The Winnipeg Jets missed the playoffs in what was a tough year for Jets’ fans. Despite the team not playing in April, today represents a potential dramatic change in the organizations future.
Today is draft lottery day.
At 6PM CT, three different teams will win the top three selection spots in the draft.
Moving up to any of the top three spots in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft would be an excellent consolation prize for the organization that were unable to make franchise history with consecutive post-season appearances. Getting the top overall pick could potentially and quickly change this team’s destiny.
The odds are still stacked against the Jets, as they have only a 23.5 per cent shot at a top three pick, and less than a 10 per cent shot at first overall.
The percent chance for each team is as follows:
After the lottery the draft order will be read out from 14th overall to first. This means that one should expect the first team called out to be the Boston Bruins, followed by the Carolina Hurricanes, etc. It is possible, but unlikely these teams win the lottery draft.
If any of the names are not called out as they move through the teams in reverse order, this would mean that team won one of the top three spots, and would have leapt ahead of the Jets (provided that the Jets did not win an even better lottery spot).
There is a fair amount of consensus being reported in regards to the top three prospects entering the draft.
While anything can happen, the first overall pick is likely to be dynamic centre Auston Matthews. Matthews is a very complete player with a huge amount of offensive talent. The 6’2 centre out scored Jack Eichel when comparing their Draft-1 production on the same teams over different years; however, it should be noted that Matthews was much older than Eichel was due to being a late birthday. Matthews would fit in perfectly as a potential top centre giving the Jets a dangerous longterm 1-2 punch with Mark Scheifele.
The next best player in the draft is Patrik Laine. While Laine may be in the same tier of players, wingers are often less coveted than centres, ceteris paribus. That said, Laine is a physical beast that any team would love to have in their organization. At 6’4 and over 200 lbs, Laine already possess a NHL calibre body and is a natural goal scorer. He generates a ton of shot volume and in addition has a lethal shot.
Not far behind Laine comes Jesse Puljujarvi. Puljujarvi draws a lot of comparisons to Laine, although there are some differences beyond Puljujarvi being an inch shorter. While Laine is a goal scoring machine, Puljujarvi plays a more playmaker role. The Swede (well born in Sweden but has dual Finland/Sweden citizenship) is also a bit faster and more refined defensively. Either way, both European players look to be excellent wingers to add size to a Jets’ organization that has a ton of smaller skilled winger prospects.
The Jets losing the lottery though would put them anywhere between sixth to ninth. As usual, the extent to consensus in opinion on players falls exponentially as you move away from the top overall pick. While the top three selections will likely out perform their draft peers, there is still a tonne of skill available if the Jets were to pick later.
While very few lists have Matthew Tkachuk and Pierre-Luc Dubois falling past the fifth selection, either is possible if a team reaches for a defensemen or someone off the board. Matthew Tkachuk has been a high scoring threat while playing a physically menacing game. The only concerns is that Tkachuk has spent much of the past few years as not being the best player on his line, which may lead to both the eye-test and numbers overvaluing him. Pierre-Luc Dubois has been one of the highest scoring 17-year-olds in QMJHL history, and garners both statistical and traditional scouting comparisons to Jakub Voracek. PLD also has the added bonus of playing all three forward positions. Alex Nylander sits not to far away, although has not been as promising as his older brother William.
If the Jets were to go for a defender, the three most likely candidates would be one of the three two-way, left-handed defenders: Jakob Chychrun, Olli Juolevi, and Mikhail Sergachyov. All three have been exceptional performers for their respective CHL teams. Juolevi is known more as the smart, defensive, puck-moving player, with having many compare to Olli Maata. Sergachyov is the more offensively inclined player, as shown by him carrying the best age and era adjusted point production between the three. Then Chychrun is more in the middle, and more of the “tool-box” candidate which has made many scouts salivate. Regardless, all three offer potential future as big, effective, top-four defenders.
Then there are a few others possibly on the Jets radar. Clayton Keller has skill to burn and is the top age and era adjusted primary point producer in the draft, but the Jets may wish to shift the organizational direction and add some size to supplement players like Nik Ehlers, Nic Petan, Kyle Connor, and Marko Dano. If size is their direction, Logan Brown stands at 6’6 and has paced well over a point per game in the OHL. Tyson Jost of the BCHL is another potential option, as a high scoring forward that likes to go-go-go like Ehlers and Connor. Michael McLeod is as a big speedy centre, although there are concerns with his production being significantly lower than the previously mentioned forwards.
With a guaranteed top-ten draft selection, it’s almost guaranteed the Jets walk away with an excellent addition to their prospect cupboards. However, the draft lottery outcomes will likely separate the chance in drafting a defining and central piece to the organization or just a very, very good support piece.