2011 NHL Draft: PHT’s pick-by-pick analysis

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The future is now.

With the trades wins blowing and prospects eagerly awaiting to hear their name called, the NHL Draft is when all 30 teams have the chance to improve for the future. Trades for draft picks, salary dumps, trades for the future, trades for the present– oh, and 30 prospects joining the NHL. It’ll be an exciting night for all hockey fans.

We’ll be here updating this post with instant analysis for the entire first round. You can also find more real-time information at NBC Sports’ NHL Draft HQ!

FIRST ROUND

1. Edmonton Oilers: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Center (Red Deer, WHL): The most dynamic playmaker in the entire draft will be setting up last year’s #1 overall pick Taylor Hall for years to come. There are some questions if he’ll be able to step into the NHL next season, but he’s already added 10 pounds of muscle over the offseason. Every part of his game is NHL-ready today; we’ll see if his body is ready in the fall. Whether he’s in Edmonton this year or next, he’ll be an offensive force in the NHL for a long, long time. Here’s a complete profile for the newest member of the Oilers.

2. Colorado Avalanche: Gabriel Landeskog, Left Wing (Kitchener, OHL): Colorado adds a player who is generally considered the most NHL-ready player in this year’s draft. He decided to get accustomed to the North American game by playing the 2010-11 season with Kitchener. Landeskog brings a solid overall game to the table and seems like he has the market covered in that beloved buzzword of “intangibles.” TSN compares him to Brenden Morrow, but Landeskog probably hopes to follow his Swedish hero Peter Forsberg’s footsteps by becoming an elite player in Colorado. For more on the Avs’ new Swede, click here.

3. Florida Panthers: Jonathan Huberdeau, Center (Saint John, QMJHL): Last year, the Panthers went after a big blueliner who they think will be a defensive cornerstone for the future when they selected Eric Gudbranson. With Huberdeau, Dale Tallon and Co. should have a top flight center for the future. One of the best two-way players in the draft, Huberdeau exploded on the scene as the season went along. As part of the Saint John Sea Dogs juggernaut, Huberdeau was the best player on a team stacked with blue-chip prospects. When the pressure intensified in the QMJHL and Memorial Cup playoffs, he raised his game to another level. After a great draft last season, the Panthers are setting themselves up nicely for the future.  For more, check out his draft profile.

4. New Jersey Devils: Adam Larsson, Defense (Skelleftea, Sweden): Could this be the steal of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft? That question probably doesn’t matter much to the Devils, a team whose defensive corps have been decimated by retirement and free agency since the lockout ended. Larsson draws comparisons to Swedish legend Nicklas Lidstrom, but it might be more functional to compare him to 2009 No. 2 overall pick Victor Hedman. He might not be as gifted as Hedman, but he boasts a superior understanding of the defensive side of the game. His extensive international experience and time with Skelleftea indicate that he could jump to the NHL as early as next season, but either way, the Devils have their defenseman of the future. Read more about the big Swedish blueliner here.

5. New York Islanders: Ryan Strome, Center (Niagara, OHL):  International Scouting Services had Strome ranked as the 2nd best playmaker in the entire draft and within minutes, pundits were already dreaming about Strome making sweet music with John Tavares on Long Island. He has great hands, can make plays in tight spaces, and has improved dramatically as he’s improved his conditioning and his willingness to go into the dirty areas of the rink.

6. Ottawa Senators: Mika Zibanejad, Center (Djurgarden, Sweden): The Senators wanted a big center so they hope Zibanejad fits that bill. He’s a feisty player who competes at each end of the ice and is noted for being a solid guy in the faceoff circle as well. TSN reports that he has a chance to compete for an NHL job next season, which might not be out of the realm of possibility considering his responsible two-way game and the transitional stage Ottawa is going through.

7. Winnipeg Jets: Mark Scheifele, Center (Barrie, OHL): The Winnipeg Jets’ first pick of their reincarnation was a shocker. Most had the Barrie Colts center going somewhere in the middle of the first round, but the Jets wanted tabbed the potential power forward at the 7th overall pick. He got better as the season went along—mostly because he’s a power forward who likes to use his body on the ice. As he grew, his game grew with him.

