A glance at the rosters for the upcoming 2021 World Junior Championship reveals many sources of young hockey talent.
The QMJHL, OHL, WHL, and U.S. college ranks are all well represented on the recently announced Team Canada roster. And that’s but one example at the tip of the iceberg.
NHL prospects can be found almost about anywhere if teams are willing to look hard enough, and since their return to Winnipeg in 2011, the Jets have searched far and wide to select players, 67 in all, who, combined, represent more than a dozen leagues and six countries, on either side of the Atlantic.
This October was the 10th draft for the team, and they grabbed a pair of Swedish Elite League prospects, Daniel Torgersson (second round) and Anton Johannesson (fifth round), sandwiched between two CHL skaters, 10th overall pick Cole Perfetti of the OHL’s Saginaw Spirit, and sixth-round selection Tyrel Bauer from Seattle in the WHL.
Perfetti will be part of Team Canada’s lineup at the World Juniors in Edmonton, where Finland’s World Junior squad is set to feature Ville Heinola and Henri Nikkanen, both 2019 selections by the Jets.
With the annual holiday showcase of hockey’s next generation fast approaching, here’s a look back over a decade of Jets draft picks at the five leagues they have most frequently used to fuel their future.
Western Hockey League
It comes as no surprise that The Dub has produced nearly a quarter of all Jets draft choices, 16 since 2011.
Eight of those selections have played at least a game in the NHL, with two becoming Winnipeg fixtures; Forward Adam Lowry (taken in 2011 at No. 67 out of Swift Current) has scored 124 points in 408 games and blueliner Josh Morrissey (2013/No. 13 overall/Prince Albert) has skated in 288 games and now wears an A for the Jets.
Centre Nic Petan (2013/No. 43 overall/Portland) has struggled to score in the NHL at the explosive level he did in junior, and played just 108 games in Winnipeg before being dealt to Toronto for Pär Lindholm at the 2019 trade deadline.
Other WHL products that have had a cup of NHL coffee include: forwards JC Lipon (2013/No. 91 overall/Kamloops), Chase De Leo (2014/No. 99 overall/Portland), and Jansen Harkins (2015/No. 47 overall/Prince George); blueliner Nelson Nogier (2014/No. 101 overall/Saskatoon); and goalie Eric Comrie (2013/No. 59 overall/Tri-City).
United States Hockey League
The Jets have selected nine players out of the USHL, though eight of them were made between 2011 and 2015, the latter draft having provided a line’s worth of NHL talent.
Forward Kyle Connor (2015/No. 17 overall/Youngstown) has scored at least 31 goals in all three of his full NHL seasons, including a career-high of 38 in the pandemic-shortened 2019-20 campaign. Selected just eight picks later, Jack Roslovic (2015/No. 25 overall/US National Development Team) has become an NHL regular over the last couple of seasons, and now has 67 points in 180 career games with the Jets. And after a couple of seasons in and out of the lineup, Mason Appleton (2015/No. 168 overall/Tri-City) is almost sure to make Winnipeg’s roster in 2020-21.
Jacob Trouba (2012/No. 9 overall/US National Development Team) played 408 games on the Jets blue line before a contract impasse eventually resulted in the defenceman being dealt to the New York Rangers prior to the 2019 Draft.
Goaltender Jared Moe (2018/No. 184 overall/Waterloo) is Winnipeg’s only USHL selection over the last five years.
Ontario Hockey League
The Jets have taken nine players out of the OHL, starting with their very first pick upon landing in Winnipeg, centre Mark Scheifele (2011/No. 7 overall/Barrie) and the former Colt hasn’t disappointed. Scheifele has skated in over 500 games, scored at least 60 points in each of the last five seasons, and grown into one of the faces of the franchise, a leader who now serves as alternate captain.
As impactful as Scheifele has been, he is the only OHL draftee to have found a home with the Jets. Defenseman Logan Stanley (2016/No. 18 overall/Windsor) has yet to arrive in Winnipeg, though the organization has shown patience as he develops with Manitoba in the AHL (from ‘PIPELINE: Patience in abundance for Jets’ Stanley,’ Winnipeg Sun, 06/26/2020). Hopes are high for Perfetti, who torched the OHL with 111 points in 61 contests with Saginaw last season.
Finish Elite League and Swedish Hockey League
The Liiga and SHL have been go-to circuits for the Jets in recent drafts, each providing Winnipeg with five draft picks since 2015. Most notable, of course, is Patrik Laine (2016/No. 2 overall/Tappara), who was the Liiga Rookie of the Year and Playoff MVP the season before he was drafted and has since registered 138 goals and 247 points in 305 games over four NHL seasons. Heinola (2019/No. 20 overall/Lukko) has already got his feet wet, scoring five points in eight games with the Jets in 2019-20.
The QMJHL, NAHL, OJHL and BCHL are the other leagues that have had multiple players selected by the Jets. It’s a vast pool of talent, which will be reflected in the upcoming World Junior Championship, and again when the Jets next draft sometime in 2021.
Brian is an Edmonton-based sports writer and broadcaster. His experience includes working as a sports reporter for the Edmonton Sun, where he covered the Edmonton Oil Kings 2013-14 Memorial Cup championship season.