The 2019 NHL Entry Draft is all said and done, and the Winnipeg Jets have five brand-new prospects in their pipeline. If you’ve never heard of the players they selected or just want to know a little more about the potential Jets of tomorrow, THW’s got you covered.
We already did a detailed piece on first-round 20th-overall selection Ville Heinola, his skill set, and how he may fit in in the future.
Related: Heinola is Jets’ Latest Finnish Find
However, that still leaves the other four. Here’s a brief breakdown on the fresh blood Jets’ general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff selected Saturday in Vancouver.
Simon Lundmark — Second Round, 51st overall
With their second-round pick, the Jets continued their trend of selecting from overseas, plucking right-handed Swedish defenseman Simon Lundmark.
Hailing from Stockholm, the 6-foot-2, 197-pound Lundmark split time between Linköpings HC’s junior and professional squads, tallying two goals and 18 assists in 53 games between them.
“Lundmark’s game is based around his strong skating ability,” wrote Ben Kerr of lastwordonhockey.com. “He is extremely smooth, with outstanding edgework, agility and pivots. This allows Lundmark to cover a lot of ice efficiently. His top end speed is very good, but not quite great, in both directions.”
“This leads to his ability to play a two-way game, moving the puck effectively up the ice and getting back defensively to play a strong defensive game,” Kerr continued. “Lundmark makes smart plays with the puck. He is a good passer who can set up teammates for scoring chances. However, he needs to improve his shot in order to be a real threat from the blue line.”
Choosing Lundmark was a reach for Cheveldayoff; he was ranked 61st by TSN’s Bob McKenzie, 87th by McKeen’s Hockey, 106th by hockeyprospect.com, and 153rd by Future Considerations.
Henri Nikkanen — Fourth Round, 113th overall
With the 113th-overall pick, the Jets went back to Finland and took a risk by selecting Henri Nikkanen, their sixth Finnish-born selection since 2015.
There’s not a ton of info or consensus on Nikkanen, as he was injured for much of 2018-19. This caused the 6-foot-2, 180-pound centre to tumble to the fourth round.
“Winnipeg may have just got a big-time steal at No. 113 in the fourth round with Henri Nikkanen, who has big-time talent,” THW’s own Larry Fisher remarked on Twitter. “Nikkanen was touted as a potential first-rounder heading into the draft year but had his momentum derailed by injuries.”
Nikkanen split time between Michelin Jukurit’s under-20 and professional squads but only played up for 23 games between the two, tallying four goals and seven assists. He also played two games for Imatra Kettera of the Mestis League.
Hopefully the 18-year-old will be able to stay healthy next season because his future in professional hockey player will likely hinge on it. As CBS Sports notes: “Nikkanen will flash high-end offensive skill at times, but he’s nothing more than an average skater and you don’t get the same effort from him on a nightly basis.
Harrison Blaisdell — Fifth Round, 134rd Overall
“What a character,” “loves Winnipeg,” and “superb talker” were some of the descriptors Mike McIntyre applied to 134rd-overall selection, Harrison Blaisdell.
The Jets took Blaisdell — a 5-foot-11, 180-pound, left-handed centre who can also play wing — with the pick they received from the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for the rights to unrestricted free agent Kevin Hayes. Blaisdell spent the past two seasons with the BCHL’s Chilliwack Chiefs, and in 2018-19, put up eye-popping numbers — 33 goals and 25 assists in just 51 games as an alternate captain.
“Blaisdell has taken his game to the next level this season,” noted DraftGeek’s Brayden Sullivan in a prospect profile. “(He) is a fairly balanced threat offensively, blending goal scoring and vision into a dynamic package. His shot is high end and he has the release to go along with velocity and pinpoint accuracy… A fantastic skater, the former Pat Canadian plays the game with tremendous pace, flying up and down the ice. His quickness isn’t limited to his feet, however, as he possesses hands that are capable of keeping up with his lower body movements, often leaving opposing defenders in the dust or in a pretzel.”
“Overall, Blaisdell is a complete two-way center that plays a pro-style game and has significant upside,” Sullivan summed up.
Blaisdell is the son of Mike Blaisdell, who was selected 11th overall by the Detroit Red Wings in the 1980 NHL Entry Draft and tallied 154 points in 343 NHL games before playing a number of seasons in Britain.
The junior Blaisdell tries to play in a fashion similar to Boston Bruins’ agitator extraordinaire Brad Marchand. “Some of the stuff he does, I don’t necessarily agree with, but I respect him as a player,” he explained. “He’s an unbelievable player. He plays that gritty style and has the flash with it. That’s always been a guy that I’ve really looked up to,” (from ‘Jets cast wide international net on Day 2’, Winnipeg Free Press, 06/22/19.)
Blaisdell is heading to the University of North Dakota (UND) to play and pursue studies in communications come fall. UND is also the alma mater of Jets defenseman Tucker Poolman.
Logan Neaton — Fifth Round, 144th Overall
Ten picks later, with their last selection of the day, the Jets took American goaltender Logan Neaton.
Like Blaisdell, Neaton is a BCHL alum coming off an incredible campaign. The Michigan native backstopped the Doyle Cup-winning Prince George Spruce Kings with aplomb, posting a 32-8 record in 47 games with a microscopic 1.92 goals against average, impressive .914 save percentage, and five shutouts. He was even more lights out in the playoffs, going 20-3 with a 1.56 GAA, .939 SV% and three more shutouts.
Neaton will play for the University of Massachusetts-Lowell next season, where Connor Hellebuyck played for two seasons between 2012-14; Neaton even trains with the Jets’ netminder in the offseason.
According to an article by Greg Balloch in the Spring 2019 edition of Smart Hockey Magazine, which covers the BCHL, Neaton plays a similar style to Hellebuyck and has a similar body (6-foot-2, 180 pounds) which may explain why the Jets opted to select him.
Putting the New Guys Right to Work
Although they didn’t get anyone NHL-ready, the 2019 draft class seems to be full of promise for the Jets, a mix of players who may be able to address a number of needs in the future, especially on the back end.
Jets’ brass and fans alike will be able to see the new picks in action this week. Four of five players (all but Lundmark, who has already returned to Sweden to train) are on the team’s 41-man development camp roster. The camp got underway yesterday at Bell MTS Iceplex in Winnipeg and wraps up June 28.
Declan Schroeder is a 27-year-old communications specialist and freelance journalist in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He holds a diploma in Creative Communications with a major in journalism from Red River College and a bachelors in Rhetoric and Communications from the University of Winnipeg.
Deeply rooted in the city’s hockey culture, the original Jets skipped town when he was two and the 2.0 version came onto the scene when he was 17.