ST. PAUL, Minn. – No team had a more productive weekend at the NHL draft than the Winnipeg Jets.
The franchise unveiled its name, hired Claude Noel as coach and added seven prospects during a busy couple days in Minnesota. It’s been a common theme for members of the organization in recent weeks and isn’t likely to change any time soon.
“I was sitting with (assistant GM Craig Heisinger) after we made our last pick and I turned to him and said, ‘All right, cross that one off the list and let’s go on to the next thing,”‘ GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said Saturday. “There’s lots of different things that we have to accomplish, but bit by bit we’ll get it all done.”
Among the immediate plans will be filling out Noel’s coaching staff and continuing to work through the logistical issues that remain with the relocation to Winnipeg—not to mention their AHL team’s move to St. John’s, N.L.
The Jets won’t hold a development camp in July but they do plan to participate in a rookie tournament prior to training camp.
“Atlanta wasn’t having a development camp so really the infrastructure wasn’t in place,” said Cheveldayoff. “The picks from the draft are one thing, but having your prospects that you already have in your system coming as well (would have been too difficult).”
It will likely be some time before any of the players selected at Xcel Energy Center make the jump to the NHL.
The Jets selected Barrie Colts forward Mark Scheifele seventh overall on Friday night and added six more prospects on Saturday: Swift Current Broncos forward Adam Lowry (67th overall); defenceman Brennan Serville (No. 78) of the Ontario Jr. A’s Stouffville Spirit; Tri-City Americans defenceman Zachary Yuen (No. 119); Belleville Bulls forward Austen Brassard (No. 149); goaltender Jason Kasdorf (No. 157), who spent last season with the Portage Terriers of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League; and defenceman Aaron Harstad (No. 187) of the USHL’s Green Bay Gamblers.
The organization is prepared to be patient and doesn’t feel the need to rush any of those players along.
“They’ll be given a chance to show where they’re at,” said Cheveldayoff. “The play will dictate what level of development they’re at at this time.”
Lowry was one of several players taken in this draft with good NHL bloodlines. He’s the son of Dave Lowry, who played more than 1,000 games in the league and is now an assistant coach with the Calgary Flames.
The Jets were drawn to that pedigree.
“I think that you know what you’re going to get from him as far as how he’s going to play,” said Cheveldayoff. “Our scouts really like his compete level, really like his character. I think that fits in with the mould that we talked about wanting to bring players into this organization.”
The players selected Saturday got the added bonus of meeting Jets defenceman Dustin Byfuglien, a Minnesota native who spent some time at the team’s draft table.
“It sounds like they’re pretty happy with what they’ve picked so far,” said Byfuglien. “I just actually got done talking with a few of them. Everyone’s excited and I think everyone should be excited right now.”
He took some time to introduce himself to Noel, who was hired after the team decided not to retain Craig Ramsay in the move from Atlanta. The big defenceman came away with a pretty good impression of his new coach.
“I’ve got no problem with him yet so far,” Byfuglien said with a laugh.
The team will now turn its attention towards free agency, but isn’t expected to be a major player on July 1. In fact, the most important task will be getting captain Andrew Ladd’s signature on an extension.
Beyond that, the Jets are looking at building patiently.
“I think we’re going to look at all avenues and be as aggressive as is feasible and reasonable,” said Cheveldayoff. “Again, this is going to be a process that takes some time. There is not going to be a quick fix that’s going to be out there, one guy that’s going to put us at the top.”