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Byfuglien excited about NHL's return to Manitoba

Saturday, 25.06.2011 / 3:32 PM / Feature
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Byfuglien excited about NHL\'s return to Manitoba
Dustin Byfuglien - the closest thing to a hometown star with Winnipeg\'s new franchise - is excited for NHL hockey\'s return to Manitoba.
ST. PAUL – Winnipeg is new territory for most members of the recently relocated franchise now known as the Jets.

The current Jets roster doesn't feature any Manitoba-born players, so 2010 playoffs scoring star-turned-defenseman Dustin Byfuglien might have to serve as the club's honorary Manitoban. Byfuglian, who grew up in Roseau, Minn., stopped by the NHL Entry Draft on Saturday morning.

Roseau is a two-hour trip from Winnipeg – a short hop by prairie standards – and Byfuglien logged a brief stint with the Western Hockey League's Brandon Wheat Kings at the start of his junior career. Brandon is a quick drive down the Trans-Canada Highway and the team counts new Winnipeg senior vice president and general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff and executive vice president and director of hockey operations/assistant general manager Craig Heisinger among its alumni.

Since then, Byfuglien's career has blossomed. The 26-year-old won a Stanley Cup in 2010 with Chicago, where Cheveldayoff then served as an assistant general manager. A trade last summer that included Winnipeg captain Andrew Ladd sent Byfuglien to the former Atlanta franchise, and Byfuglien delivered a career-best season with 20 goals and 33 assists over 81 games after becoming a fulltime defenseman.

Now Byfuglien is on the move again, though this journey will bring him closer to Roseau. Byfuglien said he expects more requests from his family. Given that Winnipeg sold 13,000 season-ticket deposits in just four days and a Jets ticket could be among the most sought-after in the League, it may not be easy for Byfuglien.

But Byfuglien said he believes that a full MTS Centre is going to be a tremendous boost for the Jets. What's more, he expressed support for True North Sports & Entertainment Limited's decision to respond to intense public fervour for the club to adopt the Jets name.

"It's going to be fun," Byfuglien said. "It's going to be exciting. Any time you have a full building behind you, it's just like having another player on the ice."

Winnipeg's oft-discussed winter climate will not be an issue, Byfuglien predicted.

The Jets in turn hope to repay the local enthusiasm by delivering a hard-working club with a young core that is beginning to find its way in the League.  The former Atlanta franchise reached the Stanley Cup playoffs only in over 11 seasons, and the club has not played a postseason game since 2007. But Byfuglien sees reason for hope.

"It will be a fun team to watch," Byfuglien said. "Everyone should be excited. I think we're more than capable of making [the playoffs], and there is no reason that we should be satisfied with not making it."

Yet another change for Byfuglien and his teammates is new head coach Claude Noel, who will in turn hire an all-new coaching staff.

"Good guy -- I have no problems so far," Byfuglien said, smiling.

Author: Patrick Williams | NHL.com Correspondent

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 NSH 62 41 14 7 188 147 89
2 ANA 63 39 17 7 186 176 85
3 STL 61 39 18 4 190 152 82
4 CHI 63 37 21 5 183 150 79
5 WPG 63 31 20 12 174 170 74
6 VAN 61 35 23 3 174 162 73
7 MIN 61 32 22 7 173 160 71
8 LAK 61 29 20 12 164 157 70
9 CGY 62 33 25 4 175 160 70
10 SJS 62 30 24 8 173 177 68
11 COL 62 27 24 11 166 179 65
12 DAL 62 27 25 10 195 207 64
13 ARI 62 20 35 7 137 210 47
14 EDM 62 18 34 10 142 206 46

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
B. Little 63 24 26 9 50
A. Ladd 63 20 30 12 50
B. Wheeler 61 16 28 12 44
D. Byfuglien 63 15 26 6 41
M. Perreault 56 18 18 3 36
M. Scheifele 63 10 25 4 35
M. Frolik 63 13 19 3 32
D. Stafford 57 10 17 -18 27
J. Tlusty 53 13 10 -17 23
E. Kane 37 10 12 -1 22
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
M. Hutchinson 18 7 5 .920 2.29
O. Pavelec 13 13 7 .909 2.60
 
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