General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff isn’t usually superstitious.
But when it came to the ever popular draft lottery simulator, it was a different story. That he wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole.
He just wanted to get lucky that one time it truly mattered.
Incredibly, it happened. With less than a 1-in-10 chance of doing so, the Jets won the second of two draws and now hold the No. 2 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft.
“It’s a big, big day,” Cheveldayoff said, still abuzz over the phone following the broadcast. “It’s a great opportunity for us to pick a player that’s going to be a foundation piece for this franchise moving forward.”
For the first time ever, three separate draws determined the first, second and third overall selections. The Toronto Maple Leafs, who had the best odds coming in at 20.0%, won the No. 1 pick, while the Columbus Blue Jackets were also victorious, moving up to third.
While some representatives brought a physical item of some sort – be it those hideous striped socks or a self-described ‘lucky tie!’ – Cheveldayoff had something a bit more personal helping the cause.
“My daughter was born on St. Patrick’s Day, so the luck of the Irish — even though I’m not Irish — fell upon us,” he said. “That was my something that was near and dear to me."
Three of the remaining five Canadian teams fell, including the Edmonton Oilers (2 to 4), who won the Connor McDavid sweepstakes just last year. The Oilers and Vancouver Canucks were the only two teams that slid two spots.
The full of selection for the first 14 drafting positions in the first round, only, is now as follows: Toronto, Winnipeg, Columbus, Edmonton, Vancouver, Calgary, Arizona, Buffalo, Montreal,
Colorado, New Jersey, Ottawa, Carolina and Boston.
So how did it all go down?
Fourteen balls numbered one to 14 were placed in the drum and drawn in 10-second intervals to produce a four-number combination. Each team was assigned the number of combinations proportional to their odds, so with a 7.5% chance to win the No. 1 pick, the Jets owned
75 of the 1001 possible combinations (11, 12, 13, 14 is classified as a re-draw).
The Jets’ winning numbers were 5-7-10-14.
“During the day, as the day went on, there was certainly a bit of anxiousness, but it was totally out of our control,” Cheveldayoff said. “You may have an opportunity to pick a player that’s going to be a special player; the flip side is that you have probably even a greater chance of moving from the sixth pick to the seventh, eighth or ninth pick. It was a bit of an up and down day when you let your
mind wander, but you try not to get too nervous until the event starts.”
NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly counted them back, one by one, beginning with the Bruins at No. 14. There was no change for the next eight reveals, until Calgary’s card appeared at No. 6, where
the Jets used to be.
At that point, the Jets were guaranteed winners – but what at spot, we didn’t know.
“You have to catch yourself doing the math as you go,” Cheveldayoff laughed.
The Jets, who jumped up four spots from No. 6, are also in possession of the 22nd pick after acquiring Chicago’s first rounder in the Andrew Ladd trade. With another pick early in the second round, the Jets will have three picks in the Top 36, plus another four in Rounds 4-7.
With Nikolaj Ehlers and others already in the fold, Kyle Connor entering the picture next season and a bunch of other young stars already developing in the organization, ‘Jets hockey’ has never looked so good.
“From a scouting standpoint, you’ve scouted everybody and you’ve given everybody equal opportunity and equal weighting because you don’t know where things are going to fall,” Cheveldayoff said. “Moving forward now, we have the opportunity to see some of these players play — Patrik Laine and Auston Matthews — at the World Championship. There’s some scouting left to be done, but our meetings will certainly take on a different tone knowing where we’re at now.”
While Matthews is expected to go first overall, Laine, a Finnish winger, is the consensus No. 2, with fellow Finn Jesse Puljujarvi not far behind. Both Laine and Puljujarvi played pro in the Finnish Liiga last year and were instrumental in their country’s gold medal-winning performance at the World Juniors.
With Laine still tearing it up in the playoffs with an MVP run (10-5-15 in 18 games), Puljujarvi appeared at the World U-18s just last week in Grand Forks, recording seven points (5G, 2A) in just four games en route to gold.
If there was a ‘can’t-miss’ draft, this appears to be it.
“I had the opportunity to see Matthews, Laine, Puljujarvi — all those players that played at the World Junior Championship,” Cheveldayoff said, adding of the Finns: “To come in at 18 years old and have that type of contribution to winning a championship at the U-20 level is really unheard of.”
Soon, one will be the newest Winnipeg Jet.
-- Ryan Dittrick, WinnipegJets.com