This year, the NHL draft was all in one day for the first time since 2006 and the Blue Jackets entered the day with seven picks and ended up leaving with eight (after making a trade for picks with Pittsburgh). The day was certainly a day of firsts for the franchise, not even counting Jarmo being the first ever European GM to make a pick. So let’s get going and meet the newest Blue Jackets.
1-14 Alexander Wennberg-Djurgardens IF (Allsvenkan)-Will play with Frolunda HC (Swedish Hockey League) this season
CS Rank 5 Euro Skater Stats 46GP 14-18-32 +10 14PIM
TWITTER ACCOUNT @wenniss
To start off the draft of firsts, the Jackets went to Sweden for the first time ever in the first round selecting Alexander Wennberg of Djurgardens IF of Allsvenkan (Sweden’s second league). Wennberg scored 32 points in 46 games which was third among junior players and his 14 goals put him in second place amongst junior players. Wennberg is a 2-way center who’s most effective along the walls and who wins a lot of board battles. He is at his best when playing a physical game and outworking opponents to win battles and can be tough to play against in front of the net. He also has a great ability to keep his head up while engaging in a puck battles, making moves around a defender and can shake off opponents with twists and turns near the board with agility. One thing that Wennberg can help with is the “goofy goal” department. Against Leksands, Wennberg blocks a shot and starts a odd man rush and while driving to the net with the puck ending up in Alexander’s pants and dropping into the goal. Alexander played for Sweden at the last world championships starting on the fourth line but earned a role in the top six with his play. Alexander will play next season with Frolunda of the Swedish Hockey League. He’ll join Jackets prospects Oscar Dansk and Daniel Zaar at Sweden’s World Junior Camp and also take part in the tournament in Lake Placid.
With its second first round pick, the Blue Jackets went with the son of a former NHL player in Windsor Spitfires power forward Kerby Rychel. Kerby is the son of NHL tough guy and current GM/part owner of the Spitfires Warren Rychel. Kerby is the first Spitfire drafted by the Blue Jackets and was the only draft eligible prospect with back to back 40 goal seasons. He was also the first Spit to achieve this since Steve Ott in 00-02. Kerby’s OHL career got off to a rough start when the Spitfire’s arch-rival the Barrie Colts selected Kerby just picks before Windsor was up. This broke the gentleman’s code where if a GM/coach’s son is available they can pick them in the appropriate round. Finally, after a hold out and two trades, Kerby came home and became a star. Kerby’s best asset is his shot, although despite being a back to back 40 goal scorer he isn’t going to bring you out of your seat unless he’s dropped the gloves. Most of his goals appear to be a blast from the slot/point or a bang home of a rebound. Kerby is also next to impossible to get the puck from when he works down low and along the boards. Here’s a quote from Hockeyprospect.com’s Director of Scouting Mark Edwards from its black book on Kerby “When Kirby [sic] is on, he is very very good. He is best when he mixes in physical play and goes to the dirty areas.” Kerby was an assistant captain with the Spitfires last season, and he also served as captain in a game that the team’s captain missed. According to the Windsor Star’s Jim Parker there is no question Kerby will be considered for the teams next captain. Kerby will take part in Team Canada’s National Junior Team summer development camp August 4-10.
Another draft pick, another first. Marko Dano who, while Austrian-born, plays for Slovakia internationally, became the first Slovakian selected in the first round by the Jackets. Dano just completed his first season in the KHL where he scored seven points in 37 games played. Dano played a bottom six role with Bratislava, however even playing in the KHL as a 17 year old is impressive. Dano’s small stature gives him a low center of gravity that makes him hard to knock off the puck or attempt to rob him of possession. Marko shows no fear and plays with a chippy, gritty edge where he gets into his opponent’s face and fights for pucks and positioning, also not being afraid to throw his weight around. Dano had a coming out party at the 2013 World Junior Championships finishing tied for fourth in scoring with nine points in six games including a three point game (2-1-3) against Canada in a 6-3 loss. Dano was named one of Slovakia’s top players as voted on by coaches. Since Dano was drafted from Europe, he is eligible to play in the AHL and according to this translated interview he is more than willing to come over. Another option could be the WHL’s Prince George Cougars who currently own his rights. On an odd connection, Marko knows Jackets star Slovakian Marian Gaborik as the two are from the same town and played for the same junior team.
Does this name and picture seem familiar faithful readers? Yep folks, it looks like the prospect guy got one right meaning I’ll be handing in my resignation as soon as I post this. After a trade with the Penguins, the Jackets moved down six spots but gained back a later third round pick after having lost theirs in the Nash trade. The Jackets would use the regained pick on the big blueliner. Seems like every draft there’s one pick that you can guess which scout did the sell job. For Heatherington, that’s easy as Jackets Western scout Andy Schneider used to be an assistant coach in Swift Current. Dillon is the highest picked Bronco in 13 years and the first Bronco selected by the Jackets. Dillon is a huge defensive defenseman whose most impressive aspect is his ability to read the play and remain very composed letting the play come to him. Dillon uses his size to keep opponents to the outside and will drop the gloves if he has to. Dillon will probably never lead a rush but will start the attack with a good first pass. Dillon will join Kerby at the Team Canada camp and according to an article will almost certainty be named captain of the Broncos in September.
