Day Two of the NHL Entry Draft was much like the first, with no real surprises. More European players were taken than were expected (although some actually played in North America this season), no impact trades involving players and picks were made, and the Minnesota high school players had a tough year. The new direction of the Winnipeg Jets franchise became clear, though.
Where the prior regime (as the Atlanta Thrashers) drafted five Europeans in their last two drafts in Atlanta, Kevin Cheveldayoff’s crew has drafted none in 13 tries. Under Waddell and then Dudley, the Thrashers took chances on higher-risk players who would either make it big or not all, like Alexander Burmistrov, Carl Klingberg, Ivan Telegin and Jeremy Morin. The new incarnation of the Jets has instead looked more for the sure thing, with character. No one in the scouting community would doubt Jacob Trouba, Lucas Sutter, and Mark Schiefele are going to have long careers in the NHL. At the same time, no one would put money down that any of them will be in Las Vegas for an awards show.
The way Cheveldayoff has chosen his coaching staff and managed the roster this past season demonstrates the new Jets are dedicated to building incrementally and looking to create a consistent playoff competitor. The franchise has left the casino and now toils on the shop floor. It reminds me of Dean Lombardi’s San Jose Sharks, who improved their point total for six years from 1997 to 2002. As owner Mark Chipman has done in his business career, the Jets will look to add something each year without losing what they have. The upside for the fans is not having “lost years” where no one pays attention to the team when they are out of contention early (as happened so often in Atlanta). The downside can be if the team is good but never great, as happened to the first chapter of the Minnesota Wild. But since Wild fans now miss those days, that is not such a bad risk.