WINNIPEG -- When Jansen Harkins put on a Winnipeg Jets jersey at the NHL Draft in Florida, he was about to begin a circuit of media interviews, photo shoots, and autograph signings.
Fast-forward less than two weeks to development camp, and Harkins is still enjoying every minute.
“Any time you get to put on an NHL jersey or even talk to anyone in the NHL, it's exciting,” the 47th overall pick said. “You don't really do much of that until this past year. It definitely hasn't gotten
old, and I really enjoy being in Winnipeg.”
The Cleveland, Ohio native is getting his first taste of life as a professional hockey player this week. All he wants out of this camp, is to put his best foot forward.
“I think there's always going to be nerves. You want to make a good first impression and that's what I'm trying to do,” he said. “And also conduct myself off the ice, and show what type of player I am and the type of person I am.”
Harkins is quite the player. He won the Dan Hamhuis award as the Prince George Cougars’ most valuable player this season, after he notched 20 goals and added a franchise-record 59 assists. But even with that success, Harkins knows he has to temper his personal expectations this week.
“It's July so you can't hold yourself to too high of expectations. You're going to have al title bit of rust and some nerves being at your first development camp,” he said. “Just coming here and trying to take as much as I can and learn from all the players, because there are some real good players here.”
One only has to grab a list of players at this year’s development camp to see the quality of players that are on the ice each day. Winnipeg Jets Assistant General Manager, Craig Heisinger, agrees
with Harkins’ assessment in regards to expectations this week.
“You don't want to put successes or failures into a camp in July," said Heisinger. "It's more of them getting to know us, and us getting to know them, and them getting to know teammates that they'll grow up with in the next few years. That's more of what it's about, and getting to know the city of Winnipeg.”
Getting to know Winnipeg is a big part of development camp. In fact, a lot of activities happen away from the rink, to assist the prospects in acclimating to Manitoba’s capital. Also important, learning how to be a professional off the ice.
“I think the off ice is about helping them learn to train and helping on the nutrition side. It's all about a learning curve,” said Heisinger. “It's all about integrating them to what it's going to be like to be a Winnipeg Jet. Introducing them to Jimmy Roy, Mike Keane, and Dr. Craig Slaunwhite, so they get a feel for the strength and conditioning aspect, and the nutrition aspect. It gives them some
foundation and some blocks to build on.”
Harkins is getting a sense of what it’s like to be a Winnipeg Jet. The amount of fans in the stands so far this week has been eye-opening for the 18-year-old.
“The fan support here is crazy,” he said with a smile. “Playing junior hockey you never get fans out to any practices, and there's a few thousand out here. I'm really proud to be part of this organization.”
Winnipeg Jets Assistant General Manager Craig Heisinger spoke with the media after Sunday’s ice sessions about how things are progressing with the Manitoba Moose this off-season.
“It's certainly different from when the Manitoba Moose were here before,” he said. “It's a prospect-laden and a prospect-driven product and that's pretty exciting.
“We'll certainly have a core of veterans around there to push the ship in the right direction and teach the young guys what it is to be professionals. We have a good core of young players that understand what it means to be professionals, you see some of them carry themselves around the rink now after they've been to two or three development camps, it's very impressive.”
The excitement for the Moose to return isn’t only coming from the fans buying season tickets, mini packs, and merchandise. Heisinger says he can feel it within the organization as well.
“It's all coming together. I think it's going to be functional, it's going to be exciting. I think it's going to be good for the players,” Heisinger said. “There are some infrastructure things that are going to take some time to develop. You don't want to put things etched in stone, you want things to evolve and see how they work. I think the organization from the top down, at least for me through the trainers, are pretty excited that it's here.”
-- Mitchell Clinton, WinnipegJets.com