With the 2021 Expansion Draft now officially in the rear-view mirror, Winnipeg Jets’ general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff has turned his attention to what is shaping up to be a busy week ahead.
With the 2021 NHL Entry Draft set to run from Friday evening through Saturday mid-afternoon, the Jets will look to their scouting department in terms of plans of attack for the team’s four selections (first round, second round, third round, fifth round).
“There’s going to be some good players,” Cheveldayoff said in response to his team’s potential draft-day targets. “It’s going to be an interesting process. Is it going to be as tight to your list as in the past? I don’t know. There’s some good players in our range there that we’d be real excited to have. Some of the players that we’ve picked in the past in this range have gone on to be very good players for our organization right now. It’s still in the refining, final stages and we’re still working that through.”
Looking back upon past selections, the three current roster players that were taken closest to Winnipeg’s No. 18 overall selection are Kyle Connor (17th overall in 2015), Ville Heinola (20th overall in 2019) and Logan Stanley (18th overall in 2016). All have certainly become important pieces within the Jets’ organization and current team mold.
According to Chevy, there are roughly four different levels of player talent available for the taking in the opening round.
“I think there’s several different tiers,” he said. “Certainly you have the high-end tier, where again the players that are going real high there are going to be real special and probably earlier, sooner than rather than later. I think there’s maybe a little bit of a middle tier and then I think there’s a pretty solid tier just below that middle tier that’s right there. I think that’s where we’re in with our pick and slightly after our pick there’s a little bit of a drop-off.”
Chevy says it's hard to find a "6-foot-4, 260-pound right-shot defenceman that can ragdoll two players at once."
— Carter Brooks (@CBrooksie84) July 22, 2021
Unfortunately for the Jets, a hulking defenceman by the name of Justin Mufflen – or something similar to that – is not available for the taking come this year’s entry draft.
There is, of course, an apparent need for right-shooting defenders. But the Jets’ front office will continue to explore every option, both at the draft and through free agency.
“I think it stares at you first,” Chevy said. “I think when you look at the screen, that’s what you see first, when I look up on my board. Our youth is on the left side. Sometimes you’ve got guys that maybe can play the right side. But in the process of trying to add, I think you first keep an open mind and see what might be there, whether it’s right side or left side through trade or potential free agency, and then you hone in on it. You see whether it’s a better opportunity for the money and vice versa. So it comes into play but I think, again, it’s not a perfect world here. There’s not always that perfect right-hand shot fit that’s 6-foot-4, 260 pounds that can shoot the puck like crazy and used to rag doll two players all the time.”
With pick No. 18 fast approaching, Cheveldayoff says he hasn’t had many calls for that selection from fellow GMs across the league, but if a fair offer presented itself, he claims that he and his staff would certainly take a closer look at it.
“There might be some situations where, again, for us if we’ve lost the players off the board we covet – we might move back. It just depends on how it all unfolds in front of you,” he added. “You’re open to everything. Right now we’re active on both fronts. Whether it’s talking about trading players for picks, or maybe trading players for players. That’s the thing that kind of happens – the timing side of things – you’re always weighing and wondering… That’s the way it is. The value of picks right now is at their highest because everybody is getting set and ready to pick. Once these two days go by, then you’re focused more on the player for player, or free agency, side of things.”