The Blue Jackets remained in the Western Hockey League while also selecting from a new country again. Bjorkstrand (B-York-strand) is a native of Denmark where his father Todd starred for 14 years picking up 1199 points in 550 games including three seasons with more than 100 points plus one with 99. Oliver led all WHL rookies in goals and points and, had it not been for some kid named Jones, he would’ve been the WHL’s Rookie of the Year. Bjorkstrand was a third liner on a very deep Portland team giving teams fits when they tried to match lines. He plays bigger than his size despite not getting involved in scrums after the whistle. Bjorkstrand is very good along the boards and drives to the net hard. Whenever Oliver is on the ice, he gives a full effort in the dirty areas. Bjorkstrand’s strength is his skating incuding impressive acceleration. He has a quick release and posseses a quick touch around the net. Oliver is a good playmaker and sees the ice well. The one thing that needs work and, according to some, did improve over the season is his defensive play. Most who grade the draft think Oliver could be the steal of the draft. A quote from an NHL scout in the Hockeyprospect.com says “This kid will score a ton next season with Rattie gone” referring to St Louis Blues 2nd round pick Ty Rattie that had 110 points for the Hawks this season and is out of WHL eligibility. Oliver played for Denmark in the Division 1A Group A and was part of a three way tie for the Dane’s leading scorer with eight points in five games leading the team with five goals.
In the fourth round, the Jackets went back to the OHL drafting Nick Moutrey from the Saginaw Spirit making him the first Spirit player drafted by the Jackets. Nick appears to be a tough customer as the only videos of him are fights. Nick was sixth on the Spirit in scoring amongst players that spent the entire season with the team. After spending his 16 year-old season in the Spirit’s bottom six he really improved over the summer moving into the top six. Nick finishes checks and is a surprisingly good skater for his size. Nick is creative and can beat Dmen one on one and has a great shot. Nick isn’t a flashy player but he works hard and shows a lot of tools that are intriguing. ISS considered Nick one of the more underrated prospects for the draft saying this about him in a Yahoo blog “Moutrey’s development trend has steadily risen throughout the past season. He continued to play more and more physical and inserting an edge to his game especially in the last half of the season. The light has finally gone on and could be a steal in the second or third round.”
With its sixth round pick, the Jackets went back to Scandinavia selecting Norwegian forward Markus Soberg who played with Frolunda’s junior team. Markus is an opportunistic sniper who lurks around the net and who can also back out of coverage finding open space for a one timer. Markus inflicts damage with his shot which is quick, stealthy, and explodes off his blade. Markus played for Norway at the U18 Division 1 Group A leading the tournament in scoring with 13 points in five games. Markus will need to add size and strength to his frame along with improving his defensive game. Here’s Christian Wahlgren’s (I was directed to him for info on the Junior team) take on Soberg “great skater, strong, good balance, good perception on the ice, great hands and hard shot. Off ice a funny guy” While Markus and first round pick Alexander Wennberg will be in the same organization it appears doubtful they’ll play any with each other this season.
In the 7th round, the Blue Jackets continued their run of drafting bloodlines by selecting Peter Quenneville who is Chicago coach Joel’s second cousin, and Boston defenseman Johnny Boychuk’s nephew (had to be a bit awkard during the finals). Peter just completed a very successful season with the Dubuque Fighting Saints helping the team win both the Anderson Cup (regular season champs) and the Clark Cup (playoff champs). Quenneville finished tied for eighth in USHL scoring, second on the team, and second in goals and assists. Peter was named a second team USHL All Star making him the first Jackets draft pick to do so since Jake Hansen in 2007-08 season. Before joining the Saints, Peter played for the Sherwood Park Crusaders winning the AJHL Most Valuable Player award and finishing third in league scoring (53GP 31-50-81). He was also named second team all star. Peter’s USHL coach had this to say about him in a Hockeysfuture post “Peter’s just a high-end vision player with really great hands…I’ve been pleasantly surprised with his work ethic away from the puck, but from what I’ve seen so far, he’s got to work on his consistency and actually attacking inside the dots.” Peter appears to be a goal scorer who is a great shooter and shows tremendous dedication to answering for the perceived shortcomings in his game. Peter has committed to play for last year’s national runner up, the Quinnipiac Bobcats.
Overall I liked the Jackets draft. We added all the things I thought we needed – adding some size (Heatherington, Moutrey) and guys that can put the puck in the net (Rychel, Quenneville) along with some minor surprises (Dano, Bjorkstrand). As for next season, I see none of these guys making the Jackets even with Dano wanting to come over to North America.
There you have it folks – a little info on all of the newest Blue Jackets. All eight will be in attendance at next week’s Development Camp and I’ll be there for the afternoon session on Tuesday. My next update will probably be a World Junior Camp review with seven CBJ prospects taking part in National team evaluation camps and of course I plan on making the trip up to Traverse City for the third time to watch the guys play and autograph hound a bit. Sound off in the comments if there’s some in particular YOU want to hear more about.