The NHL draft is quickly approaching meaning it’s time for me give my take on who I think the CBJ should take with their seven draft picks. Last year when I did this, I – to the shock of no one – got no players right, but I did call the Jackets selecting two goaltenders. So let’s look at what we have to play with this year:
Now before going pick by pick I’m going to post some of the attributes we need to be looking for in players.
The Jackets prospect pool is not very big with most of the team’s top offensive prospects being under 6’0″ tall. The only two exceptions are Josh Anderson and Seth Ambroz who, if they would make the NHL, would more than likely be bottom six grinders.
Ok I know anyone in hockey can score goals but I mean players that are a threat every time they have the puck like that Nash guy we had who was “good”. Other than Cam Atkinson, the only prospect I would call a potential sniper is Daniel Zaar who, looking at my previous point is 5’11” and, we can’t be sure if and when he would come over to North America.
That being said – let’s look at my predictions.
ROUND 1 PICK 14
RW Anthony Mantha-Val D’Or Foreurs(QMJHL) 6’3″ 200 CSS Rank 10 NA Skater
Stats 67GP 50-39-89 +21 71PIM
Just by reading the above info you can tell Mantha fills both of the needs I discussed. Mantha was one of only 3 players in the CHL to score 50 goals last season, and the only in the QMJHL. Mantha’s major strength is his shot. He can release from anywhere and create a scoring chance with it. He has a very accurate slapshot and backhand. Mantha isn’t one to use slick one-on-one moves, he simply uses his puck handling skills and skating abilities to cut into the slot. Hockeyprospect.com’s black book boasts that “Mantha is one of the smartest players available this year in the draft.” Also stating “His shot is one of the reasons he gets so many goals but his intelligence on the ice is also a huge factor.” Ok now, there are some work ethic issues with Anthony. Most nights he’s everywhere doing everything but other nights he relies on his talent to stay out of the play seeming to not have a “high care level for the win or loss of his team.”
ROUND 1 PICK 19
RW Valentin Zykov-Baie-Comeau Drakkar(QMJHL) 6’1″ 215 CSS Rank 7 NA Skater
Stats 67GP 40-35-75 +29 60PIM
Yes folks I have the Blue Jackets drafting a Russian in the first round. Now, unlike our previous problem children from there, Zykov appears to play…wait for it…hard. Zykov is a 6’1″ 215 bulldog that uses his size to protect the puck and create time to maintain puck possession. Zykov is one of the strongest players in the Q in one on one situations and is rarely knocked off the puck. Zykov won the QMJHL’s RDS Cup for the Q’s Rookie of the Year. His 41 goals were 7th in the league and tops among rookies. He also led all rookies in scoring – finishing 12 points ahead of his teammate Gabryel Paquin-Boudreau. I’m going to give this quote, again from the black book and will not be shocked if you don’t believe that I’m talking about a Russian: “He loves to crash the net and is not afraid of getting hit while doing so.” The only real knock on Zykov is his skating speed. Despite improving this season, it hinders his defensive coverage at times. Another quote from the Black Book “The fact that he’s been having such success without having any high end speed speaks volumes about his natural talent with the puck, goal scoring instincts and defensive awareness.”
ROUND 1 PICK 27
D Mirco Mueller-Everett Silvertips(WHL) 6’4″ 185 CSS Rank 9 NA Skater
Stats 63GP 6-25-31 -10 57PIM
Mirco is a teammate/D partner of Jackets top prospect Ryan Murray so I’ll open with these two quotes from Tips GM Garry Davidson. “You hate to make comparisons because Ryan’s (Murray) a heck of a player,” “But there are a lot of things you look at and say ‘that’s a lot of Ryan Murray there’.” Defensively, Mirco is difficult to play against. He has a good stick that opponents have a hard time doing anything against on his side of the ice; he’ll quickly knock pucks away. Mirco possesses very good speed for his size, and has quick feet to stick to opponents along the boards. Now Mirco’s biggest flaw was his lack of physical play but this is also the area in which he made his biggest improvement. He won’t be dropping the mitts often but he has looked strong along the boards. From the black book “If Mirco Mueller continues to develop his overall game, there is an excellent chance that he will carve out a long, but quiet career in the NHL and be a player that can be depended on in every situation for his team.”
