A gem for the Jets at No. 20

The Winnipeg Jets won’t be on the outside looking in Friday night.

The inevitable split with stud defenceman Jacob Trouba returned something that was once theirs and, undoubtedly, energized the club’s amateur scouting staff in the process. Shipping Trouba to the New York Rangers earlier this week yielded fellow blue-liner Neal Pionk and, more importantly, the 20th overall selection in the 2019 NHL Draft.

The pick originally belonged to Winnipeg but was property of the Rangers following the Jets’ acquisition of centre Kevin Hayes at the February trade deadline.

2019 NHL DRAFT

Click to Expand

Rogers Arena in Vancouver

Round 1, Friday, 7 p.m. (Sportsnet)

Rounds 2-7, Saturday, noon. (Sportsnet)

The Jets will now be active participants on Day 1 in Vancouver, albeit with a late selection that likely won’t produce an immediate roster player but should still garner a glitzy prospect.

Earlier this week, an NHL scout with decades of experience monitoring the progression of players across North America characterized this year’s draft class as “one of the most talented and deep in a long time, particularly at the forward position.”

And he assures Jets followers the Central Division squad will mine a gem at No. 20.

“(General manager) Kevin Cheveldayoff is going to get a tremendous player with that pick. This is really good draft. Teams shouldn’t be worried about the first round at all, because you’re going to get a great player,” said the scout, who asked not to be named. “If you have the 20th pick, you’re laughing. It all depends what the Jets want on draft day. They probably want another forward, but I still think they take the best player possible.”

ROUND 1 order of selection

1. New Jersey

2. NY Rangers

3. Chicago

4. Colorado (from Ottawa)

5. Los Angeles

1. New Jersey

2. NY Rangers

3. Chicago

4. Colorado (from Ottawa)

5. Los Angeles

6. Detroit

7. Buffalo

8. Edmonton

9. Anaheim

10. Vancouver

11. Philadelphia

12. Minnesota

13. Florida

14. Arizona

15. Montreal

16. Colorado

17. Vegas

18. Dallas

19. Ottawa (from Columbus)

20. Winnipeg (from NY Rangers, originally Winnipeg’s pick)

21. Pittsburgh

22. Los Angeles (from Toronto)

23. NY Islanders

24. Nashville

25. Washington

26. Calgary

27. Tampa Bay

28. Carolina

29. Anaheim (from San Jose, originally Buffalo’s pick)

30. Boston

31. Buffalo (from St. Louis)

As is his way, Cheveldayoff won’t tip his hand on whether or not he’s working the phones to move up or down in the opening round.

A year ago, he and Mark Hillier, director of amateur scouting, were absent from the podium in Round 1 after relinquishing their pick (29th) to St. Louis for centre Paul Stastny. (The Blues later flipped the pick to the Toronto Maple Leafs, who chose defenceman Rasmus Sandin.)

The prospect of sitting idly by for a second consecutive year didn’t befit a Jets organization that banks on the draft-and-develop strategy.

There are intriguing decisions to be made at Rogers Arena as the Jets stockpile talented young players that come not only with the potential to be impactful on the ice but also with several years of cost control, a must-have in the NHL’s salary-cap era. If there’s an area to shore up, it’s the Jets’ forward depth — particularly at centre.

Winnipeg Jets Executive Vice President & General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff

JOHN WOODS / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES

Winnipeg Jets Executive Vice President & General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff

Winnipeg already has defencemen Sami Niku, Tucker Poolman and Nelson Nogier — who have all spent time with the big club — knocking on the door for full-time employment, while 6-7, 230-pound Logan Stanley, a first-rounder in 2016, has taken strides to make the jump from the American Hockey League as well.

And a solid pipeline of blue-line prospects also includes 2017 second-round pick Dylan Samberg, who helped the University of Minnesota (Duluth) Bulldogs win back-to-back U.S. college championships and will return to school in the fall, and Johnny Kovacevic, selected one round after Samberg, who joined the Manitoba Moose in March after signing a two-year deal with Winnipeg.

