The Winnipeg Jets have selected 10 players in the first round of the National Hockey League Entry Draft since their return to Winnipeg in 2011. They have had a first-round pick in eight of the nine drafts, only missing the 2018 NHL Entry Draft after sending their first-round selection in a huge trade deadline deal that acquired forward Paul Stastny.
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The Jets – for the most part – have been consistent at striking gold in the first round with many of those players making huge contributions to the team to this day.
I am going to rank these 10 selections starting with number 10 being the worst and number one being the Jets’ best first-round draft pick. Let’s get started.
10 – Logan Stanley (2016, 18th overall)
I have Logan Stanley in the last spot for the simple reason he has not been able to make the jump to the NHL yet and whether or not he ever will is a legitimate concern.
Stanley is in his second full season with the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League and appears to slowly be making strides in his game. Whether or not that can translate to the next level remains to be seen, but I still have hope we will see him with the Jets in a full-time role at some point.
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I do not fault the Jets for taking a chance on the 6-foot-7 defender in the first round. The potential reward outweighed the risk at the time and he still has the opportunity to turn into something great. Looking back at the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, there was not a lot of significant defencemen taken after Stanley – the most notable being Samuel Girard, Filip Hronek, and Adam Fox.
9 – Kristian Vesalainen (2017, 24th Overall)
Kristian Vesalainen’s stock has taken a bit of a hit since the start of the 2019-20 season, resulting in a ninth-place finish in this ranking.
Vesalainen failed to crack the Jets’ opening-night roster after a tough preseason that led to him getting sent down to the Moose. There was a lot of optimism that he would be able to step into a middle-six role within the forward group this season, making his struggles all the more concerning.
Obviously, Vesalainen is still young at just 20 years old and his ceiling is still very high. I still believe we will see him contribute at a high level with the Jets, possibly as early as next season. I can see him moving up this list a few spots in due time but for now, this is where he stands.
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The good thing to take from this is the Jets clearly know how to draft in the first round for a guy of this calibre to be ranked ninth.
8 – Jack Roslovic (2015, 25th Overall)
The Jets have recently been able to get a lot more out of Jack Roslovic, but with such a deep group of talent on this list, we still see him in the eighth spot.
It has been a bit of a rocky road for Roslovic over his four seasons between the Jets and the Moose. He has been bounced around the lineup a ton and up until this season, he primarily played fourth-line minutes.
He has shown glimpses of taking the next step this season but he has not been consistent enough to hold down the second-line spot he was given earlier in the season. Roslovic seems to have found a lot of great chemistry with recent linemates Mason Appleton and Jansen Harkins, and his role as a third-line contributor seems to fit him perfectly at this point in his career.
The most notable player taken after Roslovic in the 2015 NHL Draft is forward Sebastian Aho who was selected 35th overall. Could you imagine two Finns in Aho and Laine on the same team?
7 – Ville Heinola (2019, 20th Overall)
After trading away their first-round selection at the trade deadline to acquire forward Kevin Hayes, the Jets were able to get that first-round pick back in the offseason in the deal that saw Jacob Trouba get sent to the New York Rangers.
That draft pick turned into defenceman Ville Heinola and early signs point to another job well done by Kevin Cheveldayoff and his scouting crew.
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Heinola had an excellent preseason and earned a spot on the Jets’ opening night roster. He played eight games with the Jets before getting sent down to the Moose and eventually returning home to Finland to play for Lukko of Liiga.
We should expect to see Heinola full-time with the Jets as early as next season and he looks like a guy who will have a long, promising NHL career.
6 – Josh Morrissey (2013, 13th Overall)
I had a tough time deciding where to put Josh Morrissey because he has looked so great for the Jets over the years but for some reason, he has looked off over large portions of 2019-20.
Maybe he has been dealing with some injuries or maybe it has to do with the revolving door of defence partners he has had to play with this season but something is off. Morrissey – who was awarded an “A” on his jersey this season – is still the anchor of the Jets’ defence and he will hold down that left-handed spot on the top pairing for as long as he is a Jet.