8. Philadelphia Flyers (from CBJ): Sean Couturier, Center (Drummondville, QMJHL): The Flyers saved Couturier from the “Cam Fowler syndrome” as Philadelphia picked him up with the 8th overall pick. As early as yesterday, this pick belonged to Columbus and they were looking to improve their young team. Now, the Flyers have added yet another good, young, talented body to go with other gifted forwards like Claude Giroux and James Van Riemsdyk. If Couturier develops like most scouts project, he’ll be mentioned in the same breath.

9. Boston Bruins (from TOR): Dougie Hamilton, Defense (Niagara, OHL): There’s something weird about the Stanley Cup champions selecting in the top 10 of the draft. When Hamilton dropped down to the 9th overall pick, the Cup champs watched the 2nd best defenseman fall into their lap. The big, physical defenseman has a booming slap shot from the point and a long reach in his own zone. If he becomes a little more consistent, he’ll be top pairing defenseman in a few years. That’s a top pairing guy for a team that just won the Cup. That Phil Kessel trade is looking better and better for the Bruins every single day.

10. Minnesota Wild: Jonas Brodin, Defense (Farjestad, Sweden): A smart, young defenseman, Brodin gets it done in his own zone by using his hockey IQ. Think of a player who’s good at reading the play, getting in passing lanes, and using a poke check. On the plus side, he’s a player who already has NHL level poise at only 17-years-old. On the other hand, he won’t be able to contribute for the Wild until he puts on some muscle.

11. Colorado Avalanche (from STL):  Duncan Siemens, Defense (Saskatoon, WHL): A true defensive defenseman, Siemens is never going to be the kind of player that dazzles with his offensive ability. But in acquiring the pick from the St. Louis Blues in the Johnson/Stewart trade, Siemens is the type of player who could fill the Adam Foote void when the Avs bring him up to the NHL level in a few seasons. He’s big, physical, and has a knack for annoying the opposition. Perfect qualities for a potential shutdown blueliner.

12. Carolina Hurricanes: Ryan Murphy, Defense (Kitchener, OHL): When watching Kitchener play, Murphy is the kind of player who would absolutely jump off the screen. He is as offensively talented as any other player in the draft—and certainly the most dangerous offensive blueliner in the draft. The only question about Murphy is his defensive ability. Regardless, with his skating ability and the post-lockout rules limiting obstruction, Murphy will be the quarterback of an NHL power play one day.

13. Calgary Flames: Sven Bartschi, Left Wing (Portland, WHL): The Swiss-born forward doesn’t bring much size to the table (he’s listed at 5-11, 175 lbs.) but Bartschi is a skilled player who excelled in the WHL because he was willing to go to tough areas of the ice anyway. In a post-lockout NHL that demands skill as much as – if not more than – size, he could be a nice asset for a Flames franchise that hasn’t been able to stock up on many first round picks.

14. Dallas Stars: Jamie Oleksiak, Defense (Northeastern, H-East): With the last lottery selection, the Stars opted to help out their defensive corps with a guy who’s big enough to cover the entire blueline by himself. The 6’7” blueliner could probably touch the boards on either side of the ice if he stood in the middle of the ice. Translation: he’s going to be tough to skate around when he has a hockey stick in his hand. Even though he’s a huge physical specimen, he’s a much better skater than people expect. Size and skating ability will translate into a promising prospect every time.

15. New York Rangers: J.T. Miller, Center (U.S. Under-18): Miller is an example of the “Mario Lemieux effect,” one of those Pittsburgh-area (Miller was born in Ohio) players who was probably inspired to play the game by the Penguins legend. He was considered one of the three best players for Team USA at the 2011 Under-18 World Championships.

16. Buffalo Sabres: Joel Armia, Right Wing (Assat, Finland): Darcy Regier hasn’t picked a European since 2006 — a streak that ended when Buffalo selected the offensive-minded Joel Armia from the Finnish Elite League. He’s been playing with men and was still able to put up 18 goals in 48 games; his hard, accurate shot will translate to any league in the world. The 6’3” has enough skill to have scouts wondering just how high his upside can be.

