Winnipeg Jets 2015 NHL Draft Preview

By Patrick Allen
Nikolaj Ehlers - Winnipeg Jets

Photo: Winnipeg Jets prospect Nikolaj Ehlers, drafted ninth overall at the 2014 NHL draft, led the QMJHL playoffs in scoring despite playing only two rounds (courtesy of Francois Laplante/Freestyle Photo/Getty Images)

 

 

Since the move from Atlanta after the 2011 NHL season the Jets organization has fully committed to a slow and steady process of building up a young nucleus of players through the draft.

The franchise’s playoff berth this year, earned by outlasting the defending Stanly Cup champion Los Angeles Kings to clinch the 8th and final playoff spot in the difficult Western Conference is definitely a sign that this arduous process is finally coming to fruition.

With two first round picks in this month’s draft the Jets have a great opportunity to add to their stockpile of young talent. The Evander Kane megatrade from earlier in the year brought with it not only the 25th overall pick but also big wingers Joel Armia and Brendan Lemieux that add to the already skilled prospect pool and bring some much needed depth and size to the wing.

Top 10 Prospects

1. Nikolaj Ehlers, LW
2. Josh Morrissey, D  
3. Nicolas Petan, C
4. Joel Armia, RW
5. Connor Hellebuyck, G

6. Eric Comrie, G
7. Brendan Lemieux, LW
8. Jan Kostalek, D
9. Andrew Copp, C
10. Scott Kosmachuk, RW

Team Needs

In a perfect world the Jets will be able to address their two biggest needs with their two first round picks: adding depth at defense and center. Though it should be noted that these positions are not without talent currently: Josh Morrissey is one of the most promising emerging defensive prospects in the game and center Nic Petan has shown flashes of brilliance, though questions around his size will continue until he proves he can replicate his dominance in junior while playing in the much bigger and unforgiving NHL game.

Adding depth at these positions will go a long way for the organization. Jets fans need only to look at this year’s playoff run which would not haven been possible had it not been for the organizational depth that allowed players – such as Ben Chiarot – to step up and help weather the storm brought on by numerous injuries throughout their lineup.

Organizational Strengths

The biggest prospect strength for the Jets is their goaltending. Connor Hellebuyck in particular has made a significant case for himself to be labeled the future goaltender of the franchise with his strong play this year in the AHL and more recently his efforts in helping lead a young team USA to a bronze medal at the IIHF World Hockey Championships.

Behind Hellebuyck, there is the Eric Comrie, who won a gold medal with Canada at the World Juniors this winter, and Jamie Phillips, who had nothing short of a spectacular junior season at Michigan Tech, where he posted a .933 save percentage and 1.74 goals against average and 28-9-2 record – earning him a nomination for the Hobey Baker award.

Organizational Weaknesses

The most visible weakness for the Jets is their prospect depth on defence. With the graduation of Jacob Trouba, there is now a significant drop off in high-end young talent on the back end after Josh Morrissey. Jan Kostalek had a breakout year playing for Rimouski, helping them win the QMJHL championship and a berth in the Memorial Cup, but though this is promising, it is still a long and difficult road to making it and succeeding in the NHL – especially for defensemen.

Furthermore, with the graduation of prospects like Mark Scheifele, the young depth down the middle is looking a little thin and could definitely benefit by adding some size to complement the undersized players that are at the top of the center pool.

Though these are two coveted positions that almost every franchise will be looking to improve in, based on the Jets’ standing in the draft there should be ample opportunity for them to select a solid defenseman and center in what many hockey minds are calling the deepest draft since the 2003 “mega draft” which saw future stars such as Zach Parise, Ryan Getzlaf, Brent Burns, Ryan Kesler, Mike Richards and Corey Perry all being selected between the 17th and 28th picks.

Draft Tendencies

General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff and his management team are entering their fifth draft with the organization. Cheveldayoff has pinned his legacy as a GM on steadily improving the organization through the draft – a skill he no doubt acquired during his years in the Chicago Blackhawks organization.

Historically the Jets have paid particular focus to players in the Western Hockey League: Chase De Leo, Josh Morrissey, Nic Petan and Eric Comrie being the most notable of these picks selected in the past two drafts.

Hockey’s Future Staff Mock Draft Results

17. Jeremy Roy, D, Sherbrooke Phoenix (QMJHL)

Roy is a gifted two-way defenseman whose game is highlighted by his strong skating and exceptional awareness and overall hockey IQ. Despite his offensive prowess, Roy has a physical side to his game and can truly dominate the game in all three zones.

With big bodies like newly acquired Tyler Myers and up and coming Jacob Trouba – not to mention Dustin Byfuglien depending on where he is placed in the lineup – already on the backend, Roy’s rare mix of offensive skills with an evolving defensive game and a growing 6′ body will truly give the Jets a defensive prospect that can be relied upon in any situation. The thought of Roy and Josh Morrissey quarterbacking the power play in the future should be very exiting to Jets fans.

25. Jansen Harkins, C, Prince George Cougars (WHL)

Son of former NHLer Todd Harkins, Jansen’s blue collar two-way game has already begun to draw comparisons to Boston Bruins star David Krejci. His smooth skating and high-end playmaking abilities mixed with an exceptional work ethic make Harkins a very promising prospect.

His reliable play down the middle becomes even more attractive when you consider the potential of him being pared with offensive force Nikolaj Ehlers – last years 9th overall pick – on his wing. Harkins’s playmaking abilities and ability to play in all three zones could be a match made in heaven and allow Ehlers the room to showcase his offensive ability without having to worry so much about defensive consequences.

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