Jets' first draft pick difficult to project

Developed under Patrick Roy and familiar with North American style, the high-end skill set of...

Developed under Patrick Roy and familiar with North American style, the high-end skill set of Mikhail Grigorenko (right) combined with size might be too intriguing for the Jets to pass up. (DIDIER DEBUSSCHERE/QMI Agency files)

Ken Wiebe, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:53 AM ET

The number nine has plenty of historical significance to the Winnipeg Jets, for both the original franchise and the 2.0 version.

So perhaps it’s fitting that the Jets currently hold the ninth pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, which begins Friday night at CONSOL Energy Center with the opening round.

While Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff is on record saying that he’s open to trading up or down if the price is right, we’re going to operate on the belief the team will hold onto the selection (at least for now).

Outside of Sarnia Sting winger Nail Yakupov going first overall, there are plenty of differing opinions out there as to which players will be going where throughout the Top-10.

Injuries played a major role as several top prospects — like Yakupov’s frequent linemate Alex Galchenyuk, Moose Jaw Warriors defenceman Morgan Rielly and Peterborough Petes blue-liner Slater Koekkoek to name a few — all saw limited action this season.

However, each of those players tested well at the NHL Combine and are not expected to see their stock fall far because of injury concerns.

Most GMs say they’re going to use the best player available approach when it comes to their selection, but it’s going to be interesting to see whether the Jets draft one of the talented defencemen available or address another area of need and pick a skilled (and bigger) forward.

Unless the Jets trade down near the bottom of the first round, the odds of going with a goalie like Malcolm Subban of the Belleville Bulls or Swedish stopper Oscar Dansk at No. 9 is low.

But given the depth in the system — or lack thereof — it’s almost certain the Jets will select a netminder at some point, it’s merely a matter of when they pull the trigger and what option they pursue.

For those who thought the Jets should have fallen further down the standings late in the season to secure a higher draft pick, keep in mind that Brian Leetch, Rod Brind’Amour and Cam Neely were all scooped up with previous ninth overall selections.

Which brings us back to our original query of what the Jets might actually do.

Without having access to their actual draft board, it’s impossible to know how the Jets rank players.

With their first pick in 2011, Mark Scheifele, the Jets showed their not afraid to go with their gut.

That meant passing on highly touted centre Sean Couturier, who made the Philadelphia Flyers as an 18-year-old, and rock-steady defenceman Dougie Hamilton, who went to the Boston Bruins and had another excellent junior season with the Niagara IceDogs of the OHL.

We’re not knocking the pick and we won’t know if the Jets made the right choice until we’re well down the road, three or four years at the earliest.

It also makes projecting this year’s first round pick for the Jets that much more difficult.

Anytime a team that has most of its top prospects already playing in the NHL and is looking to restock the shelves, they must make their Top-10 pick count.

With that in mind, do the Jets swing for the fences or go with a safer pick?

Only Cheveldayoff and his scouting staff will know for sure.

And to be perfectly honest, they might not know until the first eight players come off the board on Friday night.

Here are six players that could be available at nine on Friday

* Based on the belief that C Nail Yakupov, D Ryan Murray, LW Alex Galchenyuk, RW Filip Forsberg, D Griffin Reinhart, D Matt Dumba, LW Teuvo Teravainen will all be chosen in the Top-7

1. C Mikhail Grigorenko

Quebec Remparts, QMJHL

Tale of tape:

Born: May 16, 1994, Khabarovsk, Russia

HT: 6-3 WT: 200

Shoots: Left

2011-12 stats: 59 GP, 40 G, 45 A, 85 P, 12 PIM

The skinny: The Russian has seen his stock drop dramatically after once being considered as a first overall selection. Developed under Patrick Roy and familiar with North American style, his high-end skill set combined with size might be too intriguing for the Jets to pass up.

2. D Jacob Trouba

United States Development Team, USHL

Tale of the tape:

Born: Feb. 26, 1994, Rochester, Minn.

Height: 6-2

WT: 196 Shoots: Right

2011-12 stats: 22 GP, 4 G, 14 A, 18 P, 35 PIM

The skinny: Strong skater who can play physical and chip in offensively. Was captain of Team USA at U-17 tourney in Winnipeg in 2011, suited up for World Junior Hockey Championship in 2012 as a 17-year-old.

3. D Cody Ceci

Ottawa 67s, OHL

Tale of the tape:

Born: Dec. 21, 1993, Orleans, Ont.

HT: 6-2 WT: 207

2011-12 stats: 64 GP, 17 G, 43 A, 60 P 16 PIM

The skinny: Offensive D-man with a booming shot who is sometimes compared to Michael Del Zotto of the New York Rangers. Has a big body, but needs to work on his defensive zone play.

4. D Morgan Rielly

Moose Jaw Warriors

Tale of the tape:

Born: Mar. 9, 1994, West Vancouver, B.C.

HT: 6-0 WT: 190 Shoots: Left

2011-12 stats: 18 GP, 3 G, 15 A, 18 P, 2 PIM

The skinny: Lost most of his season due to a torn ACL, the smooth-skating blue-liner returned for the playoffs and is drawing some comparisons to Chicago Blackhawks D-man Duncan Keith. Helped Notre Dame Hounds win 2010 TELUS Cup national midget championship.

5. C Radek Faksa

Kitchener Rangers, OHL

Tale of the tape:

Born: Jan. 9, 1994, Opava, Czech Republic

HT: 6-3 WT: 203 Shoots: Left

2011-12 stats: 62 GP, 29 G, 38 A, 67 P, 47 PIM

The skinny: Has the body type and skill set the Jets are looking for down the middle. Plus, he can skate and adjusted well to the North American game, piling up points as an OHL rookie. Drawing some comparisons to 2011 2nd overall pick Gabriel Landeskog.

6. C Zemgus Girgensons

Dubuque, USHL

Tale of the tape:

Born: Jan. 5, 1994, Riga, Latvia,

HT: 6-1 WT: 201 Shoots: Left

2011-12 stats: 43 GP, 19 G, 25 A, 44 P, 57 P

The skinny: Might be a stretch for the Latvian to go at No. 9, but he’s a physical force with some scoring potential. Committed to playing for Vermont of the NCAA, so Jets could be patient with him.


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