17. Montreal Canadiens: Nathan Beaulieu, Defense (Saint John, QMJHL): One of the most important rules for ever Montreal Canadiens’ GM to remember: if there’s a good prospect available from Quebec, pick him. In Beaulieu, the Habs picked up a very good defenseman on a great junior team. The great skater has size, intelligence, and skills all rolled into one package — a combination that doesn’t fall to the 17th overall pick very often. If he can eliminate any questions about his consistency, then bleu blanc et rouge will be happy with their pick.

18. Chicago Blackhawks: Mark McNeill, Center (Prince Albert, WHL): The Blackhawks are stockpiling prospects (they just traded Troy Brouwer for Washington’s 26 pick) but McNeill might be the best they get for some time. McNeill is a fast player with some promising upside; he went from scoring 24 points in 09-10 to 81 in 10-11. He’s a big, strong center who could end up being a nice pick for the ‘Hawks.

19. Edmonton Oilers (from LA): Oscar Klefbom, Defense (Farjestad, Sweden): Klefbom is an interesting prospect because the respect he’s earned is almost all on potential. He didn’t play very much last season in the Swedish Elite League as he was on one of the best (and deepest) teams in the league. But despite only two points last season, scouts love his skating and offensive potential. Some people even say he has the highest ceiling of any Swedish player in the draft. While we don’t think he’ll ever be as good as Adam Larsson, he’s still an intriguing prospect with daunting physical tools. The selection adds to the defensive depth the Oilers started to rebuild when they acquired Colten Teubert in the same trade (Dustin Penner).

20. Phoenix Coyotes: Connor Murphy, Defense (Kitchener, OHL) – Murphy is considered a “project player” who might not be ready for NHL action for some time. TSN notes that Murphy didn’t get to play very often in the last couple seasons, dealing with a serious back injury. It seems like a gamble for the Coyotes, but let’s be fair: we’re in the gamble zone now. Murphy’s father is former NHLer Gord Murphy.

21. Ottawa Senators (from NSH): Stefan Noeson, Right Wing (Plymouth, OHL): The Senators used the pick they acquired in the Mike Fisher trade to draft another defensive-minded forward with offensive upside.  Noesen ended up leading his team with 34 goals, but the competitive winger will make his money by developing into a well-rounded pest.

22. Toronto Maple Leafs (from ANA): Tyler Biggs, Right Wing (U.S. Under-18): Instead of picking at #22, the Anaheim Ducks traded their first round pick to the Toronto Maple Leafs for the 30th and 39th picks in the 2011 NHL Draft. In Biggs, the Leafs selected a big, mean nasty player—it shouldn’t be a huge shock that Brian Burke trade up in the draft for the opportunity to acquire him. He can grind on the boards and drop the gloves with the best of them. All he’ll need to do is work on his quickness.

23. Pittsburgh Penguins: Joe Morrow, Defense (Portland, WHL): Ray Shero is a fan of defensemen who can skate well, play defense and score a bit. Morrow might not be that far above average when it comes to scoring ability, but he improved his skating ability and was already known as a capable defensive defenseman. It might be a while until he makes the NHL, so a spotty junior career shouldn’t hurt his chances too much.

24. Ottawa Senators (from DET): Matt Puempel, Left Wing (Peterborough, OHL): The Senators were able to acquire their third pick of the first round by trading their 35th and 48th picks to acquire #24 overall from the Red Wings. Matt Puempel has the skills to be a pure sniper with his excellent (and accurate) shot. He’ll still have some work to do with the Petes as he rounds out the rest of his game, but if he can skate better and learn to back check a little smarter.

25. Toronto Maple Leafs (from PHI): Stuart Percy, Defense (Mississauga, OHL): Percy is a steady, responsible defenseman who helped Mississauga St. Michael’s make it to the Memorial Cup final. Percy also has a solid sense of humor, apparently.

26. Chicago Blackhawks (from WASH): Phillip Danault, Left Wing, (Victoriaville, QMJHL): The Blackhawks sent Troy Brouwer to the Washington Capitals for the opportunity to select Danault in the first round. Danault is a gritty, in-your-face forward who can do work on the PK and will succeed by working harder than his opponents. The major question surrounding him is his offensive upside. If he can make the transition to center, he may just end up growing into a Troy Brouwer type player when his potential reaches its peak.

