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 developing here. The Jets stick to their guns and take another defenseman (also in the OHL) just a few picks later in the fifth round. Giovanni Vallati is an excellent skater that isn’t shy when it comes to jumping in on the rush. His speed allows him to beat most forecheckers in his defensive zone and he has been working to hone his skills defensively. Vallati also possesses a good, hard shot from the point and appears to have an untapped offensive potential — 26 points in 65 games with the Kitchener Rangers last season. The biggest plus is that he refined and simplified his game last year, which should lead to fewer high-danger chances in his own end.
Round 6, 184th Overall — Jared Moe, G, Waterloo Black Hawks, USHL
The Jets already have a pretty deep goaltending core with the likes of Connor Hellebuyck, Eric Comrie and Mikhail Berdin, but one more can’t hurt, right? Jared Moe turned 19 this summer and has committed to the University of Minnesota for the 2018-19 season. He was really good for the Waterloo Black Hawks last season, finishing with a 23-6-0, 2.23 GAA and .919 SV% in 32 games. With good size (6-3, 205) and agility, Moe squares to the shooter well and swallows up most rebounds to limit secondary chances. It will be interesting to keep an eye on his development in the NCAA and see if he can take what he learns at the college level and translate it one day to the pro game.
Round 7, 215th Overall — Austin Wong, C, Okotoks Oilers, AJHL
Talk about a flier, but I guess it is the final round of the draft after all. Austin Wong is a relative unknown that played for the Okotoks Oilers in the AJHL (Alberta Jr. A League) last season. He had a strong campaign tallying 54 points (25 G, 29 A) in 55 games, which was good enough for fourth on the team in scoring. Wong will turn 18 in August and will take his talents to Harvard University in the fall. It’s worth noting that he’s not shy when it comes to mixing things up as he led the entire AJHL with 253 PIM last season. Potential pest for the Jets one day? Maybe.
Development Camp Notes:
The Jets didn’t waste any time kicking off their development camp on June 26 right at home in Winnipeg at the Bell MTS Iceplex. The camp featured a few prospect standouts, including AHL Rookie of the Year Mason Appleton and 2017 first-round pick Kristian Vesalainen. All six of the Jets’ 2018 draft picks were also in attendance. In total, 30 players took to the ice and you can find the complete list here: https://globalnews.ca/news/4294473/winnipeg-jets-release-details-of-development-camp/
The Jets kept busy in-house despite not being able to retain deadline day rental, Paul Stastny, who left for greener pastures in Vegas. However, all-in-all they extended 12 players so far this summer and most notable were the signings of Connor Hellebuyck and Jacob Trouba. Hellebuyck was a 2018 Vezina Trophy runner-up and inked a 6-year, $37-million extension with the club — that’s going to make things complicated for Eric Comrie’s hopes of being the starter one day. And, Trouba went to arbitration where he was granted a 1-year, $5.5-million deal. Below is the list of players the Jets brought back:
Joe Morrow — SPC, 1 year/$1,000,000
Cameron Schilling — SPC, 1 year/$650,000
Seth Griffith — SPC, 1 year/$650,000
Dennis Everberg — SPC, 1 year/$650,000
Laurent Brossoit — SPC, 1 year/$650,000
Connor Hellebuyck — SPC, 6 year/$37,000,000
Adam Lowry — SPC, 3 year/$8,750,000
Jacob Trouba — SPC, 1 year/$5,500,000
Brandon Tanev — SPC, 1 year/$1,150,000
Tucker Poolman — SPC, 3 year/$2,325,000
Marko Dano — SPC, 1 year/$800,000
Since last year’s 31-in-31 series, the Jets have also dipped into their farm system and signed some of their prospects to entry level deals. Most notably, C.J. Suess, coming off his senior year as captain of the Minnesota State University (Mankato) squad and finishing with 43 points in 40 games. Suess will likely challenge for an NHL roster spot out of training camp, and if not, I’m sure he will have a cup of coffee with the Jets at some point this season. The list of entry-level signings is below:
Luke Green — ELC, 3 years/$2,590,000
C.J. Suess — ELC, 1 year/$925,000
Mikhail Berdin — ELC, 3 years/$2,300,000
Skyler McKenzie — ELC, 3 years/$2,225,000
It’s worth noting that three key pieces to the Jets’ core of young players remain unsigned to this point. RFA’s Eric Comrie, Joshua Morrissey and Nicolas Petan are still without contracts, but have been tendered qualifying offers by the front office. We will keep any eye on those negotiations to see how they pan out.
Questions or concerns? Feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @jamiezadow.