This year’s NHL Draft lottery gifted the Winnipeg Jets the #2 pick in the 2016 Draft, which showcases a class of 5-10 high profile prospects. The obvious representative for this draft currently is Arizona native Auston Matthews, as he is the favorite to go #1 to Toronto. Winnipeg was blessed by the hockey gods with the #2 pick rather than #6. So Matthews is more than likely off the table, but Winnipeg now has a variety of options to chose from. Finnish players Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi are possible picks, as well as Matthew Tkachuk for London in the OHL and Pierre-Luc Dubois from Cape Breton in the QMJHL. Currently, the projected pick for Winnipeg is Laine, considered to be the next Finnish Flash. But whichever player Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff decides on picking, the immense pressure on the player will go hand in hand when putting on the jersey.
You could say the same for Matthews and Toronto, because the Leafs have not seen a successful season in years (No i am not counting the half-season where they made the playoffs, and lets be real, Game 7 is something they don’t want to remember as part of a “successful season”) but this is a legendary franchise with loyal fans and a mid rebuilding team, so half of the work is already done. Winnipeg has had some success, obviously not this past year but in previous years. The year prior they mad a deal with Buffalo to aquire Tyler Myers and Drew Stafford while shipping off a locker room buzz kill in Evander Kane. That same season they made the playoffs but were swept in the first round by the Ducks.
Why is there so much pressure? Because this team made a comeback to the NHL as Atlanta didn’t seem to be the hockey city everyone thought it would. The emergence of a Winnipeg team after years of absence have left fans begging for hockey, and now that they have it, the team and franchise need to be good. This team has not accomplished anything while it’s been back in the NHL, and if it continues that way we could see another leave of the Winnipeg Jets franchise.
So the guy who hears his name at #2 now has the brand “Franchise” as in the next big thing for the franchise. Patrik Laine, Jesse Puljujarvi, Tkachuk, whoever it is, needs to be ready for the pressure. Its not uncommon that top picks deal with it, but when years of lack luster hockey in one city is thrown at you, and are expected to kiss the boo boo to make it fell better, thats quite the responsibility. If that player keeps a cool head and focuses he has nothing to worry about. For example, Jack Eichel and Connor McDavid have already shown flashes of future legendary statuses, and will be the face of their respective franchises for ears to come. Even with the longing want for success by their fans, they don’t fold under the pressure.
As for who the Jets should actually pick, Tkachuk is the most well balanced players in the top 5. He’s great all around, so he’s reliable to play defense while also putting up stellar offensive stats. He’s what Winnipeg needs. They have goal scorers and play makers but lack in defensive minded forwards. Tkachuk will be both an offensive and defensive powerhouse for a team that needs both.
I guess we’ll just see on draft day, tomorrow at 7 PM on NBC Sports Network.