27. Tampa Bay Lightning: Ladislav Namestnikov, Center (London, OHL): Well, a Russian player finally went in the draft … sort of. Namestnikov has played for Russia before but also grew up in Michigan, where he made some roots with Lightning GM Steve Yzerman. He has some slick skills but might take some time to adjust to the North American game. Want another sign that there were some Red Wings/Russian connections involved? Slava Kozlov is his uncle.

28. Minnesota Wild (from SJ): Zack Phillips, Center (Saint John, QMJHL): The Wild used the first round pick they acquired in the Brent Burns blockbuster to land talented center Zack Phillips. The grinding center had been pegged to be a higher draft pick at the beginning of the season, but questions about his skating are the concerns that made him drop to 28th overall. He had great hands, he’s not afraid to crash the net, and knows how to find the soft spots in the ice for scoring opportunities. His hockey IQ is there—he’ll just need to keep working on his feet.

29. Vancouver Canucks: Nicklas Jensen, Left Wing (Oshawa, OHL): Jensen draws comparisons to two mercurial scorers: Jussi Jokinen and Michael Grabner (Grabner being the most obvious comparison now that Jensen will be a player in the Canucks system like Grabner once was). Much like Grabner, he seems known best as a speedy skater with some questions about his willingness to go into the dirty areas. That worked out pretty well for Grabner, but the Canucks hope that Jensen does that damage for Vancouver rather than another team.

30. Anaheim Ducks (from BOS, then TOR): Rikard Rakell, Right Wing (Plymouth, OHL): The Ducks moved down by trading their 22nd overall pick for the 30th pick tonight and the 39th overall pick in the 2nd round on Saturday. With the pick, the Ducks drafted another Swede who chose to take his talents to Plymouth, Ontario to improve his draft stock. His two-way play and penalty killing ability will give him a chance to stick at the NHL level in a bottom-six role.

Stanley Cup Playoffs: NHL announces second round openers

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We have one game left in the opening round of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins will do battle at TD Garden Wednesday night (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN) in Game 7 with the winner advancing to face the Tampa Bay Lightning.

As we wait for the full second-round schedule, the NHL has released the start dates and times for opening games of each series, including the situations depending on whether the Bruins or Maple Leafs win.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Thursday, April 26

• The Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals will kick off at 7 p.m. ET (NBCSN) from Capital One Center in Washington, D.C.

• Out West, the San Jose Sharks will visit T-Mobile Arena and the Vegas Golden Knights for their opener at 10 p.m. ET (NBCSN).

Friday, April 27

• The top two teams in the NHL will meet in the first game of their best-of-7 at 8 p.m. ET (NBCSN) as the Nashville Predators play host to Patrik Laine and the Winnipeg Jets.

Saturday, April 28

If Boston advances, the Bruins and Lightning will play Game 1 at 3 p.m. ET (NBC) at AMALIE Arena in Tampa.

If Toronto advances, the Maple Leafs will get their Hockey Night in Canada timeslot and visit the Lightning at 8 p.m. ET (NBCSN)

————

Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Flyers await free agency with rare luxury: a ton of cap space

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Philadelphia Flyers GM Ron Hextall is rapidly approaching “be careful what you wish for” territory.

For years, Hextall has been cleaning up whatever Flyers cap messes he could (sorry, Andrew MacDonald), breaking the franchise’s pattern of going after splashy, expensive moves that can sometimes blow up in their faces (sorry, Ilya Bryzgalov). Now, with what could be a ton of cap space looming in the off-season, the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Sam Carchidi reports that Hextall is expected to receive “free rein” in free agency.

(If the cap ceiling is at $80 million, they’ll have about $22 million in room, while a Jori Lehtera buyout could push that above $25M.)

“Ron has the flexibility to do whatever he wants with his cap space and his roster,” Holmgren said, via Carchidi. “If that’s the decision he wants to make moving forward, he’s got free rein to do that. I think Ron continues to do what’s right for the organization.”

That brings us back to “be careful what you wish for.”