Up front, Mason Appleton, who had 10 points in 36 games for the Jets last year, and Kristian Vesalainen, the club’s first-round pick two years ago, will likely be given every opportunity to make the 2019-20 roster. C.J. Suess, who had a fine 2018 training camp and solid start to the season with the Moose (eight goals in 26 games) before suffering a season-ending upper-body injury in December, will look to bounce back, while 19-year-old Swedish centre David Gustafsson, a second-round pick last summer, just signed his first pro deal and will play for Moose coach Pascal Vincent.

Jets draft picks

Round 1 — 20th overall (acquired from NY Rangers in the Jacob Trouba trade)

2nd round — 51st

3rd round — none (sent to Vegas at the 2017 expansion draft)

Round 1 — 20th overall (acquired from NY Rangers in the Jacob Trouba trade)

2nd round — 51st

3rd round — none (sent to Vegas at the 2017 expansion draft)

4th round — 113th

5th round — 134th (acquired from Philadelphia in the Kevin Hayes trade)

5th round — 144th

6th round — none (sent to Buffalo in the Nathan Beaulieu trade)

7th round — none (sent to Montreal with Joel Armia and Steve Mason for Simon Bourque in a salary dump last summer)

There aren’t many blue-chippers after that, so Cheveldayoff and his scouting staff should have their eyes set on replenishing the organization’s forward depth. Winnipeg has four more picks to make Saturday — but the focus is on Friday night.

There are 10 sensational players in a tier well above where the Jets select, led by Jack Hughes, a centre with the U.S. under-18 National Team Development Program. It’s a near certainty that he’ll be headed to New Jersey after the Devils make the first-overall pick. The Rangers are expected to take Finnish winger Kaapo Kakko at No. 2, and the Chicago Blackhawks will then pick either defenceman Bowen Byram of the WHL’s Vancouver Giants or NTDP centre Alex Turcotte — the son of former Jets 1.0 forward Alfie Turcotte — at No. 3.

Expect a pair of premier WHL centres, Kirby Dach of the Saskatoon Blades and Dylan Cozens of the Lethbridge Hurricanes, to be long gone before the Jets get their turn, while a trio of American forwards, Trevor Zegras, Cole Caufield and Matthew Boldy, along with Russian winger Vasily Podkolzin, will be strutting around the draft floor with other teams’ jerseys pulled over their brand-new suits.

From there, it’s a guessing game, says our scout. “It’s tough to get a consensus when you get past nine or 10 picks this year. I would say around the 10th pick is when it starts to get muddy.”

But that didn’t prevent him from listing some intriguing forwards that could be on the board when the Jets decision-makers are on the clock, with a comment or two from the NHL bird-dog himself.

• Alex Newhook, C, 5-11, 195 pounds, Victoria (BCJL)

NHL Central Scouting has the product of St. Johns, N.L., ranked 13th among all North American skaters. Playing in the B.C. junior league — a step below the WHL — he was a dominant performer with 38 goals in 53 games and flashed his elite skating ability. Newhook has committed to Boston College this fall.

Scouting report: “He’s not just fast, he’s agile and can kill you off the rush.”

• Ryan Suzuki, C, 6-0, 176 pounds, Barrie (OHL)

Two years ago, he watched his brother Nick get picked 13th overall by the Vegas Golden Knights and now it’s his turn to grab the spotlight. Ranked 18th among North American skaters, some teams have him much higher on their lists because of his speed, creativity with the puck and exceptional vision. But his defensive-zone coverage often gets lost in the shuffle.

Scouting report: “His hockey sense it’s elite but I still don’t trust his commitment to defence. I have a funny feeling about him. I can see him dropping.”

• Bobby Brink, RW, 5-8,165 pounds, Sioux City (USHL)

Ranked 19th among North American skaters he’s, as they say, diminutive. And most scouts consider him to be an average skater, at best. But he’s also a dynamic offensive producer with tremendous hockey instincts. By the way, his middle name is Orr, as his dad was a big fan of the Bruins’ legendary defenceman.

Scouting report: “He’s just all-around excellent. The skating is awkward but he gets there. And he can improve that stride. I don’t think size is an issue for him. Enough smaller guys have had success in today’s game.”

