The Winnipeg Jets finished the season ninth overall in the Eastern Conference, just four points out of the playoffs. On the whole however, it was a disappointing season for the organization. Although they showed fight down to the final week of the shortened season, several flaws in the team makeup became evident as the season wore on, and there are areas of concern that must be addressed in the upcoming draft.
Top 10 prospects
The Jets are desperate for secondary scoring. The team's top three goal scorers (Andrew Ladd, Blake Wheeler, and Evander Kane) more than doubled the goal output of the other 16 forwards who saw ice time for the Jets this season. Defenseman Dustin Byfuglien scored eight goals, placing him fourth overall on the team. In fact, nearly a quarter of the team's goals came from the team's top four defensemen.
On defense, the Jets benefitted from Byfuglien's offensive contributions, but in general the blue line group leaves a lot to be desired. The top shut down pair, Ron Hainsey and Zach Bogosian, were less than effective in turning the play away from their net and spent most of their ice time buried in their own end. Byfuglien, as noted, was effective as an offensive presence, but the rest of the defensive corps struggled with injuries and inconsistent play. Tobias Enstrom, perhaps the team's most dependable two-way defender, played in only half of the team's games, and promising young defenseman Zach Redmond missed all but eight games after suffering a horrifying skate cut to the back of his leg.
In goal, Ondrej Pavelec started 43 of Winnipeg's 48 games and faced the second-most shots of any goaltender in the league. Unfortunately, his results were average at best, and he finished the season near the bottom of NHL starting netminders in both saves percentage (.905) and goals against (2.80). Of the fifteen goalies who faced at least 1000 shots last season, only Ilya Bryzgalov and Semyon Varlamov (COL) had worse save percentages. That Pavelec started 90 percent of the Jets' games belies the fact that there is precious little NHL-ready depth in the nets.
Winnipeg has a couple of top-end prospects in the pipeline. Forward Mark Scheifele (drafted seventh overall in 2011) has some flaws, but he is easily the team's top forward prospect. At 6'3, he has good height, and he has been adding strength since drafted. He has steadily improved his offensive output each year in junior play, and although he may never become a pure goal scorer at the NHL level, he does have the potential to be a top-line forward or an above average second-line player.
On defense, Jacob Trouba was the ninth overall selection of the 2012 draft and is arguably the top prospect in the Jets organization. Trouba is coming off of an excellent freshman year at Michigan, and stood out in international play as well. He brings a desirable combination of size, skating, two-way skills, and an outstanding shot. Trouba signed an entry-level deal with Winnipeg earlier in the summer and will almost certainly start next season with the Jets.
Although the organization does have a few forwards and defensemen that should become regulars in the NHL, there is a sharp drop in talent past Trouba and Scheifele. Forward Ivan Telegin looks like a second-line winger who can bring speed and some toughness to the ice. Carl Klingberg shows some sparks of offensive ability, but in general projects as a bottom-six winger who will use his speed and his physical play to his advantage. The forward group lacks any true offensive firepower, though Adam Lowry did have a surprising and productive overage year for Swift Current in the WHL.
As previously mentioned, defenders Postma and Redmond are both interesting defensive prospects who received NHL ice time last season. Arturs Kulda returned from European play, and added some two-way depth to the system. Unfortunately for Winnipeg, the remainder of the defensive prospects look to be mostly marginal, bottom-pair types.
In goal, the Jets have a lot of unproven depth. Leading the group is 22-year-old Ed Pasquale, who has played 105 games in the AHL over the last three years, with modest success. He looks to be ready to step up to a backup role in the NHL but could struggle to maintain a roster spot. Behind Pasquale on the depth chart are a couple of collegiate goaltenders who had solid seasons last year in Connor Hellebuyck and Juho Olkinuora. Both show promise, but need more experience.
The Jets currently own 10 picks for the 2013 draft: 13, 43, 59, 61, 74, 91, 104, 134, 164, and 190.
With only two drafts in the team's short history in Winnipeg, General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff has not had much opportunity to build an extensive draft book. Thus far, he has overseen only 13 draft picks in those two years.
With two first-round picks, the Jets have made a solid selection in Jacob Trouba and a more controversial pick in Mark Scheifele. In the early rounds, Cheveldayoff has selected four forwards and two defensemen. In seven later-round picks, Cheveldayoff has looked to goaltenders three times, surprisingly all from Junior A teams.
Ten of the team's 13 picks have been used on players from Canadian leagues, but none from the QMJHL. Further, no picks have been used on European players. Of the three Americans selected, two have been drafted out of the USHL.
Because there is so little history from which to draw conclusions, understanding Cheveldayoff's draft tendencies is extremely difficult. However, that also makes things much more interesting heading into the 2013 draft. Given this year's deep draft class, the Jets should have the opportunity to add significant talent to their organization.
Frederik Gauthier, C/W, Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL)
The Jets possess blue-chip prospects in Trouba and Scheifele, as well as several strong goaltending prospects, so they do not have any specific positional needs to address. Big forward Frederick Gauthier oozes potential and adds another skilled prospect at forward. Much like Scheifele, the 6'5 Gauthier can use his frame to work along the boards and protect the puck in traffic. Coming off only his first year in the QMJHL, Gauthier is very raw at this point in his development, and must improve his overall consistency. If he can do that, this pick would be a nice addition to the Jets current group of big, talented forwards.