great when you have a couple of players on your team that it has some special meaning to as well. Players like Austen Brassard, who played in Belleville from the junior standpoint, it's exciting for him to come back and be playing his first-ever exhibition game here."
It's also an exciting time for Cheveldayoff, who, unlike last year, gets a full preseason to fully evaluate his players before the 2013-14 season begins. The Jets open the regular season on Oct. 1 against the Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place.
"We missed this opportunity last year of going through the whole evaluation process from an organization standpoint," Cheveldayoff said. "For us, we're counting on our young players continuing to be the lifeblood of our organization. It's great from an evaluation standpoint for us."