Kevin Cheveldayoff, the Winnipeg Jets patient general manager would very much like to move up in Sunday’s National Hockey League entry draft. However, if you’re selecting 13th, as the Jets are, that kind of goes without saying.
Sunday afternoon in Newark, N.J., the Winnipeg Jets will join their 29 NHL brethren and try to find a diamond in the rough. It will be rough. Those in the know say that only the first two picks, likely Seth Jones and Nathan McKinnon, will be ready to play in the NHL next year. Most of the other picks will be little more than stockpiled prospects.
That’s nice, of course, and since the Jets are sold out for five years, Cheveldayoff doesn’t have to rush. However, his boss, owner Mark Chipman likes to win, and in two years in Winnipeg — playing in the relatively soft Southeast Division — the Jets have not yet made the playoffs. Next year, the Jets have to contend in a division that includes new Stanley Cup champion Chicago, along with Minnesota, St. Louis, Colorado, Nashville and Dallas. It will not be easy for the Jets to crack the Top 4 in that Division.
That’s why the Jets need to improve sooner, not later. The Jets are a team that needs NHL calibre forwards now, not in three or four years. For that reason alone, Cheveldayoff will want to move up in the draft — w-a-a-a-y up.
Everyone seems to believe that if the Jets are “stuck” with the 13th pick, they’ll select Max Domi — Tie’s boy who had a great playoff run with with the OHL’s London Knights.
The Jets interviewed 88 players at the combine and that means Cheveldayoff, who has already drafted outside the box with the selection of Mark Scheifele in 2011, could very possibly take someone strange and wonderful. Well, strange, anyway. Like centre Frederik Gauthier from Rimouski or Anthony Mantha from Val d’Or or even the “local” kid, Ryan Pulock from Brandon (that would be a nice choice) or even Curtis Lazar from the Edmonton Oil Kings or Samuel Morin from Rimouski, although frankly, those are more than likely, second-round choices.
Cheveldayoff will, indeed, do what he can to move up, without giving away the farm, of course. Because he picks 13th in Round 1 and then has three more picks in Round 2, he might even take a step downward to acquire someone who can play centre on the second or third line right now.
When you have the 13th pick, you have options. That’s because the guy you’re taking isn’t going to play for you this coming season anyway. If he does, it’s because you have stress.