ROUND 2 PICK 44
D Dillon Heatherington-Swift Current Broncos(WHL) 6’4″ 196 CSS Rank 31 NA Skater
Stats 71GP 4-23-27 +25 71PIM
Dillon Heatherington is a defensive defenseman who’s been rising up the draft rankings. He was ranked 44th in the midterm rankings and eventually moved all the way up to 31st in the final. Heatherington is considered one of the most defensively sound players available. A talent hawk (that’s what he’s called in The Hockey News Draft Preview – I’m guessing it’s a scout) said this about the big blueliner “Big-time character” “Never cheats, plays hard, doesn’t cut corners on a play even when he’s gassed. A busy skater, but he gets around quickly. His puck retrieval under pressure was great.” Dillon is very physical – using his size to his advantage and also using his long reach to keep opponents to the outside. Now an offensive juggernaut he’s not but he will pinch when he sees an opportunity. His skating could use some work (again see most draft prospects ever) and he needs to add some speed and explosiveness to keep up with speedy forwards.
ROUND 4 PICK 105
F Jake Guentzel-Sioux City Musketeers(USHL) Commited to Nebraska-Omaha 5’9″ 153 CSS Rank 80 NA Skater
Stats 60GP 29-44-73 +13 24PIM
OK I claim above I want size then have us taking a 5’9″ forward, just hear me out. Jake was the USHL’s Rookie of the Year finishing sixth in scoring and assists. Guentzel was a dangerous offensive force every time he stepped on the ice and has really nice hands. He protects the puck well and can get a good cycle going. He also distributes the puck well on odd man rushes. Despite being so small, Guentzel isn’t intimidated to drive to the net and opens up well to take passes and provide his teammates with options. The only real knock on Jake is, well, he’s 5’9″ needing to add size and strength which going to college will help him with.
ROUND 6 PICK 165
LW Cole Ully 5’11” 165 CSS Rank 92 NA Skater
Stats 62GP 22-28-50 +27 37PIM CSS Rank 92 NA Skater
Cole Ully got the patented Steve Mason mono boost this season. Ully had 14 points (8-6-14) in the 28 games before missing time with mono then picked up 36 points (14-2-36) in the remaining 34 games. Ully is a two-way forward who plays the game at a quick pace and is always in the pursuit of loose pucks. When he handles the puck his hands look loose and smooth. Ully is a skilled penalty killer good at intercepting passes and fearless when it comes to blocking points and uses his intelligence to be good defensively. Two things Cole needs to work on is his to strength and speed as well as his release. Cole takes too long to release his shot when he’s covered which is risky behavior as he is lacking the size to protect the puck.
ROUND 7 PICK 195
C Timotej Sille-HK 36 Skalica(Slovakia Jr) 6’3″ 183
Stats 38GP 31-38-69 +41 10PIM CSS Rank 42 Euro Skater
This is totally a dart at a dartboard pick with Sille being the 195th ranked player in the black book along with being picked around this area in a full mock I considered. Sille appears (no scouting reports seem to exist, I’m only going off stats) to be a power forward finishing second in scoring while also leading the Slovakian U20 league in goals. Sille led Slovakia’s U18 teams in scoring last year picking up 19 points in 17 games but I’m not sure what tournaments he played in. Timotje’s father Tamas is still playing hockey to this day and currently serves as an assistant with the Hungarian National team.
There you have it folks! My shot in the dark at who the Blue Jackets will be selecting on July 30th in what will be a long and fun (for us draft geeks at least) filled day starting at 3pm with all seven rounds happening on one day for the first time since 2006.