Winnipeg Jets 2017 Draft; reflections on previous six NHL Entry Drafts
The 2017 NHL Entry Draft is over, and the Jets and their fans have several new players to monitor over the coming years. The Jets made 8 picks in all – 3 forwards, 4 defencemen, and 1 goalie. In the first round, the Jets drafted big Finnish winger Kristian Vesalainen with the 24th pick. He had an up-and-down year, spending most of his time in the SHL, Sweden’s top pro league, where he struggled to put up numbers. However, he was dominant against his peers, being named MVP of the U-18 world championships, and leading the tournament in scoring with 13 points in 7 games. He’s over 6’3, skates very well, and has pretty good skill. While some fans were disappointed that the Jets didn’t draft a defenceman with the first selection – their prospect pool is thin on the blueline – the early consensus on the pick itself is that the Jets got a good player, and maybe even a steal. Here’s a very nice article on Vesalainen.
The Jets next selection was at 43rd overall. It’s important to remember that at this point the draft is completely wide open; there are a few major scouting services that most interested observers refer to – ISS, HockeyProspect.com, Future Considerations, Red Line Report, and McKeen’s, along with Craig Button at TSN, and Bob McKenzie (who aggregates info from NHL scouts and then tries to predict the draft order). Even for the Jets’ first pick (Vesalainen), who was almost universally considered a first-rounder, the range from scouts was from pick 9 to 34. For the Jets’ second pick – Dylan Samberg – the range was 39 to 82. Some might say the Jets reached slightly for him – coming from Minnesota High School hockey, he doesn’t have much experience playing against tougher competition – but again, by this point in the draft, there is absolutely no consensus.
The Jets made another pick in the third round which might be considered a reach taking soon-to-be 20-year-old defenceman Johnny Kovacevic at 74. He had a very nice debut in college hockey this past year, with 19 points in 36 games, and could end up being a late bloomer. However, when you’re effectively drafting a 20-year-old, the upside there is usually lower as compared to most of the other prospects, who are around 18. As for the scouting services, he came in between 72-119, if he was ranked at all.
The most intriguing value pick of the day may end up being their 4th selection at 105 overall – Finnish centre Santeri Virtanen. He missed most of the season due to a shoulder injury, but came back just in time to play for Finland at the U-18 World Championships, where he had 6 points in 7 games and impressed with his two-way play. McKeen’s has a piece that raves about him – you can read it here.
With their last four picks, the Jets took a German defenceman playing in the QMJHL – Leon Gawanke, a big Swedish goaltender – Arvid Holm, a small, skilled forward from the WHL – Skyler McKenzie, and a big defenceman playing in the North American Hockey League (where Connor Hellebuyck was drafted from in 2012) – Croix Evingson. You can find some stats here:
Overall, this draft represented a concerted effort to address the Jets’ need for young defencemen, but they also showed that they weren’t afraid to take forwards who were high on their list – namely, Vesalainen and Virtanen. Only time will tell whether/how these picks will pan out, but at first glance, it seems like the Jets have a pretty good haul here.
Jets Draft History – 2011-2017
With this year’s draft in the books, I was curious to collect some data about the Jets draft history. Here are a few facts about the Jets’ 52 draft picks since 2011:
They’ve drafted 6 goalies, 19 defencemen, and 27 forwards:
– 16/52 draft picks have played at least 1 NHL game with the Jets
– The Jets like size – 45/52 players drafted are over 6 feet tall; only 3 players are under 5’10 (Petan, De Leo, McKenzie)
– They scout heavily in North America, particularly Western Canada and the north/mid-west US
3 US Development Program, 2 NCAA, 1 US high school
5 tier-2 junior hockey in Canada (BCHL, NAHL, MJHL)
4 from european pro leagues
3 – Swedish junior leagues
2 MHL (Russian jr.)
2 – European junior leagues
8/52 players are no longer with the organization, including Matteo Gennaro, who recently went unsigned
I’ve included my (very subjective) opinions on each player – both a projection of what the player may become at the NHL or professional level, and an assessment of the value the Jets got out of the pick. For instance, even though Logan Stanley will probably play in the NHL, given that his potential is fairly low, picking him at 18 is bad value compared to the other options that were available; by the same token, Sami Niku may not play much higher in the lineup than Stanley (or he may not play at all), but for pick valuation purposes, he’s still great value based on where he was selected. Please feel free to share your opinion on any of the players who may stand out to you.