The 2.0 Winnipeg Jets have been solid at finding talent in the first round of the NHL Entry Draft since their relocation to Winnipeg and, it’s fair to say, that success has carried into their selections beyond the first round as you will see highlighted in this article.
The Jets have found impact players from rounds one to seven since their first draft in 2011.
Here are my picks for the Jets’ five best draft selections beyond the first round. Let’s get started with number five:
5 – Mason Appleton (2015, Round 6, 168th Overall)
Forward Mason Appleton emerged on the NHL scene last season when he appeared in 36 games, registering 10 points and a plus-nine rating. Things were looking great for the young forward as the 2018-19 season came to a close and expectations were high heading into 2019-20.
Unfortunately, he started slow this season and broke his foot near the end of October resulting in a two-month absence. Since his return, the 24-year-old has played well and he was rewarded with some looks within the top-six forward group.
Appleton is ranked fifth because he has come a long way for a sixth-round draft pick and he has the potential to be a solid middle-six contributor for a long time. His scoring ability in the AHL has not followed him to the NHL yet, but in time we will see an increase in point production.
4 – Dylan Samberg (2017, Round 2, 43rd Overall)
Dylan Samberg has yet to play a game in the NHL, so you might be wondering why he’s ranked fourth on my list. You may also believe he doesn’t want to sign with the Jets, which would make him an unrestricted free agent in 2021.
He’s ranked fourth based on what I believe he will become and that is a top-four, shutdown defenceman. I have huge expectations for Samberg and he lives up to them. We have good reason to be excited about this prospect.
We will see him in a Jets uniform at some point. The rumours that he doesn’t want to sign with the Jets are unproven and he cleared the air in a recent interview with Winnipeg Sun’s Scott Billeck:
“They took a chance on me, they wanted me for a reason and I respect that,” Samberg said. “I respect the organization, they have a lot of great people, and it’s not that far from home, which is nice. I want to eventually get to the Jets,”(From Scott Billeck’s ‘Jets prospect Samberg chasing history first, Jets dream next,’ Winnipeg Sun, 02/21/2020).
3 – Andrew Copp (2013, Round 4, 104th Overall)
Andrew Copp has been a steady, reliable, depth forward since starting full-time with the Jets in the 2015-16 season. Primarily a bottom-six player, the 25-year-old has earned some looks in the top-six, including as second-line centre and briefly playing on the wing on the first line.
Copp – who signed a two-year contract extension with the Jets last summer – has emerged as an integral part of the lineup and he will likely try to sign long-term after his deal expires at the end of the 2020-21 season.
Copp has played the most games of any fourth-round draft pick from the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, ahead of Miles Wood who is nearly 100 games behind him.
2 – Adam Lowry (2011, Round 3, 67th Overall)
Adam Lowry, much like Copp, has also emerged as an integral part of the Jets’ bottom-six forward group. In his sixth season with Jets, the 26-year-old has 123 points in 408 games.
Lowry’s recent absence from the lineup was felt heavily, as the 6-foot-5, power forward missed nearly two months due to an upper-body injury. He returned to action and gave the Jets a huge boost on Mar. 9. However, he only got in two games before the NHL “paused” their season due to COVID-19 concerns.
Lowry is one of only two players drafted from the third round in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft to play more than 400 games in the NHL – Vincent Trocheck is the other.
1 – Connor Hellebuyck (2012, Round 5, 130th Overall)
The easiest selection on this top-five list was goaltender Connor Hellebuyck who will hold down this spot for a very long time, possibly forever. He continues to break records and carry the Jets to places they have no business being, like a possible berth in the 2020 Playoffs which we may not see at all.
Hellebuyck is one of three goalies from the 2012 NHL Entry Draft to play more than 200 games in the NHL, and he is in good company with Frederik Andersen and Andrei Vasilevskiy.
One thing is for sure, the Jets’ starting goaltender job is on lockdown for many more seasons. Hellebuyck – who is signed through the 2023-24 season – will hopefully continue his strong play in the future and at just 26 years old may have yet to hit his prime.
That concludes my list of the Jets’ top-five draft picks beyond the first round. Honourable mentions include David Gustafsson, Sami Niku, and Jansen Harkins who were in contention for the fourth and fifth spots but after careful consideration did not make the cut.
Related: Top 3 Jets’ All-Time Goalies
Comment below on who your top five would be and what changes you would or would not make to this list. Thanks for reading.