Shayne Wiebe's professional hockey career is ready for takeoff in the Winnipeg Jets' organization.
The Jets have signed the 21-year-old Brandonite to an American Hockey League deal, likely ticketing him to start his first pro season with Winnipeg's affiliate in St. John's, N.L.
"It's pretty exciting," said Wiebe, who wrapped up his Western Hockey League career by notching 44 goals and 65 points last season as the captain of the Brandon Wheat Kings. "Just knowing where you're going to go is kind of a relieving thing and especially with a team like the Jets, that's a big honour, too."
Wiebe is thrilled to be in the system of Manitoba's new National Hockey League team and he's equally impressed by the Jets' commitment to local players. Since arriving in Winnipeg, the Jets have acquired former Wheat Kings sniper Eric Fehr of Winkler and signed Winnipeggers Derek Meech and Kevin Clark, who both played in the AHL last season.
"It's not only good for the players, it's going to help (the Jets) out, too, with people coming to the games," Wiebe said. "Watching games is always more intriguing when you know somebody or know a friend of a friend. It's definitely exciting to watch that team and I think it'll not only help their team, but guys will love it and enjoy playing in their home province."
After Wiebe finished his season with the Wheat Kings, the 6-foot-0, 190-pound left-winger joined the AHL's Connecticut Whale for the rest of their campaign, getting into a single game. It wasn't a long stint, but he believes it gives him a good heads-up about what to expect as a rookie.
"Any little bit can help that you get in and I think going down there really showed me what it's like and I kinda got the roots a little bit," he said.
Among the things he learned during that stint with the pro club is the kind of work he's going to have to put in to make a good impression with the Jets come training camp.
"It's pretty nice knowing that they want me to play there, (but) you can't really take anything for granted," he said. "You've got to go in there and still prove that you can be there and you want to be there and try and work your way up."
PLANTE SIGNS DEAL: Brandonite Tyler Plante has signed a new contract with the NHL's Florida Panthers.
The 24-year-old goalie has played four seasons in Florida's system after being chosen by the Panthers in the second round of the 2005 NHL draft.
He played 35 AHL games last season with the Rochester Americans, going 13-17-2 with a 3.12 goals-against average and a .909 save percentage.
ONE-TIMERS: The WHL's Calgary Hitmen have acquired G Chris Driedger, 17, from the Tri-City Americans for a third-round pick in the 2012 bantam draft.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition July 21, 2011 B1