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

Hextall’s shown poise and patience in earning himself a clean slate, and this is his reward. That said, big moves can often be the downfall of a GM. Consider how Chuck Fletcher’s Wild era crumbled under the weight of the Ryan SuterZach Parise contracts, how the Flyers have regretted past moves, and how Ron Francis was undone in part by the ill-fated Scott Darling signing as just a few examples of mistakes that can cost people jobs.

With that in mind, here are some tips for Hextall.

One rule for them all

Let’s begin with an idea that seems far-fetched, but must be considered: any team that can land John Tavares should do whatever it can to make it happen. There’s a strong chance that he’ll just re-sign with the New York Islanders, but if not, the Flyers have plenty of cash to work with.

Goalie considerations

Rather than making Bryzgalov-style huge moves in net, Philly’s instead targeted value in goalies. That worked out very well in their Steve Mason sign-and-trade, while it’s been bumpier with Michal Neuvirth and Brian Elliott.

While the position is once again a headache for Philly, Hextall should be pleased that they’re at least not stuck with problem contracts. Elliott and Neuvirth are both cheap, and their contracts expire after 2018-19.

This gives the Flyers the flexibility to do whatever they want with the goalie free agent market. As of this moment, notable UFA goalies include Jonathan Bernier, Jaroslav Halak, Cam Ward, and Chad Johnson. The RFA list boasts higher ceilings yet would likely require some maneuvering via a trade; the Sabres might decide to part ways with Robin Lehner while the Capitals may decide that it would be better to gain assets for Philipp Grubauer rather than giving him a raise to back up Braden Holtby.

With Carter Hart waiting in the wings as the top goalie prospect in any NHL system (or, at worst, one of the top goalie prospects), the Flyers would likely look for a short-term upgrade if they decided to make a move. Maybe Carter Hutton would be the right fit?

Risk/reward

As usual, there are “buyer beware” situations for 2018 free agency.

On one hand, you have players who’ve inflated their values with career years they’re unlikely to match. The Flyers probably weren’t in the market for John Carlson considering their young defensemen, but even if they were, they’d be better off exploring a cheaper avenue.

With expensive, long-term contracts for Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek in mind, the Flyers need to be careful when it comes to pondering some of the more intriguing UFA forwards. James Neal seems like a prototypical Flyers forward, yet he’s also already 30, as just one example. Scorers like Evander Kane and former Flyer James van Riemsdyk are enticing, but most if not all of them will ask for the kind of term that could really sting.

Hextall might be better off avoiding the splashier moves, instead either a) seeing which players end up inexplicably being PTO fodder, which seems to happen every summer and/or b) going for guys lower on the radar. Could Patrick Maroon, Michael Grabner, Ian Cole, or Michael Hutchinson help out, and do so at cheaper rates? The Flyers might be better off going in that direction, as they’ll want to continue to give their own drafted players opportunities to seize prominent roles.

The Flyers also need to set aside some money for future extensions. Ivan Provorov figures to be expensive when his rookie deal expires after 2018-19. A decision regarding Wayne Simmonds‘ future is looming, as he only has one year left on his deal.

With Sean Couturier and Shayne Gostisbehere locked up on bargain contracts, some of the big conundrums have been settled by Hextall’s deft work, but there are still some key decisions to be made, especially if management wants to hedge their bets in net alongside Carter Hart.

***

All things considered, the Flyers might actually be better off trying to improve by making trades.

If I were in Hextall’s shoes, I’d try to pry Max Pacioretty or Mike Hoffman away in swaps. The Flyers would get at least one season to see how such additions fit into their system, maybe opening the door for a team-friendly extension.

Either way, this summer stands as a fascinating fork in the road. This team showed signs of delivering on the potential prospect hounds have been hyping up. On the other hand, you never know how quickly your window of opportunity can close, particularly if Giroux, Voracek, and others slide.

Hextall has a great opportunity ahead of him, but that opportunity brings with it increased expectations. The honeymoon is about to end, and now he must guide the Flyers through those next, painful steps toward true contention.

Be careful what you wish for.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

In trying to keep out Penguins fans, Capitals continue great, petty tradition

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The 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs are really gearing up with the second round looming. Why limit the pettiness to social media?

