Oh Mann, talk about a turkey

Memorable draft moments, courtesy the Winnipeg Jets


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MINNEAPOLIS -- Bittersweet is the word that comes to mind when you put NHL draft and Winnipeg together in one sentence.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 23/06/2011 (4288 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

MINNEAPOLIS — Bittersweet is the word that comes to mind when you put NHL draft and Winnipeg together in one sentence.

The Jets, circa 1979-1996, had an experience of extremes during that era when it came to picking amateur players.

In honour of that period and on the occasion of Winnipeg’s return to the proceedings this Friday and Saturday at the Xcel Energy Center across the river in St. Paul, we present our list of seven memorable — good and bad — NHL draft moments, courtesy of the Jets.

1. Teemu Selanne

The Finnish Flash was GM John Ferguson’s final first-round pick, 10th overall in 1988. Fergie was terminated by the team later that year and never got to stick around to enjoy Selanne’s record-smashing exploits, not to mention his infectious personality.

Selanne’s still going strong today — hasn’t retired yet, at least — and is a sure-fire Hall of Famer.

If Winnipeg ever again picks a player that comes close to Selanne’s track record, it’ll be something.

2. Jimmy Mann, 19th of 1979

There remains no shortage of fans who still fixate on the Jets’ first-ever NHL pick, the tough-guy winger who went 19th overall in 1979, and the debacle it turned out to be.

The team had already been stripped of most of its good players after moving over from the WHA.

The what-ifs of the Mann case will never be answered, but the record shows that a pretty special first round was concluded by these three picks; Mann, Michel Goulet to Quebec and Kevin Lowe to Edmonton.

Yes, the Jets managed to find Dave Christian and Thomas Steen later in that draft, but at Mann’s pick, you have to remember Mark Messier, Glenn Anderson and Guy Carbonneau were available.

Mann played a full season worth of games only that first year and eventually was traded to Quebec in 1995 for a fifth-round pick.

3. Ryan Stewart

The Kamloops junior was the 18th overall pick of the 1985 selections. To say this one didn’t work out would be an understatement. Stewart played a total of three NHL games in his career, those for the Jets in 1985-86.

4. The Russian year

The 1992 draft at the Montreal Forum was a dark day for many Jets fans. GM Mike Smith made 12 picks that day and nine of them were Russians. Not that Russian hockey players were bad choices, but Smith was hell-bent on proving a point.

To his credit, he did unearth a real keeper that day, goalie Nikolai Khabibulin in the ninth round, but the overall affair stuck badly with Winnipeggers.

The day did not get off to a great start for the Jets when Smith went off the board in the first round for big defenceman Sergei Bautin, a player ranked so low that NHL officials and TSN needed 10 minutes to identify him.

5. Hawerchuk, Arniel

With their only ever first-overall pick, in 1981, the Jets hit a home run with Dale Hawerchuk and followed it right up with Scott Arniel in the second round. Hawerchuk gave Winnipeg nine stellar seasons and complied 929 regular-season points in that time, the Jets’ best ever. Arniel played five seasons for Winnipeg, adopting the city as his home and going on to playing and coaching with the Manitoba Moose. The 1981 draft rated as a high-yield year.

6. Tkachuk not Tkaczuk

When Hawerchuk became disgruntled in 1990 with coach Bob Murdoch, he asked to be traded. His wish was granted at the draft that year in Vancouver and it led to another bright day for Winnipeg scouts at the draft table. They went down in the first round from 14 to 19 and still landed power forward Keith Tkachuk.

7. Later-round surprises

Every franchise gets lucky now and then

How about Khabibulin, Alexei Zhamnov in the fourth round of 1990, Kris Draper in the third round of 1989, Fredrik Olausson in the fourth round of 1985, Bob Essensa in the fourth round of 1983, Brian Mullen in the seventh round of 1980 or Steen in the fifth round of 1979?


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