A few days ago I started pondering what could be considered the Winnipeg Jets biggest “draft misses”. The picks where the Jets could have taken a player who has gone on to have relative success in the NHL, but instead drafted a player that for whatever reason never broke into the league or even signed to a pro contract. Check that first post out to go over guidelines in making this list and to review the first three players on this list.
Here is the conclusion of this rather dubious top five. I feel it’s also important to note that the idea behind highlighting these missed picks isn’t to be negative, or to call out faulting drafting by the Winnipeg Jets.
At the time these picks were made, some of them were highly approved of if not applauded by hockey observers and Jets fans alike. If anything, a list like this should just serve as proof that none of us truly know how these picks will turn out when they are made, and sometimes need years before we can really say if they turned out to be good.
But I find it’s somewhat fun in sports to go back and do a little “what if…” pondering.
Though my definition of ‘fun’ may be different from yours.
#2 (tie) – Jimmy Lodge & JC Lipon
(2013 Draft, 3rd round – 84th & 91st overall)
The Jets could have picked… Sven Andrighetto (MTL – 86th overall) or Oliver Bjorkstrand (CBJ – 89th overall)
It’s my own personal belief that once you get past the first three picks of a draft, everything is a bit of a crap-shoot and team really never knows what exactly it’s going to get. It’s basically trying to make the best educated guess based on what a team has seen from a player so far and trying to predict how the future could play out.
When the Jets selected Jimmy Lodge 84th overall, they took a kid who only recently had started producing at the junior level midway through his draft year, but had displayed some good on-ice puck instincts which made it seem like that trend would carry on though his career. While he had good size as a 6’2″ center, he was lanky and not physically imposing, but the Jets felt they could work with that and the 18 year old could ‘bulk up’ as he matured.
This is to say that there was really nothing wrong with the pick at the time, it’s just that it could have turned out better. Same goes for the pick the Jets made seven selections later with J.C. Lipon. Lipon was seen as a late bloomer in junior and was drafted as a 20 year old by the Jets, where the prevailing thought by most was that he could turn out to be a pretty good middle six forward, or at the very least a solid fourth line player, whom at his age could be a year or so away from being an NHL regular.
Both picks at the time seemed to many observers like smart selections made by the Jets. So while we’re ready to label these picks as ‘misses’ or even ‘busts’, I feel like it’s important to mention that at the time no one really had any issues with picks like these. At the time they were made, we considered the Lodge pick a home run, and we really liked the pick of Lipon.
Neither pick has worked out. Lodge isn’t with the Jets organization any more, and while Lipon has been a staple with the AHL Manitoba Moose – even getting his own bobblehead night – he’s been passed on the Jets organizational depth chart by a handful of names while being given a series of one-year deals with the club.
Somewhat thankfully, there isn’t much around these picks to make a fan really rue and lament this. The Jets could have just as easily gone with Sven Andrighetto who was also in the same department as Lipon – a 20 year old forward who had been passed over in the last couple of drafts, and projected to have about the same impact as a middle six forward. Oliver Bjorkstrand was considered a bit of a project at the time who was maybe thought to be a bit undersized to make it to the pro level, but has ended up as one of the Blue Jackets best forwards over the last couple of seasons.
If it was done all over again the day after they made the picks, the Jets might have stuck with Lodge and Lipon. They might have reconsidered and went with Keaton Thompson or Jackson Houck.
Or maybe they would have taken Andrew Copp in the 3rd round. Thankfully he was still available 13 picks after the Lipon pick when the Jets took him in the fourth round.
The draft is a crap-shoot.
Before I get to the number one draft miss by the Jets, I feel like there is one pick that didn’t fall into my own criteria of what constitutes a miss, but worthy of an honorable mention…
D, Jack Glover (2014 Draft, 3rd round – 69th overall)
The Jets could have picked… C, Brayden Point (TB – 79th overall)
At the time, Glover seemed like a bit of a can’t miss type pick. He had good size at 6’3″, didn’t shy away from playing a physical game, his puck moving ability was highly regraded and like most 18 year olds it was figured he could develop into a top four NHL defenseman.
Unfortunately injuries to both shoulders limited his play and really hurt his development. Glover spent four full seasons with the University of Minnesota, and while the Jets gave him looks in various rookie camps and showcases, they never did offer him a pro contract.
So why didn’t he make the ‘top five’ list here? Well, if you look over not just the next five, but the next nine picks made after the Jets selection, there really isn’t anything better. The entire third round of the 2014 NHL Draft is a big bunch of meh, save for one player in particular: Brayden Point. All Point has done over the last four seasons is hit the 30+ goal mark twice (he was on pace to do it again this season), was a 2018 all-star, and is considered one of the league’s better defensive forwards.
To be honest, the entire 2014 draft – outside of the selection of Nikolaj Ehlers of course – was kind of one big miss for the Jets. Best not to think too much about it.
#1 – C, Lukas Sutter
(2012 Draft, 2nd round – 97th overall)
The Jets could have picked… Anyone else really
Maybe Kevin Cheveldayoff and the Jets were getting a bit cocky. Mark Scheifele was the team’s first pick since the return to Winnipeg back in 2011 and while that pick was a bit of a surprise, Scheifele was highly recommended to the team by Dale Hawerchuk as he was his coach in Barrie of the OHL, and even as early as that first season where Mark made a good first impression with the Jets, it seemed like that gamble to take him 7th overall would work out ok.
Maybe that’s what Kevin and company were thinking about when they took Lukas Sutter in the second round of next year’s draft. Sutter was projected as maybe a 3rd or 4th round pick – a gritty forward from the WHL with decent size and a legendary hockey bloodline – but when the Jets selected him, it seemed like an even bigger reach than the Scheifele pick the year before. Yes, the draft as explained a moment ago can be thought of as a crap-shoot, but there are times where when a pick is made, you just know that it could work out, but the chances that it won’t are much higher.
Picking Lukas Sutter didn’t work out.
Sutter battled injuries and also a strange decline in his play within the junior ranks playing in Saskatoon. His point production and playing time actually decreased in the first season after his draft. He was traded to Red Deer the next season, but a shoulder injury ended his 2013-14 junior season and also likely scared the Jets away from giving him an entry level contract. Lukas then re-entered the 2014 NHL draft and was taken by the New York Islanders in the seventh round.
Five picks later the Buffalo Sabres took defenseman Jake McCabe and has turned out to be a useful NHL level player for them. In total there are six players taken in that second round after Sutter that have gone on to play more than 300 NHL games. McCabe, Brock McGinn, Colton Sissons, Chris Tierney, Jordan Martinook, and Damon Severson. Martin Frk and Devin Shore could join that list in the near future. Anthony Stolarz has also seen some time in goal for a trio of NHL clubs.
None of those players are the type to make one really regret the Sutter pick, but it’s the biggest draft miss the Jets had all the same.
Thankfully they made up for it with a shrewd fifth round pick.