This article can be found published on the Daily Local News‘ website.
Jimmy Lodge may have missed hearing his name called at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft by the Winnipeg Jets as he was standing outside the building, but he didn’t miss it when the Jets offered him an entry-level contract.
The 20-year-old right wing from Downingtown signed the three-year, two-way contract, which has an average annual value of $805,000, and was announced by the big club March 20.
“I was in contact with my agent and he was giving me updates,” Lodge said during a phone interview while on the road with the St. John’s IceCaps. “I actually wasn’t nervous at all and was pretty happy with my season and happy I was able to sign with the Jets.”
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In the NHL, once a player is drafted by a team, there is a two-year span during which the team can sign its drafted player to a contract before becoming a free agent.
Lodge was aware of the situation and played his best to make sure he stayed on Winnipeg’s radar.
“It’s a long process,” he said. “Once you’re drafted, they have any chance to sign you. You just always play hard and make sure you’re making the best impression. This year, my second year to get signed, I knew it was more important than my first year because I either become a free agent or I sign with the Jets.”
This past season alone, Lodge had 18 points in 18 games with Saginaw before being traded to Mississauga, where he had 45 points (18 goals, 27 assists) in 40 games.
Combined, that made him over a point-per-game player.
“(The Jets) have two head developments guys and they oversee all the prospects with the Jets and always coming to my games at least once a month,” Lodge said. “Then there are always scouts with the Jets watching the OHL, so they see me almost every game. They’re in contact with me about what I need to do or how I’m playing and they give me updates. They would get with me and let me know how I was doing and what they think.”
His season must have been enough to make an impact on the Jets organization as not only did he sign the contract, but the Jets also moved him up to the IceCaps — the AHL affiliate of Winnipeg.
“It’s definitely different than when I was playing junior hockey,” Lodge said. “I just got out here (March 25), so I’ve just been practicing with the team. I’m hoping next weekend I’ll get in the lineup or play the last six games. I don’t think they’re making the playoffs, so hopefully I get into the lineup for the last six games of the season.”
The move by the Jets is a way for its prospects to get acquainted with the speed and skill sets of pro-level players.
“I’m with another guy in a similar situation and I think they’re expecting us to turn pro next year so what they are doing right now is giving us a learning experience to see how the pro level is played and how it’s different than what we were playing before with just 16 to 21 year olds,” Lodge said. “Now it’s grown men — people with families and 20- to 40-year-old guys on the team. It’s a different game. Right now, we’re just out here trying to learn and get ready for next season.”
Whether he gets to play or not this season, the experience will be invaluable as Lodge continues to make strides toward his ultimate goal of making the NHL and staying up there — something which has never been done before by a Chester County native (Matt Campanale of Chester Springs played one game in the NHL in 2010-11 with the New York Islanders).
That fact alone makes Lodge a bit of a superstar in the area as friends, family and even fans follow his progress.
“I grew up there and made a lot of buddies,” he said. “It’s my hometown state. I’m glad to see people are keeping in touch and are excited for me.”
The contract with the Jets gives Lodge the ability to cross another dream off his list, though he knows it’s still a tough road to make the Jets.
“It’s kind of what I’ve been playing for my whole life,” he said. “To get a contract with an NHL team is a dream come true, but this is just another step toward making the NHL. I have to still work hard and make that NHL team.”