The Winnipeg Jets are getting closer to finalizing what will eventually be their map and guide to Draft Day.
Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff led his amateur scouting team through meetings in Florida over the last few days wrapping up Monday night.
"We've been in a board room with 16 people on our amateur side going over players and forming our list," said Cheveldayoff. "You put together a list and rank players and take that into the draft. We've listened to input from all of our people and we'll take this list to the combine (May 28 to June 2) and interview as many as 80 players and then work on our list some more."
Cheveldayoff told the Free Press the organization now has a list of about 130 players available in this year's NHL Entry Draft ranked from top to bottom. Those rankings are far from final and they won't be set until the day before the draft when Cheveldayoff and his staff will conduct a mock draft.
"Even then, you go into the draft with a list but things can change in an instant," said Cheveldayoff. "Your phone can ring and someone can have an offer on the table for you or you can make a call and have someone bite on the deal you are offering. It can remain fluid right up until the moment you make a pick."
The draft is scheduled for Pittsburgh's Consol Energy Center for June 22-23. For a team like the Jets, bent on developing through the draft, this is in many ways the most important day of the year.
"This is the organization's way to build with youth and that is the true long-term way," said Cheveldayoff. "It's very exciting and a very important day for the organization. It's the culmination of thousands upon thousands of miles travelled and reports filed on players. It's an astronomical amount of work gone through by the amateur staff."
Last year's draft process was unique for Cheveldayoff in the sense that he had only been GM of the Jets for three weeks when he stepped to the podium and announced Mark Scheifele as his team's top pick. This year, the Jets pick ninth in the first round.
"I didn't get hired until June 8 and I didn't sit in on our amateur meetings," said Cheveldayoff. "I can't go 100 per cent into the building of the list from last year. Zinger (assistant GM Craig Heisinger) and I didn't take part in a lot of this because at this point last year the team was still in Atlanta. So how the building process worked last year is hard for me to comment on. But when we got to our pick, our scouts were very strong on making that selection and we wanted to pick Scheifele."
Cheveldayoff, however, has his feet planted firmly on the ground for the process this year.
"This work essentially started the day after the draft and we begin to put together a watch list. Tournaments start in August and our amateur scouts go out and begin to watch and start to add and modify the watch list," he said. "Constantly you have internal meetings and then around mid-season you will have a meeting where you put together a preliminary ranking. That gives you a little more focus for your viewings and focus on what the draft class potentially looks like. Then you get to this point here where you still have the Memorial Cup and the combine that will factor in. The meetings here helped us put a solid order together and then we'll meet as a group just prior to the draft and go over everything again and make your final list that you will take to the table."
The Jets will have a plan this year and one that Cheveldayoff will test time and time again before putting it into action.
"The last day before the draft, you go through mock drafts and you have discussions on who you would take if two players you like were available when it comes to your turn to pick. You throw as much of that out there as you can because you only have a small period of time in the first round to make your selection," said the first year GM. "There are rules for calling timeouts and making trades. You have to be buttoned down before you get to the table. Unforeseen things can happen. You have to be ready."
It's not all amateur draft these days as Cheveldayoff must also focus on re-signing restricted free agents goalie Ondrej Pavelec and forward Evander Kane as well as any UFAs he wishes to bring back. The UFA talks must conclude before July 1. Cheveldayoff says there's been some discussion between himself and the Pavelec and Kane camps.
"We haven't gotten into too much back and forth yet. There is lots of talk. To say we haven't talked wouldn't be totally accurate but to say we're into hard negotiations wouldn't be accurate either," he said.
Last year's draft was an exercise in trust. True North had just bought the franchise and placed its people at the top of the org chart. But most of the work had been done by the Atlanta Thrashers organization.
Cheveldayoff churned his scouting staff and says it's about half new faces and half old in the team's amateur meetings.
"I had a conversation with Mark (Chipman) at the end of our meetings on Monday to give him a rundown and like in anything, you certainly like the fact that you get to be in on these conversations and impart what our philosophy is," he said. "We have a good staff and they work really hard. I don't know if comfortable and GM are two things that are ever in the same sentence because you are always working to be one step ahead. We've said all along we have to play catch up with all the things that went on last year but we were in good shape in the planning perspective in all the things that had to happen in Year 2."
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The Top 30
(TSN released its Top 60 players for this year's NHL Entry Draft on Tuesday and here's the first 30 representing the first round).
1.Nail Yakupov1Sarnia (OHL)10/6/93RWL5'11/18942313869+15
2.Mathew Dumba2Red Deer (WHL)7/25/94DR5'11/18369203757-6
3.Morgan Rielly4Moose Jaw (WHL)3/9/94DL6'0/1901831518+6
4.Alex Galchenyuk5Sarnia (OHL)2/12/94CL6'1/1972000-4
5.Teuvo Teravainen7Jokerit (FIN)9/11/94RWL5'11/1654011718-5
6.Griffin Reinhart6Edmonton (WHL)1/24/94DL6'3/20258122436+23
7.Filip Forsberg3Leksands (SWE)8/13/94LWR6'2/18153101020+1
8.Malcolm Subban10Belleville (OHL)12/21/93GL6'1/18839252.50.9233
9.Matt Finn8Guelph (OHL)2/24/94DL6'0/19561103848-13
10.Hampus Lindholm9Rogle (SWE)1/20/94DL6'2/19636279+7
11.Cody Ceci11Ottawa (OHL12/21/93DR6'2/20764174360+21
12.Ryan Murray12Everett (WHL)9/27/93DL6'0/2054692231E
14.Mark Jankowski15Stanstead (Que.Prep)9/13/94CL6'2/17057534093+51
15.Andrei Vasilevski20Ufa (KHL)7/25/94GL6'3/20427-2.23.931-
16.Zemgus Girgensons16Dubuque (USHL)1/5/94CL6'1/19849243155+17
17.Radek Faksa18Kitchener (OHL)1/9/94CL6'3/20269293766+19
18.Derrick Pouliot17Portland (WHL)1/16/94DL5'11/18672114859+15
19.Ludvig Bystrom21MODO (SWE)7/20/94DL6'1/2084282533-3
20.Mikhail Grigorenko14Quebec (QMJHL)5/16/94CL6'3/20059404585+35
21.Tom Wilson22Plymouth (OHL)3/29/94RWR6'4/2034991827+17
22.Tomas Hertl23Slavia Praha (Czech)12/11/93CL6'2/19838121325-
23.Pontus Aberg24Djurgardens (SWE)9/23/93LWR5'11/194549716-3
24.Michael Matheson28Dubuque (USHL)2/27/94DL6'1/17853111728E
25.Scott Laughton30Oshawa (OHL)5/30/94CL6'0/17764213253+8
26.Gemel Smith25Owen Sound (OHL)4/16/94LWL5'10/16068213960E
28.Sebastien Collberg19Frolunda (SWE)2/23/94RWR5'11/176239817+2
29.Phillip Di Giuseppe27Michigan (CCHA)10/9/93LWL5'11/17640111526+23
30.Olli Maatta-London (OHL)8/22/94DL6'1/2025852732+25