Blue Jackets Draft Recap

New Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen stepped into an almost ideal situation in Columbus in terms of putting an immediate stamp on the organization, as the Jackets were loaded up with three first round picks in a deep and talented draft class. While they certainly would have been willing to deal from that pick depth for an impact forward (Tyler Seguin's name apparently came up) when no deals materialized, Kekalainen was content to stride to the podium three times and stockpile some prospects. Here's how he did:

1(14) - Alexander Wennberg, C, Djurgarden (Allsvenskan)
The Allsvenskan is the Swedish second division, but it's no black mark against an 18-year-old that he hadn't been able to crack the top division yet. Wennberg is a player who can do just about everything. He's a great skater with plus hockey IQ, creativity and vision who's adaptable enough to slide over to the wing when necessary, and while his overall offensive package doesn't stand out as elite he probably won't look out of place as a top-six forward, or as an anchor on a dangerous third line. He's defensively responsible, a product of both his smarts and his training in Sweden. He's also flashed an edge to his game which could serve him well in the NHL once the Jackets' training staff has had a chance to work with him and bulked him up. In short, Wennberg is exactly the sort of player Kekalainen had been targeting to great success while he was in charge of scouting for the Blues, a kid built for the kind of relentless, line-rolling style of attack that the Blue Jackets are adopting. He won't make the jump to the NHL right away, but once he arrives he'll be the kind of glue player who plays hard in every zone and sees shifts in every situation.

1(19) - Kerby Rychel, LW, Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
Rychel is the son of former NHL enforcer Warren Rychel, and while he retained his father's toughness he's got a lot more skill to his game than his pugilist pop. He's coming off back-to-back 40 goal campaigns in the OHL, possesses a big shot and seems more than willing to pay the price in front of the net and in the corners to make things happen in the offensive zone. His skating, defensive game and consistency all need some work though, so Rychel will receive plenty of AHL seasoning before he'll be ready for the Jackets' roster. Still, a player with his physically abrasive style and cannon could end up being a very good fit alongside Boone Jenner on a future Columbus third line.

1(27) - Marko Dano, C, Slovan Bratislava (KHL)
Dano was something of an off-the-board pick, being projected to go in the latter half of the second round by some, but it shouldn't have been a shock that he worked his way up into the first round. He's an 18-year-old who's been playing among men in the KHL and hasn't looked out of place, and he had a huge showing at the World Juniors for Slovakia that really put him on the prospect map. He's a potential top-six forward who plays with speed, creativity and abrasiveness, who seems to have just as much fun slamming into the corner on the forecheck as he does faking out a defender on his way to the net. He's also not afraid to get dirty and work hard in his own zone, another plus and another perfect fit for the developing Blue Jackets style. The one big knock against Dano right now is his size (he's 5-foot-11) and the need for him to get physically stronger to play the game his way in the pros, so in that sense he's something of a boom or bust pick if he can't translate his skills to the NHL, but if he pans out he's going to be a gem, and a lot of fun to watch.

2(50) - Dillon Heatherington, D, Swift Current Broncos (WHL)
The Jackets traded down a handful of spots in the second round to pick up a third rounder (#89) and still landed a very solid player. I do like a couple of the guys that got taken between 44 (their original spot) and 50, namely forwards Zach Nastasiuk and Nick Sorensen, but after loading up at forward with all three of their first round picks it made sense to add another blueliner to the stockpile instead. Heatherington doesn't bring much offense to the table, but he's big and physical and figures to develop into a solid shut-down defender in a few years, an asset NHL clubs can never have too many of.

3(89) - Oliver Bjorkstrand, RW, Portland Winter Hawks (WHL)
Kekalainen used that third round pick to great effect, nabbing a winger with some serious offensive upside in Bjorkstrand. He's a long way from the NHL, and needs to work on both his skating and his strength to ever become an NHL regular, but you don't often find players with his skill at the back end of the third round. Bjorkstrand is a strong puckhandler who possess a lethal array of shots with a quick trigger, and shows the creativity and vision to make full use of both his own talents and those of his linemates. He also knows his way around in his own end. Again, I don't want to oversell him. Bjorkstrand's size is an issue, and he's going to have to put in a lot of work to ever be ready for the NHL grind in even a fourth line role. But there's some definite steal potential here.

4(105) - Nick Moutrey, LW, Saginaw Spirit (OHL)
Eventually, Jared Boll is going to retire. He's lasted a pretty long time as enforcers go already, and the end is probably nearer than Columbus fans would like to admit. That's where Moutrey comes in. He's a physical forward who's more than willing to drop the gloves, and while (as with most OHL scrappers) his skating will have to improve a great deal if he ever wants to see a semi-regular NHL shift, he's got the tools to patrol a fourth line effectively and make the other team pay if they step out of line.

6(165) - Markus Soberg, RW, Frolunda HC (Jr SuperElit)
Soberg's a project, but what do you expect for a sixth rounder? He's been a star on the Norwegian under-18s and didn't look out of place in the World Juniors. Soberg is fast and skilled and plays with an edge, but of course he's still got a lot of growing to do and there's no telling yet whether he'll be able to thrive in North America. Next year's World Juniors will be a big test for him, as he's being counted on to lead the Norwegian club. If he takes that next step forward, this will look like a very smart pick.

7(195) - Peter Quenneville, C/RW, Dubuque (USHL)
Yep, he's Joel Quenneville's cousin. He's on his way to a scholarship at Quinnipiac, so it'll be a couple of years before anyone has a sense of what type of player he could be, but he's flashed some offensive skill and if you're going to throw a dart in the seventh round betting on bloodlines isn't a bad way to go.


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