WINNIPEG - There were a few strokes of absolute brilliance drawn by the hands of general managers past but Winnipeg’s new NHL team will need a better overall performance at the draft table in order to be more successful than the previous franchise that called our fair city home.
From 1979 to 1995, the Winnipeg Jets participated in the NHL Entry draft and came away with couple of Hall of Famers and a handful of other players who went on to achieve star status.
For every Dale Hawerchuk, a Hall of Famer who was drafted first overall by John Ferguson in 1981 and Teemu Selanne, a still-active surefire Hall of Famer who Fergie stole at 10th overall in 1988, there were duds like Ryan Stewart (18th overall in 1985, one career point), Sergei Bautin (17th overall in 1992, 30 points in 132 career games) and Jimmy Mann (19th overall in 1979, 30 points in 293 NHL games).
In general the Jets drafted reasonably well in the first round, scoring big time with picks like Dave Babych in 1980, Hawerchuk in 1981, Selanne in 1988, Keith Tkachuk in 1990 and Shane Doan in 1995. Other first-rounders who went on to long careers include Stu Barnes (1989), Aaron Ward (1991) and Bryan Marchment (1987), though none of those three spent much time with the Jets.
First-rounders like Jim Kyte in 1982, Andrew McBain and Bobby Dollas in 1983, Pat Elyniuk in 1986, Mats Lindgren in 1993 and Deron Quint in 1994 achieved moderate success, but had relatively short NHL careers. Still, they weren’t complete busts like Mann, Stewart and Bautin.
While the Jets weren’t the worst team at the draft table, their performance certainly wouldn’t be up to the standards of today’s NHL.
Teams that have used their high first-round draft picks wisely in recent years have gone on to big-time success — think about Stanley Cup winners like Anaheim with Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, Chicago with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane and Pittsburgh with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury.
Kevin Cheveldayoff, the GM of Winnipeg’s new team, has indicated he wants to build through the draft and that’s a philosophy shared by most NHL teams, especially those in small markets.
It was the Jets’ philosophy as well, but the team’s spotty draft performance certainly contributed to the fact the team, in Winnipeg or Phoenix, has never won a game in the second round of the playoffs.
Previous Winnipeg GMs Ferguson, Mike Smith and John Paddock found a few gems in the later rounds, like Nikolai Khabibulin (ninth round, 1992), Thomas Steen (fifth round, 1979), Brian Mullen (seventh round, 1980), Dave Ellett (fourth round, 1982), Alexei Zhamnov (fourth round, 1990), Bob Essensa (fourth round, 1983), Freddy Olausson (fourth round, 1985), Kris Draper (third round, 1989), Dave Christian (second round, 1979) and Teppo Numminen (second round, 1986).
For the most part however, the Jets drafting was sketchy at best after the first round. The huge majority of players never made the NHL or only played a handful of games.
Some years were worse than others.
In 1987, the 10 players drafted after the first round combined to play 21 NHL games and in 1994 they combined for 65 games.
This is not to say the Jets were that different from most other teams in the NHL – every franchise has hits and misses at the draft table and, like even the best baseball players, the misses are far more frequent than the hits.
But you can rest assured the teams with the best batting averages at the draft table are the ones that have the most success on the ice.
This weekend, Cheveldayoff gets his chance to step up to the plate.
Not so slick
While not top of the line, Winnipeg’s NHL draft history looks impressive next to that of one of the city’s fiercest rivals – the five-time Stanley Cup champion Edmonton Oilers.
The Oilers drafted brilliantly in their first three years in the NHL, picking up Kevin Lowe, Mark Messier, Glenn Anderson, Paul Coffey, Jari Kurri, Andy Moog and Grant Fuhr.
After that, it was one disaster after another for the most part.
In their NHL history, the Oilers have had 19 first round draft picks who were complete busts. Names like Scott Metcalfe, Kim Issel, Michael Reisen, Scott Allison, Jason Soules, Joe Hulbig, Jason Bonsignore and Nick Stajduhar.
Many of them never played an NHL game and the rest played only a handful.
The worst moment came in 1990, when the Oilers drafted 12 players, none of whom ever played a game in the NHL.
WINNIPEG JETS DRAFT HISTORY
1. Dale Hawerchuk
first overall, 1981, 1,409 points
2. Teemu Selanne
10th overall, 1988, 1,340 points
3. Teppo Numminen
29th overall, 1986, 637 points
4. Keith Tkachuk
19th overall, 1990, 1,065 points
5. Thomas Steen
103rd overall, 1979, 817 points
6. Dave Babych
second overall, 1980, 723 points
7. Alexei Zhamnov
77th overall, 1990, 719 points
8. Shane Doan
seventh overall, 1995, 738 points
9. Nikolai Khabibulin
204th overall, 1992, 316 wins
10. Dave Ellett
75th overall, 1982, 568 points
1. Ryan Stewart
18th overall, 1985, one point
2. Jimmy Mann
19th overall, 1979, 30 points
3. Sergei Bautin
17th overall, 1992, 30 points
4. Dan Ratushny
25th overall, 1989, one point
5. Scott Langkow
31st overall, 1993, Zero wins
6. Mike Muller
35th overall, 1990, zero points
7. Patrick Erickson
37th overall, 1987, zero points
8. Roger Ohman
39th overall, 1985, zero points
9. Russ Romaniuk
31st overall, 1988, 27 points
10. Mats Lindgren
15th overall, 1993, 128 points