The Winnipeg Jets have made their first selection of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. And much like that of their first round pick from 2020, the player just seemingly fell into the lap of the team’s front office staff.
“He is a goal scorer,” Jets’ general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff said of Lucius shortly after the conclusion of Round 1 on Friday evening. “He’s a centreman who can score some goals. He can make plays as well, but that’s probably where the Kyle Connor type of comparison does come into play. We’re certainly excited to add some top-end skill to our lineup and group of prospects.”
An American-born forward with proven goal-scoring abilities certainly does sound a fair bit like the Jets’ own Kyle Connor. And according to Lucius himself, Connor has been one of the two current Winnipeg Jets to whom he has modelled his game after.
“I really look up to Mark Scheifele,” the Grant, Minnesota product said. “He’s a guy I try to model my game after. It’s pretty cool now, being drafted by the Jets, having him as an idol of mine… I look forward to one day meeting them and suiting up for the Winnipeg Jets and playing on their team.”
According to Cheveldayoff, that’s all it took for him to make up his mind on who Winnipeg would be taking in the first round.
“In his interview process, he did tell us he liked to watch Mark play,” Chevy laughed. “And just how he studied his game and saw the way that he does different things and that he was one of his favourite players. I made a joke with him when I first talked to him on his post-draft Zoom call that that sealed the deal.”
Skating with both the United States National Team Development Program and the USHL’s National Juniors, the six-foot, 175-pound forward managed 26 total goals and 38 points in 25 combined games. His 13 goals and 20 points in just 13 games was by far the most of his teammates that saw limited action.
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Forced to miss the majority of the past season with a knee issue that stemmed from a blocked shot from two years ago, Lucius did his due diligence in a long recovery that actually saw him strapped to a wheelchair for nearly two months.
“He had to go through some adversity,” Chevy added. “He had some injuries that limited the amount of games that he could play, but we’re real excited. Again, it’s a really good value pick where we got it… He’s kind of missed a year of development in a lot of ways, so we are looking forward to the fact that he is going to college and it’s a good opportunity for him to develop. Anytime you can grab a centre with those kind of skills and those kind of qualities, it’s a good day for the draft.”
Currently slotted in as a centre, many do feel Lucius’ versatility as a potential winger could also work in his favour going forward. Set to begin schooling and NCAA action with the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers in the fall, Lucius will not make an immediate jump to professional hockey, but rather continue his development in the college hockey realm, at least for 2021-22.
“Winnipeg is close to home for me, so that’s a plus for sure,” Lucius said. “It’s a really fun team to watch, fast-paced, there is a really bright future for the Winnipeg Jets and I’m just happy to be part of it at this point… I’m glad I’m a Winnipeg Jet now, and I’m really fortunate that they drafted me.”