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NHL Draft

Jets move up in Draft Lottery, will pick second

Winnipeg GM says 'no wrong decision at No. 1, No. 2 or No. 3'

by Mike G. Morreale @MikemorrealeNHL / staff writer

Cheveldayoff on #2 pick

Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff on getting the #2 pick

Jets General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff on getting the #2 pick in this year's NHL Draft

  • 01:28 •

TORONTO -- Kevin Cheveldayoff has been adamant about a draft-and-develop philosophy ever since he took over as general manager of the Winnipeg Jets in 2011.

Cheveldayoff received a golden opportunity to add another top-tier prospect Saturday when the Jets moved up from No. 6 to No. 2 in the 2016 NHL Draft after winning the second pick in the NHL Draft Lottery. The Toronto Maple Leafs were awarded the No. 1 pick, and the Columbus Blue Jackets won the No. 3 selection.

After Toronto won the first pick, Winnipeg had the fifth-best odds to win the No. 2 pick in the draft, which will be held June 24-25 at First Niagara Center in Buffalo.

"I have to admit, it was very nerve-racking," Cheveldayoff said. "You're waiting all day, doing several different interviews, and then you see the 14 cards coming onto the floor and you know the time is getting close.

"Once I saw the No. 9, No. 8 No. 7 picks revealed, and knew were weren't going to move backwards, that's when my nerves kicked in even more. I knew at that point we'd have an opportunity at the top three."

Video: Bettman draws the lottery for this years NHL Draft

For the first time, the lottery assigned the top three picks in the first round.

The Jets have seven picks in the draft, including two in the first round; they also have the 26th pick obtained when they traded forward Andrew Ladd to the Chicago Blackhawks this season.

"When you get an opportunity to draft at the top end of the draft, those are the type of players who can make a difference," Cheveldayoff said. "Every year is different and you don't know exactly what that player will do moving forward, but from what I've seen of players at the top end of the draft, these are players who can make an impact over a period of time.

"No one player is going to come in and change a franchise overnight, but certainly it's a big building piece moving forward."

A few young players within the Jets system made an impression in the NHL this season, including center Mark Scheifele (29 goals, 71 points) and 20-year-old rookie right wing Nikolaj Ehlers (15 goals, 38 points). There are others on the verge of making the roster next season: left wing Kyle Connor (No. 17, 2015 draft), defenseman Josh Morrissey (No. 13, 2013), and center Nic Petan (No. 43, 2013).

Auston Matthews (6-foot-1, 210 pounds) of National League A in Switzerland's top professional league is projected by many to be the No. 1 pick. The Scottsdale, Ariz. native is No. 1 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of international skaters eligible for the draft after scoring 24 goals and 46 points in 36 games. After Matthews, the next two players on almost every draft board are forwards Patrik Laine of Tappara and Jesse Puljujarvi of Karpat in Liiga, the top professional league in Finland.

Laine (6-4, 206), No. 2 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of international skaters, had 17 goals and 33 points in 46 games. He was named most valuable player of the Liiga playoffs after scoring 10 goals and 15 points in 18 games for league champion Tappara.

Puljujarvi (6-3, 203), No. 3 on NHL Central Scouting's final international ranking, led all skaters at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship with 17 points and was named the best forward and most valuable player of the tournament. He had 13 goals and 28 points in 50 games for Karpat.

"I had an opportunity to go to the World Junior Championship and watch [Laine and Puljujarvi] play a big part of winning a championship," Cheveldayoff said. "I watched Puljujarvi win another gold for Finland at the World Under-18 Championship and saw what Laine did in the Liiga playoffs.

"Sitting here today, I don't think there's any wrong decision at No. 1, No. 2 or No. 3. We're just excited that we get an opportunity to take one of them."

Teemu Selanne, a native of Finland, spent four seasons with Winnipeg after the Jets selected him in the first round (No. 10) of the 1988 draft. The impact Selanne had on Winnipeg certainly wasn't lost on Cheveldayoff.

"Teemu is still revered for what he's done in the city and community and how he embraced it," Cheveldayoff said. "There's a lot of good story lines and it's exciting. Any one of the players we select is going to be a big part of our franchise for many years to come."

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