The Winnipeg Jets were bold and active at the National Hockey League draft, and their return on investment could be huge.
The Jets, who have proven unafraid to buck conventional wisdom in the past, walked away with one of the deepest prospect pools from New Jersey in one of the deepest drafts in recent memory. Their haul began with the silky-smooth offensive defenceman from the Prince Albert Raiders, Josh Morrissey, who could be the perfect complementary defensive partner to last year’s first rounder, Jacob Trouba.
Morrissey’s pick was bold considering many pegged the eventual 13th-overall pick around the late teens or early 20’s. Although some view him as a potential boom or bust prospect, his future looks even more solid when considering the potential dynamic duo he could form with Trouba. Their styles are perfectly aligned for success in the Manitoba capital.
As promising as Morrissey is to the Jets’ future, their draft was made perhaps even more promising after seizing the sellers’ market on second round picks, sending the 61st pick to Washington for picks 84, 114 and 127.
The Jets walked away with supremely-talented Portland Winterhawks pivot Nicolas Petan in the second round, along with sliding goalie prospect Eric Comrie. Petan shared the Western Hockey League lead in points with 120 this season, while Comrie was once considered in the same range as Zachary Fucale, before an injury seemingly left him out of sight, out of mind.
Jimmy Lodge was taken with the first pick acquired in the trade-down with Washington, while Jan Kostalek was selected with the second of those three picks. Add in JC Lipon in the third round, and the Jets could realistically have six future pros in a lot featuring a little bit of everything.
The Jets may walk away happiest with their draft, but the proof will be in the pudding once these prospects reach the NHL. For the sake of instant analysis, however, here are the draft winners and losers.
The Columbus Blue Jackets were in a great position to turn their franchise around, and the future looks quite bright for new general manager Jarmo Kekalainen. The Blue Jackets used those three picks on forwards Alexander Wennberg, Kerby Rychel and Marko Dano, a blend of skill, grit and work ethic – three qualities Kekalainen is known to covet.
Columbus also drafted imposing defensive defenceman Dillon Heatherington and skilled forward Oliver Bjorkstrand in the next rounds, making his new team’s haul one of the most impressive. With this group of prospects, the Blue Jackets are assembling a team that will be hard to play against in the near future.
The Nashville Predators must feel like someone was smiling down on them. Holding the fourth-overall pick, the Preds knew they would get one of the top four players in the draft, but few would have anticipated it to be Portland defenceman Seth Jones. After losing Ryan Suter to free agency last year, Suter’s replacement arrived in the offensively-gifted rearguard.
Nashville should also have a few other future pros with tough defender Jonathan Diaby, and utility forward Felix Girard – a defensive specialist with character and leadership qualities.
Two of the most talented, and most promising defensive prospects landed in Buffalo. Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov will give the future of the Sabres a blend of offence, defence, and physical play. The Sabres also drafted several forwards with varying upside, including Justin Bailey, the son of former Buffalo Bills linebacker, Carlton Bailey. Calvin Petersen, considered one of the prized goaltending prospects available, also became a Sabre after a slide.
No goalie slid further in proximity to their perceived worth, however, than Fucale, who is considered a future starter. The Montreal Canadiens may have landed the eventual successor to Carey Price in Fucale with their third pick of the draft.
The Canadiens addressed their need for size with Michael McCarron in the first round, then nabbed gritty, two-way Swedish forward Jacob de la Rose in the second. Montreal went for a few home run swings with Sven Andrighetto, Martin Reway and Jeremy Gregoire – a trio of forwards that could overcome draft status to carve out NHL futures.
The cost of winning a Stanley Cup and coming within two games of another was present for the Boston Bruins. Boston had just six picks in the draft, with their first coming at the end of the second round. Although their first two picks, Swedish defenceman Linus Arnesson and Slovakian forward Peter Cehlarik, could develop into pros, there’s a chance the Bruins may never see one player drafted suit up for them in the future.
The St. Louis Blues were also without many options after trading many of their picks. Without a first rounder, the Blues’ first pick came at No. 47. American defenceman Tommy Vannelli, who has progressed nicely in the second half of the year, and William Carrier, who missed most of the season with an injury, are both gambles. Their other two picks, Zachary Pochiro and Santeri Saari, are mid-to-late rounders that may have minimal pro futures.
Notes: The Calgary Flames finally addressed their need for a center with Sean Monahan at No. 6, but went with a risky pick at 22 in Gatineau’s Emile Poirier. Regina forward Morgan Klimchuk completed their trio of first-rounders. … The Vancouver Canucks surprised many by trading Cory Schneider for the ninth-overall pick. They used the pick to take Bo Horvat, a solid future pro, but one can’t help but wonder about the peculiar decision in trading Schneider – and receiving less than his perceived value. … A fitting moment with the draft in New Jersey came late in the seventh round when Martin Brodeur announced the Devils’ last pick, his son, fellow goaltender Anthony Brodeur. … The Phoenix Coyotes drafted Portland goalie Brendan Burke, son of their goaltending coach and former NHLer, Sean Burke.