Russian Machine Never Breaks’ Ian Oland passes along word that the Washington Capitals are attempting to take a page from the Vegas Golden Knights in barring unwanted Pittsburgh Penguins fans from their home games in round two.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

The specific plan would (at least attempt to) prohibit fans from putting up special pre-sale tickets up for re-sale, again echoing the Golden Knights’ plan (which you can read more about in this post). Here’s an excerpt from the email Oland unearthed at RMNB:

We are offering Club Red 365 members the first opportunity to purchase additional limited inventory at preferred pricing through this exclusive pre-sale. Tickets purchased through this special offer will not be eligible for resale posting as we plan to create an amazing atmosphere in the building where we want all fans Rocking the Red in ALL CAPS.

That seems a bit silly and could even be a sign of mild insecurity, but also seems … kind of great?

For one thing, this series could go either way, and the last thing Capitals fans want to deal with is gloating Penguins devotees crowing about the Pens possibly stealing some games in Washington. Especially with the opportunities for high-profile gloating.

Some might be chagrined by teams taking measures to keep out opposing fans, yet if you ask me, it’s all fair game, especially if the arena’s going to be sold out anyway. (If you’re, say, the Ottawa Senators or some other team having trouble filling the building during a playoff game, then maybe you have to be more accomodating.)

Like it or not, this measure follows a pattern of behavior by the Capitals and for some NHL teams overall.

As Oland’s piece notes, Capitals owner Ted Leonsis hasn’t been shy about trying to figure out ways to keep Penguins fans out of his building. The AOL executive apparently even punched up his own computer program to try to do the trick. This latest measure is simply the latest strategy, as the Capitals have also tried to curtail an influx of hostile fans by restricting purchases by region and similar limitations.

And, again, the Capitals are far from the only NHL team trying different ways to maintain their home-ice advantage.

The Golden Knights provided a nice blueprint for trying to limit Kings fans when you consider the close proximity between the two franchises. The Nashville Predators have taken similar steps before and appear eager to do so again as their clash looms with the Winnipeg Jets and their passionate fanbase. Checking through PHT’s archives, we’ve seen plenty of examples, including one stretching back as far as 2012 when the New Jersey Devils ran a “No Blue” campaign against the New York Rangers.

(Feel free to mention some other similar campaigns in the comments, as there have probably been a ton of them.)

If such tactics make you grind your teeth, consider this: Penguins fans will almost certainly find their way to Capitals home games, possibly even in large numbers. There’s likely no way of avoiding such a situation in this technological age, particularly if Pens fans are aiming for spite.

In the grand scheme of things, it’s all in good fun, and it might even provide another talking point as these two rivals meet in the second round for the third year in a row.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Patience pays off for Jets in building Stanley Cup contender

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If their five meetings from the regular season are any indication of what is to come, the Nashville Predators and Winnipeg Jets are probably going to pummel each other over the next two weeks in what looks to be the best matchup of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

They finished the season with the top two records in the league, while the Predators won the season series by taking three of the five games, with all of them being tight, fierce, chaotic contests that saw Nashville hold a slight aggregate goals edge of just 22-20.

They really could not have played it any closer.

They are both outstanding teams. They are evenly matched. The winner will almost certainly be the heavy favorite to represent the Western Conference in the Stanley Cup Final no matter who comes out of the Pacific Division bracket.

For as similar as their results on the ice were this season, the teams have taken two very different paths to reach this point.

The Predators have been a consistent playoff team in recent years, and while they have a strong core of homegrown talent (Roman Josi, Viktor Arvidsson, Mattias Ekholm, Ryan Ellis, Pekka Rinne, etc.), a large portion of this team has been pieced together through trades, including two of the biggest player-for-player blockbusters in recent years. They also made the occasional big free agent signing. They traded for Filip Forsberg. They traded Shea Weber for P.K. Subban. They traded Seth Jones for Ryan Johansen. They traded for Kyle Turris. They signed Nick Bonino away from the Pittsburgh Penguins. They have been bold and aggressive when it comes to building their roster.

