The 2011 NHL Draft was the unveiling of the Winnipeg Jets 2.0. After yet another of many subpar seasons in Atlanta, the Jets were awarded with the 7th overall pick.
The Thrashers did trade away their second round pick as well as Ivan Vishnevskiy to the Chicago Blackhawks for Andrew Ladd. The Blackhawks used the pick to select Adam Clendening.
On draft day, the Jets would trade away the 132nd overall pick (Sean Kuraly) and the 193rd overall pick (Colin Blackwell) to the San Jose Sharks for the 118th overall pick, which they used to select Zach Yuen.
They also traded away the 96th overall pick (Josiah Didier) and the 107th overall pick (Olivier Archambault) to the Montreal Canadiens for the 77th overall pick, which they used to select Brennan Serville.
Mark Scheifele’s rookie OHL season also happened to be his NHL Draft-eligible season as well. Drafted in the seventh round by the Saginaw Spirit in 2009, Scheifele spent the 2009-10 season in the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League with the Kitchener Dutchmen.
During that year, he committed to Cornell University, but a trade to the Barrie Colts during the offseason changed his mind. He wound up scoring 22 goals and 75 points in 66 games in 2010-11. With their first-ever draft pick, the Jets surprised many by taking Scheifele, a kid whose future seemed uncertain.
After a seven-game tryout with the Jets in which he scored his first NHL goal, Scheifele returned to the OHL for the 2011-12 season, increasing his offensive totals to 23 goals and 63 points in just 47 games. He also starred for Canada at the World Juniors, scoring three goals and six points in six games.
The following year, Scheifele was surprisingly returned to the OHL again, this time after just four games. He would make further improvements to an all-around game, scoring 39 goals and 79 points in 45 games, then added another 15 goals and 41 points in 21 playoff games. He was once again a key member of Canada’s World Junior squad, adding five goals and eight points.
In 2013-14, Scheifele finally cracked the Winnipeg Jets roster. He had a decent rookie season, scoring 13 goals and 34 points in 63 games. Scheifele adjusted well to the NHL game, using his size and strength to effectively play his style. He would increase his totals the following season to 15 goals and 49 points.
This season, Scheifele came out and seemed to finally unleash his potential. He was arguably the Jets’ best player all year, scoring 29 goals and 61 points through 71 games. He began to use his shot in good opportunities to produce scoring chances and used his built up strength to become more of a power forward. He will have a long future in the NHL as one of the faces of the Jets franchise.
Adam Lowry was an intriguing prospect during his draft year, scoring 18 goals and 45 points in 66 games with the Swift Current Broncos. The 6’5″, 209-pound kid showed promise not only with his size, but with his two-way game as well. The Jets selected Lowry in the third round, in what seemed like a fairly safe pick.
The following year, Lowry improved his offensive abilities during an injury-riddled season. Then, during 2012-13, he really found his stride, becoming a top prospect for Winnipeg. Lowry would score 45 goals and 88 points in 72 games as the captain of the Broncos.
In 2013-14, Lowry made the transition to professional hockey, playing 64 games with the AHL’s St. John’s IceCaps. He had a strong showing, adding 17 goals and 33 points, further developing his game to an NHL style.
Now, Lowry has spent the past two seasons in the NHL, totaling 18 goals and 40 points in 154 games, usually as a fourth-line winger. While he had hoped to be contributing more by now, Lowry remains a highly touted player by Jets’ management who still believe he will have a long career in the NHL.
3rd round, 78th overall: Brennan Serville, D, Stouffville Spirit (OJHL)
NHL Games: 0
Brennan Serville was a lesser-known prospect at the 2011 NHL Draft, playing his draft year in Jr. A. But he had a spectacular year there, putting up 30 points in 36 games and proving his ability to be a sound defensive player at the same time. The Jets used their second pick in the third round to select the Pickering, Ontario native.
Serville commited to the University of Michigan and spent the next four seasons playing in the NCAA. He would work on becoming a more responsible defenseman in his time, and his offensive totals suffered as a result. Over four seasons and 129 games, Serville scoreed just one goal and 21 points.
In the summer of 2015, Serville signed a contract with the AHL’s Manitoba Moose. During the past season, he split time between leagues, playing 15 AHL games and 18 ECHL games. He has continued to work on his defensive game, developing into more of a defensive defenseman for the future.
Serville remains on the Jets’ radar, but still needs to make some major improvements if he hopes to have an NHL career. He has yet to show the necessary strength to be a reliable defender in the professional leagues and certainly has lost the offensive flair that made him so intriguing during his draft year.
4th round, 119th overall: Zach Yuen, D, Tri-City Americans (WHL)
NHL Games: 0
Since being drafted in the first round of the 2008 WHL Bantam Draft, Zach Yuen had been a highly touted defensive prospect. He could skate well and had good offensive instincts. Yuen excelled in his NHL Draft-eligible season, scoring 32 points in 72 games.
The Jets used a fourth round pick on the Vancouver, British Colombia native. After going back to the WHL for two more seasons, Yuen would further increase his offensive totals, but failed to develop into a responsible defender.
The Jets came to the conclusion that Yuen did not have NHL potential and decided not to offer him an NHL contract. Since then, he has had the opportunity to play three ECHL seasons for five different teams.
