Connor a coup for the Winnipeg Jets at No. 17

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SUNRISE, Fla. — The Winnipeg Jets swung for the fences and whiffed, but may have hit a homer anyway with their work in Friday night’s first round of the 2015 National Hockey League Draft.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/06/2015 (2714 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

SUNRISE, Fla. — The Winnipeg Jets swung for the fences and whiffed, but may have hit a homer anyway with their work in Friday night’s first round of the 2015 National Hockey League Draft.

The Jets, already drawing rave reviews for their stable of prospects, added two more with the 17th and 25th picks by grabbing Americans Kyle Connor and Jack Roslovic. Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said the club had made attempts to move into the Top 10 — the most-rumoured target was the Arizona Coyotes’ third-overall selection — but landed an elite talent in Connor many had ranked as high as sixth overall.

“We’re very excited to get Kyle where we got him. We think he’s got tremendous skill, really good upside,” said Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff. “We think he’s a Top-6 forward… you look at his stats and you look at what he’s done at the USHL level and we really believe we’ve added a skilled player.

Melissa Tait / Winnipeg Free Press Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff has done exactly what he said he would do. He drafted and developed, but for Jets fans the next question is can he retain what he’s built?

“We were excited to be able to get him where we were at. But when you’re at 17, you have to be prepared for everything and sometimes these guys do fall into your lap and you’re the benefactors of it.”

In fact, the Jets were so convinced Connor would not be there when they selected 17th overall they opted not to arrange a second interview with him in the hours leading up to the first round.

“It’s safe to say we probably didn’t think he was going to be there,” Cheveldayoff said. “When you’re drafting in the Top 10 you know the group you’re going to be looking at. Sometimes those things just fall into your lap and it will be something as he progresses that we’re going to like even more.

“I had the fortune of being able to see him play a couple of times myself. He’s a big guy, sees the ice very well and can do a lot of things with the puck — he can make plays, drive down the wall and score some nice goals. He’s got great speed and the tempo of his game is at a high level.”

Both of the Jets first-rounders are oozing skill and upside. Connor led the USHL in scoring this season while Roslovic was on the No. 1 line with the USA U-18 team with Auston Matthews — the consensus first overall pick next year — and Matthew Tkachuk.

Cheveldayoff said they backed off in their attempts to move up in the first — “you take your best shots with the assets and the things that you have and sometimes there are not a match” — but the Jets Top 6 future watch just got a whole lot more intriguing.

The Bruins made a huge splash with some major wheeling and dealing on Friday, shipping out both Dougie Hamilton and Milan Lucic, but it’s what they did with three consecutive picks before the Jets — 13th, 14th and 15th overall — that plopped Connor into Winnipeg’s lap. The Bruins selected Jakub Zboril, Jake DeBrusk and Zachary Senyshyn — the three of them ranked 14th, 28th and 40th by scouts TSN’s Bob McKenzie interviewed beforehand — while Dallas, with the 12th overall pick, selected Russian Denis Gurianov, ranked 66th in The Hockey News Draft Guide.

Today’s conclusion could be equally productive for the Jets, who have mined the later rounds for some potential gems such as Connor Hellebuyck and Tucker Poolman. Winnipeg picks in the second, third, fourth and sixth rounds — they don’t have their fifth — and have two sevens.

“There’s lots of good players on the board,” said Cheveldayoff. “That’s the interesting thing. The upside to not being able to move up substantially in the draft is you’ve still got a lot of your assets able to pick. If you do move up, it costs you dearly and you probably don’t have those picks on Day 2 or maybe not as many even on Day 1.

“We’re excited. We’ve got all our remaining picks except for the fifth round and those things unfold on the floor as well. There may be some opportunities to pick up some extra picks as well.”

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @WFPEdTait

more draft coverage on C2, 3, 10

History

Updated on Friday, June 26, 2015 11:02 PM CDT: Updates headline

Updated on Friday, June 26, 2015 11:08 PM CDT: Added video.

Updated on Saturday, June 27, 2015 7:56 AM CDT: Updates headline

Updated on Saturday, June 27, 2015 8:17 AM CDT: Changes picture.

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