Jets select Rutger McGroarty at NHL Draft, three Manitobans taken

With two Manitobans already off the board, the Winnipeg Jets used their first pick of the 2022 NHL Draft on American Rutger McGroarty from the United States National Team Development Program.

The Jets used the first of their two first round picks on the six-foot-one, 200 pound forward with the 14th overall selection.

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McGroarty, 18, captained the United States to a silver medal at the World Under-18’s and he’s a goal scorer. McGroarty notched 35 goals in 54 games last season.

He was ranked 22nd in the final draft rankings.

“I’m fired up and I can’t wait to be a Jet one day,” said McGroarty. “I knew that I had a good interview with them. We connected well, and it was nothing but respect from those guys.

“I had no idea coming in, honestly, but I’m fired up and I wouldn’t want it to go any other way.”

He’s already committed to play for the University of Michigan Wolverines starting in the fall, but the Jets new head coach is a fan already.

“We’re thrilled to get him,” said head coach Rick Bowness. “I don’t know a whole lot about him yet. Obviously I don’t get to see juniors play anywhere so, but I love his attitude, I love his passion. You could tell that right away. So, I love that about him. He’s got great size. When you have an attitude, you have passion, you have size – we’ll make him a player.”

READ MORE: Canadiens select Slafkovsky with the No. 1 pick at the NHL draft

The Jets had two first round picks thanks to the Andrew Copp trade with the New York Rangers. With their second first-round pick of the day, the Jets picked up centre Brad Lambert from Finland at 30th overall.

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Lambert was a highly touted prospect, ranked 10th among European skaters, but he fell down the board on draft day after scoring just four goals in 49 games last season with two different teams in his home country. Lambert played in Finland’s top league with the Pelicans and JYP.

Lambert called the whole draft process very nerve-racking, but said it all turned out for the best.

“It doesn’t really matter what number you get picked as long as it’s a great organization like Winnipeg is,” Lambert said. “It feels unbelievable.

“Great Canadian team and I know the fan base is great. I can’t wait to get started at training camp or at prospect camp. I can’t be happier to be a part of the Winnipeg Jets.”

He also played for Finland at the 2022 World Junior Hockey Championship before the event was postponed. He won a bronze medal at the 2021 World Juniors where he had a goal and three assists in seven games.

“I think we added two really different players,” said general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff. “We added a real hard player in Rutger McGroarty, a player that’s going to be one of those guys that you’re really going to count on when the game is on the line, when the going gets tough, when you need somebody to grind something out.

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“With Brad, when you’re drafting 30, you don’t know what’s really going to happen there, but we think Brad is the best skater in the draft and just has some elite traits that are really going to translate well.”

READ MORE: Winnipeg Jets to kick off season with Oct. 14 home game against New York Rangers

By the time the Jets turn came around, Manitobans Conor Geekie and Denton Mateychuk had already been snapped up.

Geekie, a product of Strathclair, was the first Manitoban taken. The Winnipeg Ice centreman was selected in the 11th slot by the Arizona Coyotes and nearly tumbled down the stairs in all the excitement as he walked to the stage.

Back-to-back Manitobans were taken with Dominion City’s Denton Mateychuk of the Moose Jaw Warriors going right after. The blueliner went to the Columbus Blue Jackets with the next pick at 12th overall.

The third and final Manitoban to go on day one was defenceman Owen Pickering of St. Adolphe. The member of the Swift Current Broncos went to the Pittsburgh Penguins with the 21st draft pick.

Ice forward Matthew Savoie went in the top 10. The Alberta product was quickly selected up by the Buffalo Sabres with the ninth pick.

The Montreal Canadiens used the top pick on Slovakian forward Juraj Slafkovsky. The top-ranked prospect Shane Wright slid all the way down to number four to the Seattle Kraken.

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The Jets have five more picks in the final six rounds of the draft on Friday.

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John Shannon on the Jets: July 4

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