Friday, July 3, 2015

Jets Land Great Haul At Draft

Ben is a hockey nut and a recent university graduate. Like most post-uni grads he's unemployed and wants to make himself feel better by writing about something he loves. As always feel free to comment on his work or chirp him @BennyGallant
The Winnipeg Jets were able to make it to the playoffs after an incredible season for the first time since landing north of the border back in 2011. On top of their postseason berth, the Jets added to a great year with one of the best drafts in the NHL in 2015 by drafting some of the top talent that was sliding down the draft board. The Jets have really garnered a good prospect pool since coming back to Winnipeg which is shocking considering when leaving Atlanta Carl Klingberg and Arturs Kulda were some of the franchise's top prospects in the system.
The Jets had a pair of first round picks with their extra coming from the Evander Kane trade from St. Louis via Buffalo, as well as a pair of sevenths with the extra coming from dealing Eddie Pasquale to the Capitals. The team was without a fifth round pick however due to reuniting a long, separated Czech family with the Jiri Tlusty deal and qualifying for the playoffs making the conditional 6th rounder a 5th.

First Round

Considered a surefire, top 10 prospect and ranked as high as fifth overall by someKyle Connor, plays an extremely well-rounded game for a 18-year-old and will attend the University of Michigan this fall. Connor’s an impressive skater and has so many tools offensively and could easily be a future top 6 centre, especially with the Jets seeming to want to go for speed and two-way players down the middle like Little and Scheifele.

Jack Roslovic is a highly skilled winger that fit in with both Auston Matthews and Matthew Tkachuk on the US U-18 team; some scouts even said he made those already elite players better. His stats are out of this world and he was named a top three player on his U-18 team. Roslovic will go to the NCAA where he’ll need to work on his defensive play and bulk up to play at the NCAA level, but he’s a pretty good prospect to grab with a late first round pick when you’re gifted Kyle Connor.

Rounds Two and Three

A late ranked first round pick, Jansen Harkins, is everything you want in a third line center at the next level and he knows that. He has a two-way game, plays an incredible blue collar game and is very good on faceoffs. Harkins captained Canadian teams in the past and was an assistant captain of the Prince George Cougars last year in the WHL. Harkins is a better playmaker than goal scorer and there’s potential he’s able to break out offensively and find the next gear. Harkins could be a good second line center in the mold of a David Krejci, but Harkins will likely be the perfect third line center for the Jets behind players like Connor and Roslovic who have higher-end offensive skills.

Erik Foley’s a nice offensive player who is a good hitter and gets under the skin of opposing players. He’s not the best skater in the draft, but he’s very good at taking a couple steps to get into open positions to put the puck into the back of the net. He’s a little out of place in his role by being a smaller agitator, but guys like Brad Marchand have carved out the same role so it wouldn’t be surprising to see Foley as a middle-six forward.

The Rest (Rounds 4-7)

You can read my scouting report of the speedy, all-around Michael Spacek at Dobber Hockey here.

The Jets picked formed USHS stand out and 3rd overall pick in the USHL draft, Mason Appleton, in the 6th round. While Appleton went undrafted last year, he was able to get back into the draft rankings this year with a strong year in the USHL, especially in the second half of the season and playoffs. Appleton will go to Michigan State University next season and at 6’2”, 198 lbs he has good size for a center. Given the Jets depth down the middle currently and collected from this draft he’ll likely have to slide to the wing or be a reliable defensive forward to make the jump to the NHL.

The thin, Finnish defenceman, Sami Niku, has shown flashes of brilliance over time and has really skyrocketed in his development this past season posting 25 points at the second-highest Finnish hockey league, the Mestis. If he’s able to keep his offensive development path on track, Niku could be a nice pick for the Jets as an all-around top four defenceman. If not, there’s a chance he could be a bottom pairing defensive guy, but at 6’0” and 180 pounds that’s unlikely.

Matteo Gennaro started the year with fellow Jets prospect Josh Morrissey before Morrissey was traded prior to the World Juniors. Gennaro is a defensive forward with a slender 6’1”, 180 lbs frame. He was able to chip in a bit offensively with 30 points, however he won’t ever be a dynamic offensive player. In the long run, Gennaro could be a nice option as a 4th line centre if he’s able to put on some weight and work on his face-offs.

Overall grade: B

The Jets were able to find a lot of talent that fell in the draft, but the team was unable to draft a goalie, which is not a cardinal sin but is usually best to always take one. A lot of question marks in the players they selected later on in the draft as well, but the 6th and 7th rounds are always bonuses to get NHL players out of. The Jets future centres could be something like Connor – Roslovic – Harkins – Gennaro which would make this an incredible draft, but it’s just not likely and they really should have selected more than one d-man as they have a need for them in their system.


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