The Winnipeg Jets hold the 9th overall selection in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft later this week, and GM Kevin Cheveldayoff will be leading the charge at his fourth draft at the helm of the Jets 2.0. And for the third time, barring a trade of course, he'll be making a selection from outside of the top-5 and inside of the top-10, or right in the middle of the "loser-zone".
Since the draft has been the overwhelming focal point for most of this week, we here at AIH have been trying to prime it with lots of coverage. Between Terrel's excellent draft rankings section and the SBNation Mock Draft, there has been a lot to ponder about who the Jets will select this Friday.
But it's at this time that I'd like to discuss the Jets, Chevy, and how well the "draft and develop" system has truly been for the Jets.
Garret led it off on Monday with a really good look at the issues that the Atlanta Thrashers had finding any talent at all outside of the first round and why it led to the Jets 2.0 beginning with such "empty cupboards". But I'd like to expand on that a bit, because many of the arguments I've had across on many different platforms ends up in the other party telling me that Chevy has drafted very well. And I'm here to tell you that you have nothing to stand on other than a hope, a wish and a prayer.
Now, there is no doubt that it's WAY TOO EARLY to make any complete judgement on how the Jets have drafted at this point. I'm not making any final judgement at all. But what I am doing is trying to show how absurd it is to proclaim at this point that Chevy is some "Drafter Extraordinaire" and that the Jets are well on their way to "drafting and developing" a winner. They might be. But they might not be. The truth is nobody knows. But what do we know? The cold, hard numbers.
The chart below (sortable by clicking on the bolded titles on top of each column) breaks down the results of all 30 teams in the league and how they're first round draft picks since 2011 have performed up to this point in the NHL (data obtained and compiled manually from hockeydb.com):
|Team||AVG 1st Pick
Rd 1 Picks
- The Winnipeg Jets are one of only seven teams to have averaged a top-10 pick in each of the past three seasons (9.7), yet they're the only one of those seven to have not drafted inside the top-5. While they may have gotten top-5 value out of Jacob Trouba, it's difficult to out-draft 29 other teams when so many are drafting in front of you each year.
- The Jets have made three first-round selections over the past three drafts, which is tied for 11th in the league. That means that a full third of the league has drafted more first-round talent than the Jets. The Senators, Sabres and Flames have made five first-round picks. THAT is how you "re-stock the cupboards".
- Eleven teams have drafted inside the top-5 over the past three summers, with four teams (Islanders, Panthers, Avalanche and Oilers) having each done so twice. And while only the Islanders are the only team of these eleven who've yet to have a player play 50+ games, Ryan Strome and Griffin Reinhart continue to be premier prospects and are expected to play pivotal roles with their squad as early as this coming season.
- So far, the Jets are 9th in games played with 139 but are 6th in total points with 64 and 6th in PPG at 0.460. However, they trail significantly behind the Oilers (310 GP, 190 points and 0.613 PPG) and the Avalanche (281 GP, 197 points and 0.701 PPG).
- All in all, the Jets have done pretty well from inside of Round 1. Then again, so did the Thrashers. But up to this point Chevy has held his own, as Mark Scheifele and Jacob Trouba have managed to earn permanent spots in the lineup. But I'd be hesitant to suggest that Chevy has hit anything out of the park. He's done well with a pair of top-10 picks so far.
Now, the above chart only looked at first rounders. Lets throw in every draft pick from rounds 1-7:
||50+ Games (Outside of Rd 1)
||Total GP (Skaters)
||Total GP (Goalie)
- The Jets have made 23 picks in the last three summers, which is T-7th in the league. Unfortunately, with Zach Yuen and Lukas Sutter being let go, that's now down to 21 which is very close to league average. One of my main criticisms is how so few UFA's have been sold for draft picks, as that's how a true "draft and develop" team would do it. Oh well.
- Where things get interesting is the four teams that have found the six players outside of the first round that have already played 50+ games. The Blackhawks (Brandon Saad and Andrew Shaw) and the Lightning (Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat) are the lucky teams that have struck gold deep in the draft twice, while the Blue Jackets (Boone Jenner) and the Sharks (Matt Nieto) have done it once. Why did I choose 50 games? Not sure. It was a big round number and seemed appropriate. Regardless, it shows how teams have already benefited big-time from players drafted outside of the first round. The Jets haven't done that yet, just like the Thrashers.
- On top of that, a few goalies have already played gotten some big-league action and some have made major impacts. The Ducks tandem going forward, John Gibson and Frederik Andersen, were both taken outside of the first round in the past three years. And the Predators (Magnus Hellberg and Marek Mazanec) and the Lightning (Kristers Gudlevskis) have also gotten some starts out of their netminders.
- The Lightning have found late value in Palat, Kucherov and Gudlevskis. But don't forget that they also have Jonathan Drouin, Slater Koekkoek and Andrei Vasilevski as first-rounders who've yet to dress. Steve Yzerman is killing it.
- When all of the draft picks of each team have been added, the Jets begin to tumble down the rankings. The Jets are 11th in GP, 9th in points and 7th in PPG. Not bad, but relative to their draft position they've pretty much managed to tread water.
So feel free to take from the above charts what you will. But the fact remains that up to this point the Jets haven't done anything extraordinary relative to their draft position. And as much as people may want to hope and wish that the Jets prospects will all turn out to be NHLers, every other team in the league is hoping the same thing with theirs.
Are the cupboards any more stocked than they were when the Jets came here? Sure. The likes of Josh Morrissey, Adam Lowry, Nicolas Petan, Scott Kosmachuk, Connor Hellebuyck, Eric Comrie, J.C. Lipon and the rest do provide reason for optimism. But that's about it. And while the St. John's Ice Caps had a wonderful Calder Cup run this year, it was mostly a veteran-laden lineup where only Eric O'Dell played a major role in the top-6 as a prospect. I don't expect any of Jason Jaffray, Andrew Gordon, Jerome Samson, Kael Mouillierat or John Albert to be making a difference for the Jets any time soon.
As it stands, it's much too early to say either way that Chevy has done a tremendous job or a poor one at the draft table. But why is that Chevy gets so much credit for his draft picks before any of them other than Scheifele and Trouba even step on the ice in a regular season NHL game? Sure, the early returns on some of them look wonderful, but those are at the junior and collegiate level. There's still a long way to go before any of these kids make an impact in the big leagues.
In the end, many in Jets Nation are simply hoping for the best with Chevy's picks and that's fine. But don't tell me that Chevy's done an excellent job already, because at this point we just don't know. Until somebody from outside of the top-10 of Chevy's drafts makes an impact at the NHL level there's no way to conclude that he's done anything special at all.