5 – Jacob Trouba (2012, 9th Overall)
I put Trouba ahead of Morrissey for one reason and that reason is Morrissey has not looked the same without Trouba playing beside him. Again, as I mentioned earlier, who knows what is really going on with Morrissey – maybe it is just a coincidence.
Trouba still put together a solid career with the Jets before being traded away and he was a guy that stepped right into the NHL and turned heads without any prior games in the AHL.
You cannot deny that he made the Jets a better team when he was here. Regardless of all the drama that he created behind the scenes, he still gave his all for this club every game he played.
4 – Nikolaj Ehlers (2014, 9th Overall)
Nikolaj Ehlers is another guy who was able to step right into the Jets’ lineup and contribute without any prior AHL experience and I feel we have still only reached a small amount of what this guy can really do.
We may have only seen the tip of the iceberg with Ehlers and I believe he is a guy with the potential to put up 40-plus goals and 90-plus points over one season in the near future. Unfortunately, one of the reasons I feel he is being held back is the way head coach Paul Maurice is using him. I feel he is a guy who should be on the top power play unit and the first guy out in overtime with all that space to roam with his blazing speed.
Ehlers has been linked to a lot of trade rumours this season and I think the Jets would be foolish to move him. Guys with his speed, talent, and zone-entry ability are rare in this league and once the Jets start using it better, we will see him blossom even more than he already has.
3 – Kyle Connor (2015, 17th Overall)
The Jets hit the nail on the head once again with their selection of speedy winger Kyle Connor. He got snubbed of the Hobey Baker Award after losing the voting to Jimmy Vesey and I think the Jets were pleasantly surprised to see him available at 17th overall.
Connor needed some time in the AHL in his first season, but has since been a mainstay in the Jets’ top-six forward group. His dynamic speed and skill set make him difficult to defend and the 23-year-old (currently with 63 points) is just four points shy from reaching a new career high this season.
Connor is another Jets forward that has been linked to trade rumours this season and much like the Ehlers rumours, the Jets would be crazy to move him. They need their young core of offensive stars to carry this team for many years to come.
A few notable players drafted after Connor and before Roslovic in the 2015 NHL Draft include defenceman Thomas Chabot, and forwards Brock Boeser and Travis Konecny.
2 – Patrik Laine (2016, 2nd Overall)
The Jets had all the luck on their side being able to select Finnish sniper Patrik Laine second overall in 2016. They moved up from the sixth spot to second after the NHL Draft Lottery and what a blessing to this organization it was.
Laine has made an immediate impact since being drafted by the Jets. Even after a tough 2018-19 campaign which saw him finish minus-24 he has changed his habits to play a more complete, well-rounded game.
Laine is currently on pace to hit the 30-goal mark for the fourth consecutive season and he is sure to cash in big after his bridge deal is up at the end of the 2020-21 season. He is a generational talent with a shot that few players in the league are capable of making and the Jets are lucky to have him.
One thing to note is the sixth-overall selection in the 2016 NHL Draft (the pick that the Jets originally had) was skilled, gritty forward Matthew Tkachuk.
1 – Mark Scheifele (2011, 7th Overall)
The number one spot goes to the first pick in Jets 2.0 history – Mark Scheifele. Many fans were upset the team did not select Sean Couturier with their seventh selection, but it turns out they made the right decision – no disrespect to Couturier who has also strung together a solid career.
Scheifele – after two seasons of grooming in the Ontario Hockey League after being drafted – has turned into the Jets’ number one centre, piling up 438 points in 512 career NHL games.
Scheifele has turned into a true leader on this team and, regardless of how people feel about his play this season, is still arguably the best player on this team. He is playing at a point-per-game pace for the fourth-consecutive season and he was named the ninth-best centre in the league this offseason for a reason.
Thank you for reading this article and be sure to leave a comment whether you agree with these rankings or what you would do differently.
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