Like last year, The Hockey News Future Watch issue is out and that means its time for me to go over what the Jackets have coming down the pipeline. Last year’s issue gave the Jackets prospects a C+ (the grades are decided by a panel of NHL scouts – 14 last year, 15 this year) placing the CBJ 24th. I’ll be honest with you, I figured the CBJ would either stay about the same, or even drop, but I was wrong. The Jackets group of prospects jumped up seven spots to 17th earning a grade of B. I’m guessing the drafting of Ryan Murray second overall and two of the top draft European goalie prospects helped this grade. The last two top 10s feature six players that appear in both.
|1||David Savard||Ryan Murray|
|2||Boone Jenner||Boone Jenner|
|3||Matt Calvert||Tim Erixon (NYR #1 in 2012)|
|4||Cam Atkinson||Oscar Dansk|
|5||Tomas Kubalik||Cam Atkinson|
|6||Dalton Smith||Matt Calvert|
|7||Dalton Prout||David Savard|
|8||Mike Reilly||Michael Chaput|
|9||Michael Chaput||Joonas Korpisalo|
|10||Cody Goloubef||Mike Reilly|
I have to admit I have some problems with these two lists. I think the first thing is that David Savard, while yes a fine offensive defenseman, has never been this team’s top prospect. The only other one I have a problem with in 2012 is Dalton Smith being in the top 10. Dalton is basically Jared Boll 2.0. In the issue this is what THN said about Dalton Smith: “After his production waned in 2010-11, Smith has revved it back up again.” The stats THN put in the magazine had Dalton with 24 points in 40 games and Dalton would play 13 more games picking up only a point. I don’t mean to sound like I’m bashing Dalton I just don’t see him as a top 10 prospect. As for my problem with 2013′s list, it’s in more of a “hey what are you doing here?” way. I mean without the lockout did anyone really think Cam would spend any time in the AHL? If I was making a top 10 I’d take off Cam Atkinson, David Savard and Matt Calvert, and based on his recent play with the Jackets, Tim Erixon who is quickly working his way off this list and insert Jonathan Audy-Marchessault, Anton Forsberg, Josh Anderson and TJ Tynan in no particular order.
Unlike last year where the Jackets could almost field half a team with all the prospects they had to sign, this year they only have to worry about signing four. Three of the four are seniors finishing up their college careers with most ending when they are eliminated from their respective conference tournaments. The four are centers Kevin Lynch and Lukas Sedlak and defensemen Thomas Larkin and Drew Olson. Lynch, Larkin and Olson are finishing their collegiate careers, while Lukas could either play in the AHL or go back to Chicoutimi for one more season. Where last year it seemed like it was an easy to say “these players shouldn’t be signed and these should be” this year is a little tougher.
Sedlak and Lynch are almost the same player just separated by two years of age and Lukas seems to have more skill. If you’d asked me anytime before February 22nd I’d have told you Lynch probably shouldn’t be signed and he’d become the latest member of the CBJ draft pick graveyard (second round) but then I saw him play a game live against OSU. In the game, Kevin played a solid game that included going to the net and setting screens including one on the Wolverines first goal. He was winning faceoffs and laid a clean open ice hit on a Buckeye. Kevin also served as an assistant captain for the Wolverines this season. As for Lukas it’s been a down year in terms of production and he was also bit by the injury bug including missing 8 of 10 games in February. The bright spot for Lukas this season has to be him serving as captain for the Czech Republic’s entry into the World Junior Championships. Of these two, I see one getting signed and I am leaning towards Kevin.
As for the two defensemen, I almost think both might get signed but one is a LONG shot. Why I think both get signed is because they bring something that both the Jackets and, to a lesser extent, the Falcons defensive corps lack. Starting with Thomas Larkin, he is one of the biggest players in the organization checking in at 6’5″ 221 pounds. I’m not saying the Blue Jackets and Falcons defense is small, after all the six defensemen that played on January 20th (CBJ opening night/Falcons also played) the Jackets D averaged out to 6’2″, 215 and the Falcons checked in at 6’3″, 211. Thomas doesn’t use his size to punish opponents despite picking up 50+ penalty minutes the last two seasons in 37 and 34 games. Thomas is also unique as he’s played for Italy internationally on the World Championship level. Larkin has also served as a tri-captain for Colgate the last two seasons being the first two time captain since the 1980s. As for Drew Olson, he’s the longshot. Olson is a defensive defenseman picking up only 21 points in 143 games but according to Hockeysfuture, Drew is a good skater and possesses a good shot from the point even though his one goal a year the past three seasons would says he doesn’t use it very often. Drew is a punishing defensemen, especially to those that try to beat him wide. Drew also served as an assistant captain this season for the Bulldogs. Other than Kevin, Drew is the highest draft pick of these four picks with the Jackets using a fourth round pick on him after his senior year of high school. I’m not saying either will be in Columbus anytime soon, if ever, but down the line these players – if any of them are signed – could add to the organization’s growing depth. I asked HockeyProspectus’s Corey Pronman who of the four should be signed he said this “Sedlak is a must sign for me. Other ones I could be swayed either way.”