Halifax Mooseheads forward Raphael Lavoie

CP

Halifax Mooseheads forward Raphael Lavoie

• Raphael Lavoie, C, 6-4, 198 pounds, Halifax (QMJHL)

Ranked 20th among North American skaters, the Moosehead forward already has an NHL-ready frame but possesses surprisingly good mobility and has elite offensive skills. He fired 32 goals during the regular season and then went on a torrid pace in the postseason with 20 goals in 23 games.

Scouting report: “He’s huge. But it’s not just size with this kid, he’s really, really good. Look out, he’s got everything you want in a power forward.”

• Philip Tomasino, C, 6-0, 183 pounds, Niagara (OHL)

Ranked 14th among North American skaters, the two-way middle man is, indeed, a complete package. He can produce, scoring 34 goals and 72 points in his second season with the IceDogs, and makes every move at a high rate of speed. He’s also a proven shut-down centre in the OHL and a key penalty killer, strengthening the belief he commits to an all-around game.

Scouting report: “An absolute steal” if the Jets get to call his name at No. 20.

• Brayden Tracey, LW, 6-0, 177 pounds, Moose Jaw (WHL)

Things didn’t come easily for Tracey early on in his inaugural WHL campaign, but he finished with 36 goals and 81 points and was named the league’s rookie of the year. Midway through the year, he was ranked 73rd among North American skaters but rocketed up to 21st by mid-April.

Scouting report: “He would probably be projected as an early second-rounder, but if you wanted to step up to the plate, this guy’s really good. He got better and better all year, and everyone was talking about him by the end.”

LONGSHOTS

Hamilton Bulldogs' Arthur Kaliyev fails to get a shot past Regina Pats goaltender Max Paddock during third period of Memorial Cup action in Regina last year..

JONATHAN HAYWARD / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES

Hamilton Bulldogs’ Arthur Kaliyev fails to get a shot past Regina Pats goaltender Max Paddock during third period of Memorial Cup action in Regina last year..

• Arthur Kaliyev, RW, 6-2, 190 pounds, Hamilton (OHL)

While he’s ranked seventh among all North American skaters after he scored 51 goals and added 51 assists in 67 games for the Bulldogs, there a chance he could still be available at the 20th pick. There might be no more polarizing draft-eligible player out there. He’s a gifted shooter and playmaker but has a reputation for shirking his defensive duties, and he lacks physicality.

Scouting report: “This is a guy who could go very high or really tumble. There’s a risk there. But there could also be a big payoff.”

• Peyton Krebs, C, 5-11, 180 pounds, Winnipeg (WHL)

As crazy as it sounds, the kid from Okotoks, Alta., — ranked 10th among North American skaters — just might still be there. After scoring 19 goals and adding 49 helpers in 68 games on a bad Kootenay team, he tore his Achilles while training earlier this month, an injury that might factor in to when he gets selected Friday. Winnipeggers will see a lot of Krebs with the Ice next year, once he’s healed up.

Scouting report: “The sleeper in the draft is Krebs. And what’s going to happen is some team’s going to look at the injury and say, ‘Well, we can’t take him now. Let’s hope we get a second chance at him.’ But a team will step up and take him and they’re going to get a gem. This guy, for me, is one of the best players in the draft.”

MAYBE A ‘D’?

The Jets will likely pick the best player available, regardless of position, and there could be some tantalizing defencemen available when it’s Winnipeg’s turn, according to our scouting expert:

• Thomas Harley, 6-2, 188, from Mississauga of the OHL, ranked 11th among North American skaters)

• Cameron York, 5-11, 172, from the U.S. NTDP (ranked 12th among North American skaters)

• Moritz Seider, 6-3, 183 from Germany (ranked sixth among international skaters)

• Tobias Bjornfot, 6-0, 202 pounds from Sweden (ranked seventh among international skaters)

• Lassi Thomson, 5-11, 190, from Kelowna of the WHL (ranked 15th among North American skaters).

jason.bell@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPJasonBell

Jason Bell

Jason Bell
Assistant sports editor

Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).

Read full biography

View original article here Source