The Winnipeg Jets have made it clear that goal scoring is going to remain a priority in the coming seasons. With the departure of both Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic via a mid-season trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Jets certainly lost some offensive firepower.
As a way of rejuvenating his forward stock, general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff drafted goal scorers with his first two picks of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft this past weekend.
Taking centreman Chaz Lucius at No. 18 of the first round, the Jets found themselves a pure shooter who has already begun drawing comparisons to a current Jets forward, while claiming to model his game after yet another core member of Winnipeg’s offence.
“Mark Scheifele and Kyle Connor are two guys I really look up to and try to model my game after for sure,” Lucius told Winnipeg media following his selection. “I really look up to Mark Scheifele. He’s a guy that I really try to model my game after and it’s pretty cool now that I’ve been drafted by the Jets and having him as an idol of mine. I’m really looking forward to the opportunity there and I’ll keep watching his game.”
Known as one of the best teams league-wide in terms of following the ‘draft and develop’ mentality, the Jets’ front office was certainly glad to hear the remarks made by Lucius of Connor and Scheifele – two players also selected by Winnipeg in the first round over the past 10 years.
“The interview process we went through with him was fantastic,” Cheveldayoff said of Lucius. “He knows a lot about his game, about how to play. He works real hard at it, he’s real skilled… He was really bang-on with his play, his strengths, his weaknesses, what he needs to work on. He’s got a real plan on how to work on things. Just a real character kid. The views that we had on him were excellent and we’re really excited he was there at our pick.”
Lucius, who only started playing hockey at age eight in his hometown of Grant, MN., missed a significant portion of time last season with a knee injury, but did managed to score at a goal/game rate in his limited 13 games of action.
Despite his injuries and Winnipeg’s limited viewings, Lucius clearly delivered both on and off the ice. And according to the youngster, the Jets did appear to be a front-runner for his service, from the get-go.
“I’d say, in my interview process with the Jets, I thought they were really interested in me,” Lucius said. “I thought it was gonna be a really good fit if I ended up there and obviously they took me. So, I’m really fortunate and happy with that and I hope they are too. The interview process was really good and I thought, honestly, from the first interview that it would be a perfect fit if I had the opportunity to go.”
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In choosing Cole Perfetti last season with the 10th overall selection, Winnipeg has now added two young forwards who will challenge for spots on the roster in the coming seasons as the dynamic continues to shift to a younger and faster-paced NHL game. In Lucius, the Jets will see sharp-shooter – much like that of fellow American-born sniper Kyle Connor – who is not afraid to carry the puck up and down the ice when needed.
“I’d say it’s more the work ethic and shooting pucks every day,” Lucius said of using his shot as a weapon. “Whether it be off-angle shots, regular shots or one of my good shots, whatever it may be, I feel like that really helped me in my abilities. Then, obviously, natural ability plays a part in that as well and that helps.”
The second round of the draft saw Cheveldayoff stick to his offensive guns as the team took Nikita Chibrikov with the 50th pick in the second round.
The 18-year-old Chibrikov collected two points in 16 games with the KHL’s SKA St. Petersburg. He also put up eight points (3G, 5A) in 20 games with the VHL’s SKA-Neva St. Petersburg and nine points (3G, 6A) in 11 games with SKA-1946 St. Petersburg in the MHL. Chibrikov captained Russia at the 2021 U18 World Championships to a silver medal, posting 13 points (4G, 9A) in seven games. His nine assists led the tournament.
Rounding out the Jets’ selections was defenceman Dmitri Kuzmin at pick No. 82 and forward Dmitri Rashevsky with the 146th overall selection in the fifth round. Winnipeg had just four total picks in the draft following various trades.