Arizona Coyotes: (includes Winnipeg Jets)
Best: There are a few contenders for the best draft in team history. In 1979, the Coyotes/Jets selected Dave Christian (2nd round), Thomas Steen (5th round) and Tim Watters (6th round). Christian and Steen were similar players who had productive NHL careers and Watters was a solid defensive defensemen. A nice return in this draft which could have been so much better (see below). In the 1980 draft, the Coyotes/Jets selected Dave Babych (1st round), Moe Mantha (2nd round) and Brian Mullen (7th round). A trio of solid NHL players who could certainly be worthwhile contributors on a contending team.
Can one player make a draft a complete success? Yes, if that one player happens to be Dale Hawerchuk who the Coyotes/Jets selected with the first overall pick in the 1981 draft. Playing in the era of high octane offence, Hawerchuk was without question one of the most offensively gifted players of his era. Unfortunately for himself and the Jets, the team was stuck in the NHL’s toughest division at the time with the Oilers and Flames. In the same draft the Jets selected Scott Arniel with their 2nd pick. A useful player who played over 700 NHL games. Hawerchuk alone makes this the best draft in team history.
Worst: The Coyotes/Jets made 8 selections in the 2003 NHL draft. The players selected played a grand total of 0 NHL games. It should be noted that the team did not have any picks in the first two rounds of this draft. That being said this draft was a complete zero!
With the next pick…In the 1980 draft, the Coyotes/Jets selected Dave Babych with the 2nd overall pick. Babych had a long NHL career and was certainly a very reliable and good defensemen. However, with the next pick in the draft, the Chicago Blackhawks grabbed Denis Savard who would go on to become one of the most prolific point produces and exciting players of his generation. Not to be outdone is the 1979 draft! The Jets drafted Jimmy Mann (10 career goals) with the 19th overall pick. With the next pick the Quebec Nordiques selected Michel Goulet (548 career goals). Goulet, Savard and Hawerchuk…what could have been.
Late Round Bargain: In the 2004 draft, Daniel Winnik was drafted 265th overall in the 9th round. Winnik has carved out a solid career as a defensively responsible player who is widely respected as the consummate team player. He garnered a few Selke votes last year as the league’s top defensive forward and enters the 2015-16 season as a veteran of more than 550 NHL games.
Shrewd Pick: The Coyotes/Jets franchise can lay claim to some shrewd selections in the draft’s later rounds. In the 1980 draft the Jets drafted Brian Mullen in the 7th round with the 128th pick. Mullen was an underrated winger who played 5 seasons in Winnipeg and could be counted on to score 20-25 goals a season. Unfortunately a stroke ended his playing career at the young age of 30. Fredrik Olausson was a solid if unspectacular defenseman who was selected by the Jets in the 4th round (81st overall) of the 1985 draft. During his 16 year career, Olausson played over 1000 games and registered 581 points. On 7 occasions he hit double digits in goals and eclipsed the 40 point total 6 times. He won a Stanley Cup with Detroit and finished 9th in Norris Trophy voting (1998-99).
Keith Yandle who currently plays for the New York Rangers was the Coyotes 4th round pick (105th) in 2005. Known for his offensive acumen, Yandle has carved out a good career thus far. The American born defensemen has recorded at least 40 points in a season 5 times during his 8 year career. On 3 occasions, Yandle has finished in the top 15 in Norris Trophy voting peaking at number 5 in 2010-11.
However, the best shrewd pick made by the Coyotes/Jets organization was when the team used the 103rd overall pick in the 5th round of the 1979 draft to select Thomas Steen. Steen played his entire career with the Jets finishing with an impressive 817 points in 950 games. His jersey number 25 was retired by the team and after Dale Hawerchuk, Steen is likely the greatest player in Coyotes/Jets history.