31 in 31 Series, July: Winnipeg Jets
The Winnipeg Jets entered the offseason on the heels of their greatest season in franchise history — 114 points and a second place finish in the Central Division — before bowing out to the Vegas Golden Knights in the Western Conference Final. By all accounts their young core took a major step in its development last year and look poised to be a contender for years to come. Kevin Cheveldayoff and the rest of the front office have done a great job in recent years, drafting and developing their system. Without a first-round pick in 2018 let’s dive into what they accomplished during June’s draft.
Round 2, 60th Overall — David Gustafsson, C, HV 71, SHL
A curious pick to say the least by the Jets as the theme in 2017 seemed to be focusing on strengthening its defensive prospects. David Gustafsson doesn’t provide much offensive ability, for now, but is a great two-way center already at the young age of 18. He’s very hard-working with good size (6-1, 197) and carries great awareness in the defensive zone. Considering the rise to prominence in the Western Conference can be grueling, Gustafsson is the type of two-way, defensively reliable center the Jets will covet in the future. It’s a safe pick, but he’s not flashy down the middle by any means and won’t carry the same type of flare that Mark Scheifele, Patrik Laine or Nikolaj Ehlers bring to the rink every night.
Round 3, 91st Overall — Nathan Smith, C, Cedar Rapids RoughRiders, USHL
Okay, so this is where the eyebrows start to get raised. Nathan Smith is what you would call a “late-bloomer.” I guess it’s not too out of the ordinary for Cheveldayoff, who took a flier on Johnathan Kovacevic in the 2017 draft as a 20-year-old, but Smith will be 19 come October and carries with him a pretty unknown history. He was once a roller hockey player in Tampa, Florida, but possesses great hands that compliment his vision to find an open teammate. Smith tallied 47 points (17 G, 30 A) in 51 games with Cedar Rapids last year and has committed to Minnesota State University (Mankato) for the 2018-19 season. Something tells me he is going to be a bit of a project with raw upside.
Round 5, 150th Overall — Declan Chisholm, D, Peterborough Petes, OHL
This could be a good value pick for the Jets down the line. Declan Chisholm is a very mobile defenseman and uses his speed to open up passing lanes through the neutral zone. The biggest plus for Chisholm is his innate hockey sense, he’s smart with the puck and skates head up with confidence to find an open teammate with a crisp outlet pass. He had a bit of a setback missing 14 games with a high-ankle sprain last year, but still managed 20 points in 47 games. He’s an intelligent player that knows when to jump in the offensive play and won’t put himself in a high-risk situation when pinching. The Jets may look back to this pick one day and tell themselves they got a steal.
Round 5, 153rd Overall — Giovanni Vallati, D, Kitchener Rangers, OHL
Ahhh yes…I see a theme develo