Considering who’s back in Springfield for next season, only nine players are under contract for next year with eight more being restricted free agents and I’m thinking all but one should be resigned. Almost all of the nine that are back will be in the second year of their entry level deals with Anton Blomqvist and Oliver Gabriel being the exceptions. The returning players are forwards Jonathan Audy-Marchessault, Michael Chaput, Sean Collins, Gabriel, Jake Hansen, and Dalton Smith, plus defensemen Anton Blomqvist, Austin Madaisky and Will Weber. As for the restricted free agents, we have forwards Cody Bass, Spencer Machacek, and Ryan Russell, plus defensemen Cody Goloubef, Dalton Prout, Theo Ruth, David Savard and goaltender Allen York (roster as of 3/10). The one I’m guessing won’t be back is “the guy we got for Sergei Fedorov” – Theo Ruth. I think this because a guy drafted for his defense (14 points in 139 games) is a -38, with poor all around play, and has struggled to get into/stay in the lineup, missing at least 20 games the last three seasons.
Looking at where the unsigned prospects will be next season, most will be back where they are this season. Oscar Dansk should be back as the Otters number one even though due to being drafted from Europe he could play in Springfield but I’m saying NO to that. Josh Anderson is coming off a career year and should be back on one of the Knights top two lines. Gianluca Curcuto will be back in Plymouth and could be the Whalers top Dman. As for the college prospects, Martin Ouellette will be playing his senior year and, with his play closing out the season, he will most likely be Maine’s number one goalie. Before the season I had TJ Tynan turning pro after this year but, due to a down year and a new GM, TJ will likely be back in South Bend for his senior year. As for the Gopher boys, we’ll have more chances to see them as Minnesota will be in the new Big 10 hockey conference. Seth Ambroz will be a junior but will still only be a third liner as the team loses only one senior and he’s a defenseman (although some think they’ll lose some guys to the pros). As for Mike Reilly, he will be a sophomore and hopefully hit a growth spurt. The European prospects is where it gets muddy. Anton Forsberg, who as I said I think should be signed, was loaned to SSK so if he’s not over here he should be back with MODO. Daniel Zaar hopefully will find a spot on one of Rogle’s top two lines because his game isn’t right for the lower two. He’ll possibly be playing for the J20 team. As for Joonas Korpisalo he’ll hopefully stick with the J20 team or, maybe, as Jokerit’s backup goalie but I’d rather have him playing more. Joonas and Oscar are both eligible to play in the World Juniors with Oscar maybe getting some playing time this year.
As for who could be a rookie with the Falcons next season, as I said above the four I mentioned could be with the team, the only other rookies that could be in Springfield are top prospect Boone Jenner and a player who I think the Jackets should sign – the team’s most pro ready goalie prospect Anton Forsberg. That would more than likely mean a York/Forsberg goalie duo in Springfield and I’m not sure Allen can stay healthy long enough to last a whole season as a number one. It’s important to consider that Anton will also need time to adjust to the North American ice. Now as for Boone Jenner, while he will get a long hard look at training camp of course, I’m just saying that unlike this season where he could only play in Columbus or Oshawa, next year he will be able to play in Springfield. This means we can keep a close eye on him and call him up if needed. Let’s not forget Jarmo and JD are big on the future and I bring up my “what would you rather have Boone doing” argument: Would you rather have him playing 20 minutes plus and in be in all situations in Springfield or playing probably third line minutes in Columbus?
As for the “CBJProspects draft wishlist”, look, I know we’ve been doing better as of late but I’m still hoping for a top three pick (I’m a prospect geek sue me). Much like last year where I wanted either Ryan Murray or Nail Yakupov (sorry Galy heads), this year I want either Seth Jones or Nathan McKinnon. You might be thinking “don’t we have a bunch of D prospects?” we do, but picture Ryan Murray and Seth Jones on the Jackets blueline for the next few seasons. This pair could develop into our version of Suter-Weber (sorry Everett Silvertips fans-could haveve happened there). As for McKinnon, he’s been compared to Sidney Crosby and would be the game changing forward that most top picks are. As for the rest of the draft, we mostly need to draft one thing and one thing only SKILL! Sorry to say it folks but outside of JAM, TJ Tynan, Daniel Zaar and Mike Reilly this organization doesn’t have many guys I would consider highly skilled. We can’t pull an Islanders and draft all forwards, we need to draft some defenseman because at the moment, other than who’s in Springfield, the Jackets only have four unsigned prospects (plus Murray) with two that could not be prospects next season (Olson and Larkin – see above). If there was another thing the CBJ need is some size. I mean, Sean Collins is the Jackets biggest forward prospect at 6’3″ 200lbs and Anton Blomqvist the biggest dman at 6’6″ 206 and Anton doesn’t use his size to punish people. I’m not saying I want a goon or an enforcer I’m just pointing out we don’t seem very big. A name I’m hoping to see end up in Blue Jackets land with a mid to late first round pick is Nikita Zadorov (30th ranked NA Skater). The 6’5 230 London blueliner is a physical force that skates well for his size.
Well there you have it folks! My annual look at the Jackets prospect pool, the NHL Draft Lottery will take place on April 29th with all 14 teams that don’t make the playoffs having a chance at the first pick. As for the draft it will still occur in New Jersey but unlike most years, it will all happen in one day on Sunday June 30th starting at 3pm which seems odd to me but I guess that makes it noon for the west coast teams. So get ready for the ride!