Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Jets want closer look at draft crop

With Yakupov out of reach, Chevy heads overseas PREPPING FOR THE NHL ENTRY DRAFT

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The Edmonton Oilers, rumour has it, are still doing cartwheels in their hockey department offices after landing the first overall pick -- again -- while Scott Howson and his crew in Columbus are cursing the NHL's draft lottery balls as we speak.

The Winnipeg Jets, meanwhile, are locked in at the No. 9 spot -- just as they expected prior to Tuesday's lottery.

As Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff headed to the Czech Republic on Wednesday for the IIHF World Under-18 Championship, it was with the same knowledge he had late in March as the NHL's regular season drew to a close: barring a blockbuster trade, the Jets won't get a sniff at Nail Yakupov, Ryan Murray or Mikhail Grigorenko -- considered the top three prospects -- but could land another building block for their foundation.

Scouting the world's best young talent prior to the draft this June in Pittsburgh is atop the Jets GM's to-do list and the U-18 championship will give him and his scouting crew a chance to look at prospects like defencemen Matt Dumba (Canada) and Jacob Trouba (U.S.) and forward Teuvo Teravainen (Finland) who may be available at the ninth pick.

"We want to have the chance to see as many of the potential prospects as we can," said Cheveldayoff.

It's also worth noting it was at this tournament a year ago when Mark Scheifele jumped off the page for scouts and rocketed up the draft rankings high enough that the Jets made him the seventh overall pick last June.

Cheveldayoff figures he has seen roughly half of the top 30 prospects live and hopes to have seen the rest by the time NHL teams gather for the draft combine in Toronto in late May.

And while the talent in this draft has been described as average -- many pundits say the drop-off from Yakupov to the rest of the field is dramatic -- that kind of talk is pure guess work. The Jets will likely hang on to their first-round pick, as Cheveldayoff said Tuesday he wouldn't be against moving it in a trade, but that the cost would be "expensive."

"This year's an interesting draft from the sense that there's several players that are ranked very high that had very serious injuries," said Cheveldayoff. "Some of them kept them out the entire year and they're coming back... so the evaluation process is a little bit more difficult, which can be a plus or a minus depending on how you look at it. It could mean players who could have been or should have been ranked very high have slipped because of their injuries or vice versa.

"Every year everyone talks about the quality of the draft but invariably the quality of the draft comes to fruition three-four years from now when these players start making impacts."

After scouting the U-18s, the Memorial Cup, all the CHL playoffs and the NCAA Frozen Four (already completed), the Jets staff will begin meetings in mid May where they will form the basis of their top 11 skaters, top 20 goaltenders as well as break down the European and North American prospects.

The last real look at the future talent will come at the NHL draft combine at the end of May, where personal interviews will be conducted by their scouting staff.

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

PICKS

The Jets have six picks in this year's draft, having traded their fourth-rounder to Washington for Eric Fehr.

PRE-DRAFT EVENTS

IIHF World Under-18 Championship: Czech Republic, April 12-22

Jets staff attending: GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, assistant GM Craig Heisinger, director of amateur scouting Marcel Comeau, head scout Mark Hillier

WHL/OHL/QMJHL playoffs: majority of amateur scouting staff

Memorial Cup: May 18-27 in Shawinigan, Que.

Jets staff attending: majority of amateur scouting staff

NHL Draft Prospect Combine: Toronto, May 28-June 2

Jets staff attending: Cheveldayoff, Heisinger, Comeau, Hillier, assistant to the GM Larry Simmons, hockey operations manager Ryan Bowness

Draft 2012: Pittsburgh, June 22-23

Jets staff attending: All scouts and hockey staff

2012 NHL ENTRY DRAFT ORDER

1 Edmonton Oilers

2 Columbus Blue Jackets

3 Montreal Canadiens

4 New York Islanders

5 Toronto Maple Leafs

6 Anaheim Ducks

7 Minnesota Wild

8 Carolina Hurricanes

9 Winnipeg Jets

10 Tampa Bay Lightning

11 Washington Capitals (from Colorado)

12 Buffalo Sabres

13 Dallas Stars

14 Calgary Flames

PROSPECTS WHO MIGHT BE AVAILABLE AT THE NO. 9 SPOT:

Morgan Rielly, D, Moose Jaw

Radek Faksa, C, Kitchener

Teuvo Teravainen, RW, Jokerit

Matt Dumba, D, Red Deer

Griffin Reinhart, D, Edmonton

Cody Ceci, D, Ottawa

Jacob Trouba, D, U.S.A. U-18

-- Tait

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 12, 2012 D3

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