While Yuen has been able to adapt to the ECHL and become a reliable defenseman, he has failed to find AHL time. As a 23-year-old, it seems unlikely that Yuen will ever play in the NHL.
5th round, 149th overall: Austen Brassard, RW, Belleville Bulls (OHL)
NHL Games: 0
Austen Brassard had some high hopes placed upon him after scoring 29 points in his rookie OHL season. Unfortunately, he was unable to transition his development into his NHL Draft-eligible season. Brassard scored 19 goals and 34 points in 2010-11, showing some ability to be a goal scorer, but without much consistency.
The Jets felt they could take a chance on him in the fifth round, though, and he seemed to make great strides the following season. Brassard would improve to score 27 goals and 51 points, driving up the Jets’ depth charts.
However, during his final OHL season, Brassard seemed to slump back to his old ways. He struggled to find consistent offense and was lackluster in his two-way game. In 2013-14, Brassard moved to the AHL, playing limited minutes during just 29 games.
In 2014-15, Brassard competed in 75 AHL games, adding six goals and 18 points. This past season, Brassard was able to double his point totals to 36, while jumping from six to 15 goals in 2015-16. He now finds himself back on the Jets’ radar, having become one of the leaders on a very young Manitoba Moose team, but he is in need of a new contract this summer.
Jason Kasdorf was a late-round pick out of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League, where he posted solid numbers in back-to-back seasons. After being drafted, Kasdorf moved to the USHL, hoping to find an NCAA commitment. After a successful season with a lackluster team, Kasdorf committed to Rensselaer Polytechical Institute (RPI) in upstate New York.
Kasdorf spent four years in the NCAA, posting incredible numbers as a freshman with a 1.62 goals-against average and a .935 save percentage. After an injury-riddled sophomore season, Kasdorf took some time to get back on his game in 2014-15. However, in 2015-16, Kasdorf was back to his old self, backstopping RPI to a great season, including a .931 SV%.
With a few promising goalies in the system, the Jets were able to add Kasdorf to the blockbuster Evander Kane trade. He signed with the Buffalo Sabres in March. He even made his NHL debut on April 8th, allowing four goals on 30 shots. Although his entry-level deal was just one year, Kasdorf will likely spend the 2016-17 season with the Sabres’ AHL affiliate. He remains a positive for the Jets scouts, who have been able to find quality goalie prospects.
7th round, 187th overall: Aaron Harstad, D, Green Bay Gamblers (USHL)
NHL Games: 0
Aaron Harstad was drafted out of the USHL, where he scored seven goals and 21 points during the 2010-11 season, showing flashes of offensive instinct. The Jets saw some possibilities of a future two-way defenseman, and took a chance on him with a seventh round pick for that reason.
Harstad was able to get a commitment to Colorado College for the following four seasons. Unfortunately, he struggled to find his offensive edge, instead developing into a reliable defensive defenseman. Over 127 NCAA games, Harstad added 30 points, gaining more experience each season.
This season, Harstad turned professional, signing a contract with the Jets’ AHL affiliate, the Manitoba Moose. He would end up playing 26 AHL games and 14 ECHL games over the course of the year.
While he may not be the two-way defenseman the Jets had hoped for, he continues to progress into a solid defenseman who should find quality time with the Moose next season. Harstad remains on the Jets’ radar as a project prospect, with some potential to make an NHL appearance in two years or so.
You can view the video below which looks back at the 2011 NHL Draft of the Winnipeg Jets, including draft footage of top pick Mark Scheifele, Jason Kasdorf, and General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff.
Notable Playoff Performances
With the Manitoba Moose and Tulsa Oilers missing out on the playoffs, only a few Jets prospects were in action over the past month.
Brendan Lemieux and the Windsor Spitfires faced a tough first round competition, and were ousted in five games, but not before Lemieux would make an impression, adding four goals and an assist in just three matches. Lemieux continued to show what he had shown all season long, mainly his ability to score goals consistently.
Jansen Harkins and his Prince George Cougars were swept in the WHL playoffs. After a somewhat subpar season, Harkins was able to chip in two goals and five points in a quick series. Harkins was arguably the best Cougar each night, proving his ability to be a responsible two-way center with offensive upside.
Michael Spacek was lucky enough to join the Memorial Cup host Red Deer Rebels in his first CHL season. The Rebels were able to fight to the Conference Finals before being eliminated in five games by the eventual champion Brandon Wheat Kings. Spacek was dynamic during the team’s 17 games, adding three goals and 13 points.
Prospect of the Month
A fourth-round pick in the 2015 Draft, Michael Spacek proved his ability to be a force against the league’s best teams on a nightly basis during the WHL playoffs. He finished third on the Rebels in playoff scoring and continued to establish himself as a reliable center. He was solid in the defensive zone as well, providing consistently sound positioning and the ability to break up potential scoring chances against.
Luckily, his season is not over yet, as Red Deer is competing as host at the 2016 Memorial Cup. While the Rebels will not be a favorite in the tournament, they will be competitive. It will also give Spacek a once in a lifetime opportunity to match up against the best at his age level on a countrywide level. Spacek should be a key component to Red Deer’s success, and the Jets will keep a close eye on his performance.