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Jets Cannot Afford to Trade Another First-Round Pick

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Cory Clark

Draft picks are the currency of the NHL. Teams love to acquire them and hate to lose them.

First-round draft picks are even more valuable to the Jets, a small-market team that’s often overlooked by top-tier free agents. First-round draft picks are like gold to the Jets—and they cannot afford to continue trading these draft picks away.

General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff has had success turning these high-end draft picks into strong NHL players. Mark Scheifele, Kyle Connor, Patrik Laine, Josh Morrissey, and Nikolaj Ehlers were all selected in the first round.

A total of 78 percent of Cheveldayoff’s first-round draft picks between 2011 and 2017 have transitioned into regular NHL players, playing at least 60 percent of games in a single season, which ranks ninth among NHL teams. Given that these players’ average selection was in the middle of the first round over that timeframe, Cheveldayoff and his scouts have done well.

Unfortunately, their success at the draft ends after the first round. Only one of his five second-round draft picks have played at least 60 percent of available games in any season since being drafted. That player, Nic Petan, played 54 games for the Jets in the 2016–2017 season and has since been traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Following the trade, Petan suited up for 21 NHL games over two seasons and currently plays for the Toronto Marlies, an American Hockey League team.

The Winnipeg Jets’ second-round efficiency ranks twentieth in the NHL.

Adding a player or two before the trade deadline is a noble idea if the price is right. Consider for a moment that time when the Jets traded a first-round draft pick and a prospect to St. Louis in exchange for Paul Stastny. Would the Jets have traded Scheifele, Connor, Morrissey, or Ehlers for Paul Stastny? I hope not, considering Stastny was an unrestricted free agent at the end of that season.

Based on Cheveldayoff’s track record in the first round, the Jets probably traded away a good hockey player for a player classified as a rental.

Fans and NHL insiders continue to speculate about potential trades, but the Jets are a draft, develop, and retain team with a relatively shallow prospect pool. Cheveldayoff needs to continue to focus on the future of this franchise and rebuild the depth this franchise once had.

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