On the other side, you have the Winnipeg Jets, a team that has been the antithesis of the Predators in terms of roster construction.

Since arriving in Winnipeg at the start of the 2011-12 season the Jets, under the direction of general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff, have taken part in one of the most patient, slow, methodical “rebuilds” in pro sports, and in the process demonstrated a very important lesson of sorts.

Sometimes it pays to do absolutely nothing at all.

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

On the ice, the Jets have been a mostly mediocre team since arriving in Winnipeg, continuing the tradition the franchise had established for itself during its days as the Atlanta Thrashers. Before this season they made the playoffs once in six seasons in Winnipeg and were promptly swept in four straight games (just as they were in their only playoff appearance in Atlanta).

They were never among the NHL’s worst teams, but they were also never good enough to be in the top-eight of their conference. They were mediocrity defined.

The lack of success was at times baffling because it’s not like it was a team totally devoid of talent. It also at the same made complete sense because the single biggest hurdle standing in front of them was the simple fact they never had a competent goaltender or one true superstar to be a difference-maker.

In other words, they were basically the Canadian version of the Carolina Hurricanes.

What stands out about the Jets’ approach is they never let the lack of success lead to overreactions. We have seen time and time again in the NHL what overreactions due to a lack of success can do to a team. It can lead to core players being traded for less than fair value. It can lead to teams throwing good money at bad free agents and crippling the salary cap for years to come. It can lead to a revolving door of coaching changes. When all of that works together, it can set a franchise back for years.

The Jets did none of that.

Literally, they did none of it.

They have had the same general manager since 2011-12 even though before this season he had built one playoff team.

Despite their lack of success when it came to making the playoffs, they have made just one coaching change, replacing Claude Noel with Paul Maurice mid-way through the 2013-14 season.

Just for comparisons sake, look at how many coaching changes other comparable teams have gone through over that same time frame. Buffalo is on its fifth coach (and third general manager). Dallas will be hiring its fourth coach this offseason since the start of 2011-12. Calgary, after the hiring of Bill Peters on Monday, is on its fourth coach. Florida is on its fifth.

You want significant roster changes? Well, there has not been much of that, either. At least not in the “roster move” sense.

The Jets never tore it all down to the ground and went for a full-on rebuild. It took Cheveldayoff four years on the job before he made a single trade that involved him giving up an NHL player and receiving an NHL player in return. Even since then he has really only made one or two such moves.

There are still five players on the roster left over from the Atlanta days — Blake Wheeler, Tobias Enstrom, Bryan Little, Dustin Byfuglien, and Ben Chiarot, who was a draft-pick by the team when it was Atlanta — even though it has now been seven years since they played there. The fact so many core players still remain from then is perhaps the most surprising development given how much the team has lost during that time.

How many teams would have looked at the team’s lack of success and decided that it just had to trade a Blake Wheeler? Or a Dustin Byfuglien? Or a Bryan Little? Or a Tobias Enstrom? Or, hell, all of them? You see it all the time when teams don’t win or lose too soon in the playoffs or don’t accomplish their ultimate goal. At that point a core player just has to go. Have to change the culture, you know? Have to get tougher and make changes. The Blackhawks got swept in the first-round a year ago and decided they had to trade Artemi Panarin to get Brandon Saad back because they had won with him before. The Oilers were a constant embarrassment and decided they just had to trade Tayor Hall and Jordan Eberle to help fix that. Montreal just had to get rid of P.K. Subban.

The Jets, to their credit, recognized that their core players were good. They were productive. They were players they could win with if they could just find a way to add pieces around them and maybe, one day, solve their goaltending issue. The only significant core players the Jets have traded over the past seven years have been Andrew Ladd and Evander Kane. Ladd was set to become an unrestricted free agent when he was dealt at the trade deadline two years ago and a split between the Jets and Kane just seemed like it had to happen at the time of his trade.

They have also refrained from dipping their toes into the free agent market.

You know what happens when you avoid free agency? You don’t get saddled with bad contracts that you either have to eventually buy out, bury in the minor leagues, or give up valuable assets to get rid of in a trade. Free agents, in almost every instance, are players that have already played their best hockey for another team, and you — the new team — are going to end up paying them more money than their previous team did. It is not a cap-friendly approach.

