What a whirlwind of an NHL season we just saw and for the Winnipeg Jets they appeared to be one of the teams overwhelmed by the league’s return to play format. Drawing the short end of the stick and forced to play in the qualifying round, the Jets were bounced 3-1 by the Calgary Flames (and if you want to be technical, you could say they actually “missed” the playoffs).
After reaching the Western Conference Finals in 2018, the Jets seemed like a team on the rise and ready to break through to potentially become the first Canadian team to hoist the Stanley Cup since the Montreal Canadiens accomplished the feat in 1993. However, it’s been back-to-back playoff disappointments — unable to get out of the first round — and it appears the front office may need to rethink their strategy.
Kevin Cheveldayoff has only made nine selections over the last two draft years, so the prospect pool appears rather thin at the moment. Let’s meet the four draft picks from the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.
Cole Perfetti, C (Saginaw Spirit / OHL) – 1st Round, 10th Overall
Many in the hockey world were surprised that Perfetti fell as far as he did — I was certainly one of them. It was easy to make the connection that the Detroit Red Wings would take him fourth overall, playing his junior hockey down the highway in Saginaw, but for months it would appear the young center was destined to be a top five pick. The Jets have to be ecstatic that Perfetti fell into their laps and with elite skating ability and a quick release, this kid has all the makings to be an absolute stud at the top of the lineup for many years to come. This is a smart pick by Cheveldayoff as Perfetti should slot nicely into the second center role right behind Mark Scheifele to form a great one-two punch.
Daniel Torgersson, RW (Frolunda HC / SHL) – 2nd Round, 40th Overall
In the second round, the Jets elected for some size up front with the 6-3 205-pound Togersson. He has tremendous strength and balance on his skates, making it extremely difficult for opposing defenders to gain the upper hand and knock him off the puck. Torgersson is also a pain to deal with in front of the net and with his powerful stride, he could be a dominating power forward in this lineup for years to come. He’s a solid two-way player that the coaching staff can trust in all situations and the Jets can be confident in this selection.
Anton Johannesson, D (HV71 J20 / J20 Nationell) – 5th Round, 133rd Overall
Cheveldayoff kept the theme going by selecting another Swede in Johannesson. At first glance, he’s a short-statured player at just 5-9 and 154 lbs, but he has a great offensive mind and is very smart with the puck. Many scouts had Johannesson higher up their draft boards and for him to fall this far may be a blessing in disguise for the Jets. Johannesson has tremendous speed and is such a smooth skater that he can work his way out of high danger situations in the defensive zone with relative ease. Considering the Jets have plenty of defensemen on their active roster and in the pipeline, they can afford to be patient with the young Swede and let him work on his development overseas for a few years.
Tyler Bauer, D (Seattle Thunderbirds / WHL) – 6th Round, 164th Overall
This pick was certainly a change of pace from the Johannesson one as the Jets finished their draft day with the 6-3, 206-pound Bauer. This is a great pick for the Jets, adding a hard-nosed, tough defenseman to their prospect group. The 18-year-old served as an alternate captain for the Thunderbirds during the 2019-20 season and was a locker room favorite by his teammates. Bauer won’t blow anyone away on the stat sheet, but he brings a fearless effort each night, willing to play physical and block shots to help his team get a win.
New Arrivals: Paul Stastny, Nate Thompson, Dominic Toninato, Dylan DeMelo, Derek Forbort and Luca Sbisa
The Jets had a quiet offseason with their most notable signings being the trio of Dylan DeMelo, Derek Forbort and Nate Thompson. DeMelo played the last two seasons with the Ottawa Senators and now joins the Jets on a four-year, $12-million deal. This signing will help bolster the top four on the back end and the addition of Forbort brings a veteran, physical presence on the bottom pair.
As for Thompson, he solidifies the bottom six forward group and is the type of reliable two-way center that Paul Maurice can rely on for an important defensive zone draw or to kill a penalty.
The biggest fish that the Jets front office hauled in this year was Paul Stastny. He was acquired from the Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for defenseman Carl Dahlstrom and a conditional fourth-round pick in 2022.
Stastny is a familiar face in Winnipeg, having played with the Jets in the latter half of the 2017-18 season. This is a great addition considering Bryan Little is planted on injured reserve and it allows (Cole) Perfetti the opportunity to grow and develop before making the jump permanently to the NHL. The Jets will be hoping that Stastny can rekindle some magic on that second line with Nikolaj Ehlers and Patrik Laine that was integral to their deep playoff run in 2018.
Returning: Mason Appleton, Jansen Harkins, Nathan Beaulieu, Sami Niku and Laurent Brossoit