The Winnipeg Jets selected Finnish defenceman Ville Heinola with the 20th overall pick at the NHL draft on Friday.
The 18-year-old played 34 games with Lukko Rauma in Finland last season, scoring two goals and adding 12 assists. He added a goal and an assist over seven playoff games.
“It feels awesome,” Heinola said. “I was just a little bit shaky when I heard that, but it feels so amazing.”
Heinola is currently still under contract in Finland.
Immediately after being selected by the Jets, reporters asked Heinola what he knows about Winnipeg.
“I don’t know the city,” he said. “But I just know that Patrik Laine and Sami Niku.”
The Jets came close to missing out on the first round of the draft for the second year in a row after general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff dealt his team’s pick to the New York Rangers for centre Kevin Hayes at the trade deadline. The Jets got the pick back earlier this week in a trade that sent defenceman Jacob Trouba to the Rangers.
Winnipeg also parted ways with Hayes, handing his negotiating rights to the Philadelphia Flyers earlier this month in exchange for a fifth-round pick in this year’s draft. Hayes went on to sign a seven-year, US$50-million deal with the Flyers.
While the Jets finished the regular season second in the Central Division with a 40-30-5 record, the team flopped in the playoffs. The eventual Stanley Cup-winning St. Louis Blues disposed of the Jets in six games in the first round.
Last year, the Jets missed out on the draft’s first round after Cheveldayoff gave the pick to the Blues in exchange for Paul Stastny. The centre went on to sign a three-year, US$19.5-million deal with the Vegas Golden Knights in free agency.
WATCH: Raw Ville Heinola Interview
Winnipeg’s first pick of 2018 was David Gustafsson, taken 60th overall late in the second round. The centre spent last year playing in Sweden and signed an entry-level contract with the Jets earlier this month.
The Jets will have four more opportunities to add to their prospect pool at this year’s draft, starting with the 51st pick on Saturday.