As we near June 24th, we at Jets Nation will preview the NHL Entry Draft with a look at the Winnipeg Jets’ picks, the team’s history, some fun potential scenarios, as well as some other related topics.
We turn our series at the media, looking at what some high-profile mock drafts predict of the Jets.
*Corey Pronman’s mock draft is a bit older and so actually has the Jets picking 24th overall
Every single mock draft listed here, plus other random ones on the internet I found when looking around, lists the Winnipeg Jets as taking the big, 6’4 winger from Tempere, Finland. This doesn’t mean Laine is a guarantee but he certainly is the most likely person picked when Kevin Cheveldayoff goes onto the podium in Buffalo.
Laine pretty much has it all. He skates well for a young man of his size. He has great vision with the puck. He gains the offensive zone with ease. He can use his size to protect the puck. He handles the puck well. And his shot would likely already be one of the best on the Jets, if not the best.
While Patrik Laine is not perfect, he has all the tools that make scouts drool.
He also has the accolades and awards to back it up after a very successful year:
Jets Nation and Canucks Army haven’t released their Patrik Laine profile yet, as they have yet to do the top three.
Pronman has the Jets going with a highly skilled, undersized scorer in Abramov. With players like Chase De Leo and Nicolas Petan, the Jets have previously shown that they are not afraid to select players who are a bit smaller as long as they put up the points to back it up. It would be the highest though they have ever selected a player of that stature, with Petan being taken 43rd overall in 2013.
Abramov can score, and has the numbers to back it up. His SEAL-Adjusted Scoring ranks him as the 8th most efficient scorer of first time eligible draftees playing in North America this year, outscoring higher ranked players like Logan Brown and Julien Gauthier.
Abramov has explosive speed and can be fun to watch making junior defenders look silly. Abramov has strong hockey IQ, thinking the game both fast and well, and plays with a dynamic edge. It would not be the first time someone who is exalted for those qualities and has been the lead rookie scorer in the QMJHL was taken by the Jets.
Despite his small size, he was already a player early this season who looked like a good selection by PCS model, now purchased by the Florida Panthers. The combined Jets Nation and Canucks Army Prospect Profiles ranked Abramov as the 21st best prospect in the draft. Despite his small size saying he is risky, both the PCS model and pGPS models ranked Abramov as a legitimate NHL prospect.
Both Jeff Marek and Adam Kimelman have the Winnipeg Jets taking the puck moving defender from the BCHL, Dennis Cholowski, with their second first round selection. I have heard that a few of the Jets’ scouts are fans of Cholowski but I have no knowledge if they “22nd overall” like him.
There is quite a vast range in opinion on Cholowski which makes him an intriguing prospect. He has been ranked as high as 18th by McKeen’s Hockey, and as low as 51st by Future Considerations. It is rare for BCHL players to be ranked highly, but this season we have three including Cholowski.
Cholowski also fits the Jets profile of drafting defenders who can both skate and think the game well, like Joshua Morrissey. The smart defensemen is well regarded for his ability to move the puck out of the defensive zone and his transitional game, but I feel an underrated part of his game is his ability to hold the offensive line.
The 6’1, left-handed shot, defenseman does not have the numbers like his BCHL peer Dante Fabbro, but also did not have the pleasure of playing with Tyson Jost as well. Cholowski did score extremely well, although his primary-to-secondary assist ratio pushes him back to 23rd highest SEAL-Adjusted scorer of first time eligible North American defenders. His ratio is actually so extreme, that SEAL-Adjustments may perhaps be underrating him. The Jets Nation and Canucks Army Prospect Profiles ranked him 56th overall, but I feel he was undersold due to a bit of unknown in the BCHL system and the pGPS model being unaccustomed to players in the BCHL.
As a fun aside: Hockey Data, the analytics company I work for, tracked a random 10 game sample of many prospects for a NHL team, and Cholowski had the best Corsi% of any of the 60 defenders we tracked.
Damien Cox has the other exceptional BCHL defender falling to the Jets, in what may be a best case scenario for the Jets. While Cholowski represents a possible undervalued defender who is starting to get recognized, Fabbro has been an exceptional defender who is well known and would be unlikely to fall into the Jets’ hands… but we said that about Kyle Connor before too.
Fabbro is probably the best defenseman to come out of the BCHL since Duncan Keith, although Keith scored similarly at a full year younger (how did he fall to the second round?). Fabbro is incredibly mobile in all four directions and is an exceptional puck mover both in skating and passing. He sees the ice well and can distribute in the offensive zone, but his shot is one of his strongest weapons.
There are concerns with his level of competition in the BCHL, much like Cholowski, and also playing with another exceptional talent in Tyson Jost, but Cholowski also impressed many on the big stage, being one of the best defenders in the U18s and showing why he belongs as a top prospect.
Fabbro’s SEAL-Adjusted Scoring places him as the 4th highest scoring first time eligible defender in North America. This places him only behind Samuel Girard, Jake Bean, and Mikhail Sergachev in scoring, and Fabbro is considered to be stronger defensively than Girard or Bean. The Jets Nation and Canucks Army coalition ranked Fabbro 17th overall, who may be undervalued also due to the BCHL’s impact on the pGPS model.
Like Pronman, Mike Morreale has the Jets going after an “undersized” skilled forward. If the Jets were to make such a move, this would be the first time the Jets would have drafted a European playing in Europe in the first round.
At first glance one would expect a prototypical soft player, if you are into those xenophobic stereotypes, being a small scoring European. But, Asplund does play a well rounded, 200-foot game. The 5’10 centre/winger is aggressive on the forecheck and not afraid to go into the corners.
He gained recognition after taking William Nylander’s World Junior spot with Nylander injured, and then proceeded to put 5 goals and 4 assists in 16 games as a young player in a “19-year-old tournament”. Asplund can score goals, but he’s a playmaker by trade. A dynamic distributer with the puck, Asplund put up 12 points in 46 games in a men’s league, which very few 17-year-olds ever do and a very strong predictor of future NHL success.
The Jets Nation and Canucks Army Prospect Profiles ranked Asplund 27th overall, but I could see Asplund being a lot better than many of those ranked the next 5-or-so spots ahead.
Craig Button comes out of left field and has the Jets going for Russian named German. Rubtsov, who played in the fairly unknown MHL, was one of the individuals disqualified from the U18s in the Russian doping scandal. The Jets have never gone for someone playing in Russia outside of a one-time late round flyer in Pavel Kraskovsky, so it is difficult to see the Jets doing this with a first overall pick.
While Rubtsov may have the Russian-KHL fear factor, Rubtsov’s playstyle is anything but the stereotypical Russian finesse game. Very much a North-South, two-way player, Rubtsov has been a favourite for the Russians to place into a shutdown role for international tournaments. Rubtsov doesn’t cary the dynamic and obvious skills of Asplund or Abramov, but he does have above average skills and thinks the game at a very high level. Rubtsov’s uses his above average hockey-IQ to make up to always make the right move, with and without the puck.
Being from the MHL, a relatively new league, there is really no one to make comparisons with statistically. That said he did do well enough to sit 25th overall in the Jets Nation and Canucks Army Prospect Profiles.