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Former Jets coach keeping an eye on the 2019 NHL Draft

John Paddock's nephew eligible to be selected in Vancouver, BC this June

by Mitchell Clinton @MitchellClinton / WinnipegJets.com

John Paddock has spent nearly 28 seasons behind the bench as a coach or an assistant coach. Just under four of those were spent as the head coach of the Winnipeg Jets between 1991 and 1995 (he moved into the general manager role midway through the 1994-95 season and held that role for the 1995-96 campaign). 

These days, he's in Regina, Saskatchewan. That's where he's been since 2014, when he took over as head coach and Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations of the Regina Pats. Since then, he's added the General Manager title to his resume as well.

But when he was the bench boss of the host Pats during the 2018 Memorial Cup - his last of four years as a coach before moving into strictly a managerial role this season - he had a front row seat to one of his nephew's best performances between the pipes.

Max Paddock backstopped the Pats all the way to the Memorial Cup Final against the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League champs - the Acadie-Bathurst Titan. In front of a raucous home crowd, Paddock - who was 17-years-old at the time - made 41 saves (including 24 in the second period), but the Pats ultimately fell 3-0.

Paddock, who was also eligible to be taken in the NHL Draft in 2018, finished the tournament as an all-star with a 0.908 save percentage.

"When it ended, that's one of the times that you look back - for me personally - and get a little bit more goosebumps or possibly emotional with what Max did and how he played," John said. "He played so well in the tournament overall. I was able to privately give him his ring that was sent to us - we didn't know anything about that - for being an all-star. I could tell he was pretty pleased with that."

Even being able to play in the Memorial Cup that season was an accomplishment for Max, who hadn't played since Mar. 16, 2018, when he made 31 saves in a 3-2 overtime win over the Swift Current Broncos.

He didn't even play in Regina's first round playoff series, which they lost to those same Broncos in seven games.

So when Paddock named his nephew the starting goaltender for the Memorial Cup tournament, it was based on Max's strong second half, not a family bond.

That was important to John. It's a precedent that was set back when he drafted Max 212th overall in the 2015 WHL Draft.

"As he's come along, you have a different relationship. We just don't show it at all at the rink," John said. "I coached one of my brothers at one time, not (Max's) dad, but the other brother a little bit. I think I've always had a real solid separation of family at the time when you're working with people.

"We're both busy with our things. I'm busy with the team in one way or the other, when I was doing both jobs or just managing. Up until this past season, he had school and everything, so there wasn't a lot of interaction. I think that's also just part of the plan of it or the way it needs to be."

Max would go undrafted in 2018, but he's back on the list of North American goaltenders eligible to be selected at the 2019 NHL Draft in Vancouver, BC, ranked number 30.

John thought there was a chance Max would get picked in 2018, but in conversations he's had, the sample size of Max's work wasn't quite big enough yet.

"He didn't start to play until January that year as a number one. I understood that," John said. "I was a little bit surprised last year with the way it went, but I don't think you can rule out a bit of a surprise this year that could go the other way. That's hockey."

The upcoming 2019 draft doesn't come up much between the two Paddocks. John said there was a quick chat about it at the year-end meeting after the Pats finished 19-45-1-3, putting them fifth in the East Division in 2018-19.

"Our situation changed (this year). Our team changed completely. He didn't have the first half that would give him a lot of attention and then he played well in the second half," said John, referring to Max's 0.896 save percentage in 47 games this season.

"He's a pretty even keel guy. He had some surgery at the end of the season on his shoulder, so he's in the midst of rehabbing that. His focus is on next season. When it comes to draft day he'll be paying a little bit more attention on the Saturday of the draft."

By keeping his focus on next season, Max is controlling all that he can, and working to be in the best shape he can to contribute to his team in 2019-20.

 "I'm very happy for him," John said. "He's been probably everything - even a little bit more - than I expected he could be when we drafted him."

STAYING CONNECTED

John Paddock has kept his eye on the Jets since they returned to the NHL in 2011. He and his family (along with some close friends) have had season tickets since relocation, and he got to use them personally for the first time during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, when he attended Game 2 against the St. Louis Blues.

"It's a different franchise but there is certainly an allegiance there as a native Manitoban," said Paddock. "(Jets assistant GM Craig Heisinger), I was with for quite a few years. I know (Kevin Cheveldayoff), I know Paul (Maurice). Mark (Chipman)'s daughter and my youngest daughter played soccer together when they didn't know what soccer was when they were whatever age. 

"I've known those people for a long time. I certainly hope they have the ultimate success some day."

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