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Forbort a familiar face to many in Jets locker room

"I should almost get a coaching fee for the drills I've been running Samberg and Pionk through" -Forbort

by Mitchell Clinton @MitchellClinton /

WINNIPEG - After signing with a new team, some players come into a dressing room full of new faces.

That won't be the case for Minnesota product, Derek Forbort.

Forbort, who signed a one-year contract with the Winnipeg Jets on Oct. 11, is very familiar with two players within the organization already.

"I should almost get a coaching fee for the drills I've been running (Dylan) Samberg and (Neal) Pionk through here in Duluth," Forbort said with a grin.

But the defenceman's connections to his fellow Minnesotans inside the Jets dressing room doesn't end there.

"I've got to know Neal pretty good the last couple years. Growing up, I was an umpire, and I umped him a few times. So the strike zone got pretty big when he was up to bat. We're over that now," said Forbort, who is also familiar with the Jets captain.

"I remember watching Blake Wheeler play when he was with the Gophers," Forbort recalled. "Just playing against him, he seems like an awesome captain. I'm excited to play with him."

The 28-year-old said Winnipeg was a spot he and his agent identified might be on the lookout for a left-shot defenceman during free agency. So when the offer came, Forbort - a first round pick of the Los Angeles Kings in the 2010 NHL Draft - was happy to sign on the dotted line.

"I'm excited to not be chasing around (Kyle) Connor, (Mark) Scheifele, and Wheeler," said Forbort, who helped the Calgary Flames eliminate the Jets in four games in the Qualifying Round.

During that series though, the Jets made an impression on Forbort.

"They lost Scheifele right away and seeing how hard they kept fighting and kept battling - even though they were so shorthanded - that's the kind of team you want to join and go to battle with," he said. "Hopefully I can come in and help the boys."

Forbort spent all but seven of his 275 regular season NHL games with the Kings before being traded to the Flames at the trade deadline this past season.

His 2019-20 campaign was limited due to a back injury, but prior to that he played in at least 78 games in each of the previous three seasons.

During those years, he spent an extraordinary amount of time paired with Drew Doughty. In fact, the two played over 3,000 even strength minutes together from 2016-2019 (according to Natural Stat Trick).

For context, the next closest pair in that time frame from that Kings era was the duo of Jake Muzzin and Alec Martinez at 1,572 minutes.

"He was such a good leader and took me under his wing and was teaching me little things every day," said Forbort. "He's pretty special. Not everybody can be as loosey and goosey as he is out there and still play at that level. Just the way he has fun out there, just plays, and the way he competes - it just kind of rubs off on you."

Forbort plans to bring a defensive mindset to the Jets blue line and also hopes to be a big part of the team's penalty kill. He's familiar with the Manitoba capital, especially after spending three seasons at the University of North Dakota from 2010-13.

"We went up there a couple times to take advantage of the drinking age. I'm just kidding - no I'm not," Forbort said, laughing. "I think we played Clarkson up there in an exhibition game at MTS, so I've kind of got to know the city a little bit and I have some buddies from Winnipeg. I've been up there a few times and hung out with them. 

"It seems like an awesome city, a great hockey town. I'm excited to get to know the city a little bit more."

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