Winnipeg Jets 2017 Draft; reflections on previous six NHL Entry Drafts

Posted by Peter Siamandas in Columns,Winnipeg Jets on June 25, 2017 — 5 Comments

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.

Photo Credit: Matthew Moses

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

15 WHL
6 USHL
5 OHL
4 QMJHL
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.

  • Jeremie Vielfaure

    This was a really good article overall. I really enjoyed the statistics posted like location of the scouting and such. The only thing I would swap on the list is the ranking of Niku and Stanley. I would bring Stanley one rank up and Niku one rank down. Stanley has a great toolset just doesn’t show it numerically. Meanwhile Niku, is less of a sure thing and should be put on a lower list but I am very high on him and believe he has a great shot of making the team this year.

  • Travis

    I tend to agree with Jeremie. I get that the rationale is that their value is relative based on where they were taken, Niku in the 7th and Stanley in the 1st. And while I agree that Niku was a great find that late, and Stanley was a poor choice for a first round, it’s too soon on both to put either in those categories. Stanley especially, I think you are a little too harsh; I have him projected as a 3/4 D-man. Luke Green is ‘too soon’ but Stanley is not?

    I also am confused by Ryan Olsen’s placement. Other players with similar projection are rated higher, despite being chose at similar, or even better positions.

  • Peter Siamandas

    I agree with you Jeremie. Defencemen take longer to develop, and given that Niku is a ’96, and Stanley a ’98, they both have a long road ahead of them. I love Niku’s skating though, so once he adapts to higher levels of play and gains a bit of strength, he could be a nice addition to the 3rd pairing. Thinking it’ll be about 2 years. As for Stanley, he certainly could be more than a #5, but I think realistically, he’s going to be like a slightly more skilled version of Hall Gill. That could still put him as a 2nd pairing guy though. Overall, I still think the pick is poor value (especially after trading up and giving away the 36th pick in a deep draft), but it’s probably too soon to project accurately.

  • Peter Siamandas

    As with Jeremie’s comments, I don’t disagree with you either Travis. Stanley definitely can be more than a #5D – just my best guess at this point based on historical data and, admittedly, only a few viewings. I do think we know more about Stanley than about Green (I saw the latter play 1 game with the Moose), but I don’t think we’ll get a really good read on Stanley until until he finishes off junior and plays a full season in the AHL (2 years from now).

    As for Olsen, he’s no longer a projection – after three years, he was nothing more than a 4th line centre in the AHL, and as a result, he wasn’t qualified today by the Jets. That’s a poor outcome for any NHL draft pick. However, I didn’t do a great job of explaining how I differentiated between a guy like Olsen, and others like Appleton and Gennaro who were drafted in a similar spot and have the same listed projection. For the latter two, they still have time to be something more than just AHL’ers. Ultimately my best guess is that they won’t be regular NHL players, but I can’t write them off just yet, so that’s why their selections graded out higher than Olsen. And yes, I now see the irony of not writing them off, and yet coming down more harshly on Stanley, who is younger than each of them, and plays a position that takes longer to develop 😉

    Thanks for your comments,
    Peter

  • Jets all the way!

    Good article! Thanks for putting in the time to compile all this research.
    Overall, I am very impressed with the Jets drafting.
    As the years go by we are starting to be able to fully assess the Chevy picks, and for the most part his first rounders would have gone higher in a re-draft of that year. You can’t ask for better than that.
    I think this year will finally be our sleeper year. Looking forward to it!