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Winnipeg Jets Draft Retrospectives: The Thrasher Years

The Winnipeg Jets this coming weekend will enter their eighth draft since their flight north from Atlanta. The club has just come off their most successful NHL season ever, a season that was built largely on the concept of “draft and develop” which has had it’s critics over the years but has turned out to be very fruitful and one where you can see positive results from pretty much every draft the Jets have had.

This week leading up to the draft, we’ll look back at the first seven drafts the Jets have taken part in and look back at the hits (quite a few), the misses (every team has ’em) and the fates-yet-to-be-determined.

This chapter, we focus on the picks made while the team was still in Atlanta that are still in the organization today. Some of these players didn’t exactly fall into the ‘draft and develop’ catagory that Kevin Cheveldayoff employed once he took control of the team in 2011, but there were a few the team still holds on to.

Bryan Little – 2006 1st round pick (12th overall)

In a time where it simply is a rarity, thanks to a six year deal he signed late last summer, Bryan Little may in fact play his entire career for one NHL organization. In what was a common theme for most Atlanta Thrashers drafts, he was the one pick out of a handful taken that year that actually turned out to be decent and have more than just a cup of coffee in the big time.

Sorry, I had to. Anyway, Bryan Little is great and has been a key contributor for both the Thrashers and Jets in his 11 year NHL career thus far. Five times he’s hit 20 goals in a season, one of those seasons was a 30 goal campaign.

As for the other picks in 2006… Riley Holzapfel? Alex Kangas? Those sound like random computer generated named from EA’s NHL series rather than potential NHL players. The only other pick from that 06 draft that got a bit of playing time – including nine games as a Jet – was defenseman Arturs Kulda.

Special shout out to the Thrashers 2007 draft

If one ever needed a great example of how poorly ran the Atlanta Thrashers were, take a look back at the 2007 draft for Atlanta. Maybe because they had finally finished first in the Southeast division that year and gained their first ever playoff appearance, they didn’t feel the need to keep an eye on the future because they only retained four picks out of the seven rounds available which included no picks until the third round when they had the 67th overall pick and wasted it on Spencer Machacek. Paul Postma was a seventh round pick for them and was the only one that managed to have more than a year’s worth of NHL service time.

Although maybe we shouldn’t be too hard on the 07 draft because as the Thrashers proved in 2009 and in 2010, it’s not like giving them more picks helped. Between those two years, they had 18 picks – more than double what they should have had – and still only managed to pick four players who saw more than 82 career games and of those four, only three of them managed to have multiple, full NHL seasons.

Ben Chiarot – 2009 4th round pick (120th overall)

We skip a year (Although given the Thrashers probably set a record in 2008 for most Zach’s drafted in a single year with two – Bogosian and Redmond) and go to 2009 where the lone player still around from that draft class is defenseman Ben Chiarot who has carved out a decent career for himself and probably played more games for the Jets than most probably would have anticipated. In 2014-15 he made the main roster and was surprisingly ok which then set a bar in defensive ability for himself that he really hasn’t been able to match since.

The only other pick with noting from 2009 was some guy named Evander. The Thrashers fourth overall pick that season should have been a superstar in Winnipeg, but things didn’t work out for him and word is he died on the way back to his home planet.

Julian Melchiori – 2010 3rd round pick (87th overall)

When people ask why the Thrashers didn’t work out in Atlanta, there are a lot of factors, but as we’ve well noted here you could look at their draft record as a big reason why. Constantly missing like they did, as often as they did is a recipe for hockey disaster. It’s little wonder that their fan base grew so frustrated with them.

Julian Melchiori is a third round pick who is an unrestricted free agent this summer and likely done as a Jet after having had just thirty games with the club from 2013 to 2017. The only other pick from 2010’s draft that made any kind of impact was 8th overall pick Alexander Burmistrov who never lived up to a potential so many thought he had but at least gave us one or two decent GIFable moments and one face palm worthy face-off.

Fredrik Pettersson-Wentzel? Yasin Cisse? Again with the made up names huh?

The Thrashers draft history is laughable at best and while it did produce a few notable names, the results certainly don’t even come close to what Kevin Cheveldayoff and his team of scouts have managed to do since.


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  • Paul NZ

    Question… did the scouting staff change all that much between Atlanta and Winnipeg? My understanding is they stayed largely the same?

    Makes me, wonder if they did (correct me if im wrong), is the change:
    – General manager listening to staff?
    – Better management of prospects after they are picked (its always hard to tell if e.g. Edmontons woes are bad drafting for players like Yakapov, or bad development)
    – Luck? There is always luck involved. Its easy to look back with hindsight and say the Jets are geniuses, but surely there is some luck involved too
    – Potentially a combination of things

    • Suiteswing

      The Jets gained Craig Heisinger and Bruce Southern’s expertise in finding diamonds in the rough. They’re responsible for finding Alexandre Burrows, Pierre-Cedric Labrie, and fan favourite the late Rick Rypien RIP who’ve all spent some time in the NHL and were undrafted.