Only one player on the Jets’ roster is set to make more than $6.2 million over the next two years (Byfuglien makes $7 million). The only players on the roster that were acquired via NHL free agency are Matthieu Perrault, Matt Hendricks, Steve Mason and Dmitry Kulikov.

Mason and Kulikov, who combine to make $8 million the next couple of seasons, are probably the only bad contracts on the roster, and both are off the books within the next two years. Oddly enough, both were signed before this season. Neither has made a significant impact.

Looking at the Jets’ playoff roster you see how this team has been pieced together.

  • Five players were leftovers from the Atlanta days (where three of them — Enstrom, Little, Chiarot — were drafted by the team then).
  • Only four players — Myers, Joe Morrow, Joel Armia and Paul Stastny — were acquired by trade.
  • Hendricks, Perrault, and Mason are the only players to have appeared in a playoff game that were acquired as free agents (Perrault — due to injury — and Hendricks have played in one each; Mason played one period in the first round).
  • The rest of the team, 12 players, were all acquired via draft picks.

So what did the Jets do well to get? Focus on the latter point there. They kept all of their draft picks, they hit on their important draft picks, and they got a little bit of luck in the draft lottery at the exact right time to allow them to get the franchise player — Patrik Laine — that they needed.

This is where the Jets have really made their progress, and it is not like they did it by tanking for lottery picks.

Between 2011 and now the Jets have picked higher than ninth in the NHL draft just two times. Only once did they pick higher than seventh. NHL draft history shows us that there is usually a significant drop in talent and expected production between even the second and eighth picks. No matter where the Jets have picked in recent years they have found NHL talent — top talent — with their first-round picks.

They got Mark Scheifele seventh overall in 2011. He is a core player and among the top-four goal scorers and point producers in the NHL from his draft class.

They got Jacob Trouba ninth in 2012. He is also a core player and a top-pairing defender.

Josh Morrissey was the 13th pick in 2013.

Nikolaj Ehlers was the ninth pick in 2014 and is the third highest point producer and goal scorer from that class.

In 2015 they picked Kyle Connor (one of the top rookies in the NHL this season) at 17 with their own selection, then got forward Jack Roslovic at 25 with the pick they acquired in the Kane trade.

The next year in 2016 they had the ping pong balls go their way to get Laine at No. 2 and had another first-rounder (Logan Stanley) as a result of the Ladd trade.

They pretty much not only hit on every first-round draft pick they had between 2011 and 2016 (Stanley is the only one of the eight not currently on the team) but in most of the cases probably got more than the expected value from that pick.

When you combine that with a core that already top-end talent like Wheeler, Byfuglien, Enstrom, and then finally give them competent goaltending you have the force that the Jets have become this season.

Will this sort of approach work for everybody? Probably not (and if I’m being honest, I was highly critical of the Jets’ approach on more than one occasion over the years), and it requires an owner and general manager that has an almost unheard of level of patience in professional sports to stick with it. And let’s face it, sometimes you do need to make changes. I’m not advocating for say, the New York Islanders, to just keep letting Garth Snow do whatever it is he is doing. And maybe the Jets would have been a playoff team sooner had they made a better effort to find a goalie, for example. You also need to have a little bit of luck when it comes to the draft.

But there are still some important lessons that the rest of the NHL can take from the Jets’ patient approach, especially when it comes to keeping your good players even when times get tough, and not thinking that all of the answers to your problems are available on July 1 when everyone acts like they have a blank check to sign whoever they want.

A few years ago Maple Leafs blog Pension Plan Puppets jokingly asked who had a better first day of free agency, then-general manager Dave Nonis, or a potato. The joke being that the potato had a better day because it was an inanimate object that couldn’t do something dumb. I don’t mean this is an insult to Cheveldayoff, but the Jets for the past seven years have basically been the potato in the sense that they just sat back and did nothing except keep their good players, keep their draft picks, and not sign overvalued players in free agency.

If you do nothing, you can’t mess up.

Today, the Jets might actually win a Stanley Cup because of it.

Hockey really is funny sometimes.

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Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.