By GREGG DRINNAN
Daily News Sports Editor
You will have to excuse Jordan DePape’s excitement level. After all, it isn’t often that a guy gets to go to camp with his hometown NHL team.
But such is the case with the Kamloops Blazers veteran right winger, who will be part of the Winnipeg Jets’ rookie team that is to participate in a tournament that opens in Penticton on the weekend.
Now about that hip . . .
“It’s OK. It’s getting there,” DePape said Monday, referring to a hip flexor injury that is keeping him off the ice. “It’s just a little tweaked thing.”
DePape started to feel the problem early in training camp. He tried to keep skating on it but that only irritates it “and it gets sorer and sorer.”
The prescription, then, has been to stay off the ice and get treatment from trainer Colin Robinson.
DePape has missed two exhibition games — a 4-2 victory over the visiting Victoria Royals on Friday and a 6-3 loss to the host Vancouver Giants on Saturday. He’s just thankful that he has two WHL seasons behind him so doesn’t feel pressure to rush back.
“Luckily enough I’ve been able to prove myself the last couple of years in the league so I didn’t have too much to worry about,” said DePape, who had 48 points, including 21 goals, in 54 games last season. “But training camp is pretty important and I’d like to be getting in shape, especially for pro camp coming up.”
DePape is scheduled to leave later this week for Winnipeg. He will spend two days there with the other Jets’ hopefuls, including former Blazers winger Shayne Wiebe, who played out his eligibility with the Brandon Wheat Kings last season. (On Dec. 13, 2009, the Blazers traded Wiebe, who is from Brandon, to the Wheat Kings in exchange for DePape, the MJHL’s rookie of the year in 2008-09 with the Winnpeg Saints.)
The rookie team then will head for Penticton and the second annual Young Stars tournament that also will feature the Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, San Jose Sharks and Vancouver Canucks. The Jets are to play their first game on Sept. 12, 4 p.m., against the Sharks.
“It’s real exciting,” DePape said. “It’s kind of like a hometown dream for a kid like me, hearing all the history of the Jets and whatnot.”
DePape got a real taste of it over the summer as he was at home in Winnipeg when the Atlanta Thrashers’ move to Winnipeg and the rebirth of the Jets became official. He and some buddies even headed downtown to witness history.
“It was about 9:30 or 10 in the morning,” he recalled. “I looked at my phone — I hadn’t had it on me — and there were about 20 missed calls from all my buddies. We went to The Forks about 11 . . . all these older people skipping work, probably lots of people getting fired, everybody wanted to be part of this event. It was just packed. Everybody had Jets wear — a lot of old-school stuff . . . it was pretty cool.”
Later in the summer, he found out that his agent, Tony Matarazzo of Titan Sports Management, had landed him a tryout with the Jets.
“It was exciting to hear the news this summer that the Jets were coming back,” DePape said. “And then, after the draft, I found out I was going to get a rookie tryout with them . . . I couldn’t be more thrilled,” he said.
Now if that hip only will co-operate.
“I’m hoping,” DePape said. “I might take another day or two off the ice. Then we’ll see how it feels on the ice. I think I’ll be good to go for camp.”
It may end up being touch-and-go, however, as head coach Guy Charron said Monday that the injury “isn’t responding” as well as Robinson would like it to. Robinson will be in touch with the Jets’ training staff before a decision will be made.
DePape is one of eight Blazers who will be joining NHL teams over the next while.
Defenceman Josh Caron, 20, and forward Dylan Willick, 19, will play for the Minnesota Wild at the annual rookie tournament in Traverse City, Mich. Also there will be defenceman Austin Madaisky, 19, with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Centres Chase Schaber and Colin Smith will be with the Edmonton Oilers on free-agent tryouts and will play in the tournament in Penticton. As well, left-winger Brendan Ranford will join the Philadelphia Flyers and right-winger J.T. Barnett is going to camp with the New Jersey Devils.
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