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Laine signs entry-level deal on Day 1 of Dev Camp

by Mitchell Clinton (@MClinton007) / Winnipeg Jets

WINNIPEG - Sometimes a young player signs his first NHL contract in a boardroom. Other times, a deal is reached on a phone that doesn't even belong to the prospect signing the deal.

Patrik Laine's experience was more like the former, as the second-overall selection in the 2016 NHL Draft shook hands and put pen to paper with Kevin Cheveldayoff Sunday at MTS Iceplex.

"It's quite awesome to sign my first NHL contract. I've always wanted to do that, and now I've done it. I'm proud of myself," said Laine.

His three-year entry-level contract carries an AAV of $3.575 million, which includes $2.65 million in bonuses.

Laine already knows how he wants to spend some of the money.

"I think I'm going to give the signing bonus to my parents," he said. "They have helped me so much during the way, and made this possible. I think I want to pay them back."

As for this week's camp, Laine will not be taking part in any on-ice sessions as he continues to rehab from a minor surgery he had on his knee following the NHL Combine.

So while Jets fans won't see Laine flying up the wing at Iceplex like they've watched him do at the IIHF events this season, the fans in attendance did get up close to the 6'4" Finnish product. Laine took time to sign autographs for a large gathering of Jets' faithful following a workout.

"It was quite amazing to see how many people have come here," Laine said of the attendance at Iceplex. "It's obviously a nice city and I think I'm going to love being here, and make this town my new home town."

Unlike Laine, Jamie Phillips is a veteran of development camp at the Iceplex. The on-ice sessions and off-ice workouts may be routine to him, but getting his contract signed with the team was far from routine.

Phillips agreed to a two-year entry-level contract yesterday, but it was tough for Winnipeg's management to get in touch with him that day.

"I went out of town and I forgot my phone at home. Everyone was panicking to try to find me. I had to do the deal on my girlfriend's phone. It was a little stressful," Phillips laughed. "The next morning I drove to Green Bay at 5 a.m., and flew here. It's a little bit of a whirlwind. But it's surreal. I couldn't be more excited to be a Jet."

Phillips, 23, is coming off a season where he posted a 1.97 GAA and a .922 save percentage in 36 games with Michigan Tech University. That followed a 2014-2015 campaign that saw Phillips nominated for the Mike Richter Award, which honours the most outstanding goaltender in NCAA men's hockey.

Despite the stats, the two sides still had to reach a deal before August 15 to keep Phillips from becoming a free agent.

"I knew the situation I was in," said Phillips, who was drafted in 190th overall by the Jets in 2012. "But it's part of the job and it's a business. I knew eventually something was going to happen and I couldn't be more pleased to be part of this organization.

"The team drafted me, and it's been four years as a draftee, and now I can be a prospect in the organization. It's a good feeling. The Jets have been nothing but great to me for my four years. I knew right away that I wanted to be here when they offered me (a contract)."

Speaking of Michigan and entry-level contracts, Kyle Connor (who signed his entry-level deal back on April 12) was on the ice with his fellow Jets prospects today.

The 17th overall selection in last year's NHL Draft is happy to be back in Winnipeg after a memorable season with the University of Michigan.

"At Michigan it was a lot of fun. It was a great season. I learned a lot about the game and myself," said Connor. "One of these kind of camps, you just have to go out there and try to have some fun. On the ice, you just stick to what you do well."

One look at the stats tells you what Connor does well: offense.

He finished his freshman NCAA season on a 27-game point streak, recording 35 goals and 71 points in the 38 games he played. He was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, Big 10 Hockey Conference Top Player and Top Freshman, and was named a First-Team All-Star along with his teammates JT Compher and Tyler Motte.

Both Motte (Chicago Blackhawks) and Compher (Colorado Avalanche) are in a similar position to Connor - trying to crack the NHL line-up out of training camp.

Connor believes the three players can lean on one another through the process.

"We're all kind of in the same situation, just signed, all going to development camps, and it will be all our first training camps," he said. "Definitely if you have any questions, you can lean on those two."

Training camp is a while away though. For now, Connor is using development camp, and the rest of the summer as a way to be at his best when the puck drops on training camp in September.

"Getting stronger, bigger, faster. That just comes with working out," said Connor. "I try to stay in the present right now. Control what you can control. For me it's working on getting stronger and faster, so I can come into the camp and be ready."

- Mitchell Clinton, WinnipegJets.com

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