Jets Need 1st Round Draft Pick More Than They Need a Rental

The Winnipeg Jets are barely a playoff team at the moment and will not be a threat to win the Stanley Cup this spring. Trading away their first-round draft pick for a rental player would be the worst thing they could do this season.

The 2020 National Hockey League Entry Draft is expected to be deep with talent and the Jets would be guaranteed to get a solid top-end prospect with their first-round draft pick.

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Ken Wiebe of The Athletic recently reported that Jets’ general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff will not hold back moving the team’s first-round draft pick once again “if the circumstances are right”.

Winnipeg Jets Executive Vice President and General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff
Winnipeg Jets Executive Vice President & General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff (THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods)

I was all for the Jets trading away their first-round picks in 2017-18 and 2018-19 as it seemed like the right thing to do in those seasons. Their need for a game-breaking second-line center was evident and they had the rosters to do damage in the playoffs.

This season, however, they are hanging on by the skin of their teeth with their patchwork defensive group and lack of secondary scoring. Trading away their first-round pick for a rental would not be good for the future of this organization and will barely make a difference this season.

Jets Need Forward Help

I like the group of prospects the Jets have on their backend but things are getting way too thin within the forward group. Most of the team’s top forward prospects have already graduated from that status and are playing fulltime with the Jets now.

Besides Kristian Vesalainen who is currently with the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League, the Jets do not have a lot of top-end forward prospects waiting in the wings. It is time for Cheveldayoff to build that prospect pool back to where it was prior to the start of the 2017-18 season.

Kristian Vesalainen Manitoba Moose
Kristian Vesalainen is currently the Jets’ top forward prospect. (Jenae Anderson / The Hockey Writers)

As I mentioned, the backend is loaded with up and coming talent from the likes of Ville Heinola, Dylan Samberg, and Declan Chisholm to name a few. They currently have Josh Morrissey and Neal Pionk within their top-four defensive group and both are still under the age of 25. Sami Niku and Tucker Poolman are also strong names to throw around on the Jets’ defence group.

Goaltender Mikhail Berdin has been showing promising signs to take over for Connor Hellebuyck years down the road, giving the Jets strength at both defence and goalie.

Related: Winnipeg Jets’ Top 10 Prospects

I believe the focus should be forward heavy at the 2020 NHL Draft to reload that group of strong forward prospects the Jets once had and it should start in the first round.

2020 NHL Draft Talent

Many scouts from all over North America and Europe believe this is one of the strongest and deepest draft classes in quite some time, especially at the forward position. Teams are expected to get top-end talent all the way through the first round and even into the second round of this draft.

With the talented group of prospects and the Jets’ draft history since relocating to Winnipeg, I believe they are a lock to get two solid forward prospects with both their first and second-round draft picks.

I am still not sold on Jack Roslovic producing at a top-six forward rate and Vesalainen was not able to make the Jets’ roster this season in what was expected to be a breakout year for the Finn. Captain Blake Wheeler and center Bryan Little are not getting any younger and some even believe neither of them should be top-six this season.

All this leads back to the fact the Jets have no top-end forwards waiting to fill these top-six spots – what better time than at the deep 2020 NHL Draft to fix that.

Roster Player in Return

The only situation where I see the Jets moving their first-round draft pick this season is if they get a roster player in return with term left on their contract. I mentioned in a previous article that the Jets should target Calgary Flames’ defenseman Travis Hamonic and I believe they could do so without getting rid of their first-rounder.

Kevin Cheveldayoff, Winnipeg Jets
Kevin Cheveldayoff will be better off calling a name at the NHL draft podium rather than trading his 2020 first-rounder away for a rental player. (Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports)

If we talk about the Jets’ needs this season it is 100% on defence where they need the help the most. But if we talk about future seasons I believe the weakness will shift to forward and we will see a young, promising defensive group emerge.

That will be the difficult decision Cheveldayoff has this season and I think it would be a major mistake moving their first-round draft pick for a rental player.

In my opinion, they should be sellers at the NHL trade deadline and try to acquire more draft picks by moving players like Dmitry Kulikov or Mathieu Perreault. We will have to wait and see how things unfold as we creep up on the trade deadline which is on Feb. 24.