In the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, the Winnipeg Jets took Saginaw Spirit superstar Cole Perfetti, 10th overall. The team doesn’t have a top-10 pick this year, but there are some polarizing prospects to choose from. The NHL Draft order has now been set through the first 27 picks, so I am going to break down three players who I think the Jets could select with their 18th–overall selection.
If Corson Ceulemans is available at 18th overall, I would be very surprised to see the Jets pass over him. The Regina, Saskatchewan, native and former Brooks Bandits defenceman is the total package when it comes to being an offensive threat on the ice. During his rookie campaign in 2019-20 with the Bandits in the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL), he was second among defencemen with 35 points in 43 games. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the AJHL was only able to play a limited amount of games this past season. Ceulemans had 11 points in eight games during the shortened season.
While Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff has been relatively consistent in acquiring talented prospects over the last decade, it will be interesting to see which route the Jets go at the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. Defence is something that they need to bolster. With guys like Ville Heinola, Leon Gawanke, and Dylan Samberg all in the pipeline, things are looking pleasant for the future, but now is the time to pick up another asset. Ceulemans is a fantastic skater, and when you combine that with his puck-carrying skills and offensive traits, he is a supreme prospect.
He has already been compared in recent years to former Bandit and current Colorado Avalanche Cale Makar, but he is a more raw version of Makar and will need some development throughout the next few seasons. He is a player who would fit into the Jets system quite well and I think if he is available, they take the gamble on him.
Matthew Coronato was unstoppable this past season where he put up 85 points in 51 games and scored 48 goals with the Chicago Steel of the United States Hockey League (USHL). Coronato has multiple superstar traits, including his speed and wicked release, and that combo has become the opposition’s worst nightmare. On top of that, he can play all forward positions and will kill a penalty or play on the power-play when needed. He is a puck hound and will do whatever he can to strip the puck away from you.
If Cheveldayoff can draft Coronato, I believe he would be a game-changer for the Jets. His motor and work ethic are unmatched compared to any other prospect available. The Jets do have some forwards in their system who are looking to make the jump to the NHL full time, including Jansen Harkins, David Gustafsson, and Kristian Vesalainen. With Perfetti being another name that has constantly popped up, we should see him make his NHL debut next season. Coronato is a player who would mesh well with the Jets roster, but like other forwards that the Jets have drafted in recent years, they aren’t ready to rush any prospect to the NHL.
The Hamilton, Ontario, native is one of a handful of Ontario Hockey League (OHL) players who went overseas to play hockey this past season due to COVID-19 restrictions in the province of Ontario. Francesco Pinelli went to Slovenia and played for HDD Jesenice in the Alps Hockey League (AlpsHL) where he had 11 points in 13 games. In his rookie campaign with the Kitchener Rangers in the 2019-20 OHL season, he totaled 41 points in 59 games, an impressive stat.
Pinelli is a versatile two-way center with a heavy and wicked release. He also understands positioning very well and will use that to force turnovers in the defensive end. He earned himself a spot on Team Canada for the 2021 Under-18 World Hockey Championships where he scored four goals and tallied 11 points in seven games to help his nation win a gold medal.
Pinelli has already drawn comparisons to former NHLer and Kitchener Ranger, Mike Richards. He is electric in the offensive end and extremely reliable in the defensive end, two traits that are very attractive for scouts and general managers. Although Pinelli is still a couple of seasons away from making the jump to the NHL, they could develop him similar to the way they have with Mason Appleton—let him flourish down in the American Hockey League with the Manitoba Moose for a couple of seasons and then bring him up. Whatever the route is, Pinelli would be a fantastic addition to the Jets roster.
The 18th-overall selection is not a bad spot, but with the uncertainty surrounding this year’s NHL draft due to shortened seasons around the hockey world, it will be intriguing to see where players get selected. You can argue that the top 10 is fairly sound but anything after that is wide open due to the rankings changing every day. Whoever the Jets select, I have no doubt the player will be a great asset to the team.
Born and raised in Kamloops B.C. and a die hard fan of the Kamloops Blazers, hockey has always been apart of my life. Now, I am looking to get into the sports media world and make it a career. I will be covering the Winnipeg Jets for The Hockey Writers.