Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Blue Jackets Need to Draft...

It's that time of year again. The grass needs mowed, flowers are in bloom, and the Stanley Cup has been awarded. As we all know that means it's time for the NHL Draft. After finishing in last place in the league the Blue Jackets managed to lose again, this time the draft lottery to the Edmonton Oilers. For the third year in a row the Oilers sit in the catbird seat with the first overall selection in the draft. Further, this draft has a consensus number one prospect in the form of Nail Yakupov of the Sarnia Sting. The next level of prospects is thought to have 4-5 elite players that are one rung below Yakupov. The Blue Jackets have a variety of directions they can choose to go with their second overall selection.

Nail Yakupov
The Russian-born Tatar is a dynamic offensive force who has posted an impressive 80-90-170 in 107 career OHL games and 6-16-22 in 14 World championship games. He is the consensus  number one prospect in the draft and has been compared to former Russian great Pavel Bure. He is also an awesome interview.

Typically the team drafting first would gleefully take Yakupov and move on, however the Oilers are not the typical team drafting first. With the last two first-overall picks the Oilers selected Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, two offensive wunderkinds that have frames that could lead to injury problems. Nugent-Hopkins missed twenty games due to injury this season, Hall has missed 28 games due to various injuries (to be fair some were freakishly bizarre in nature) in his first two seasons. Add to those concerns the fact that Yakupov suffered a concussion near the end of the regular season and injuries could be a concern going forward for him as well. All of this leads me to believe the Oilers would at least consider trading the pick, especially to the Blue Jackets. If the price were right I could see Scott Howson taking advantage of the Oilers reluctance to add to their injury-prone top-six to move up and snag Yakupov. The price the Blue Jackets should pay depends on their analysis of Yakupov. If they think he's a legitimate first-line player from day one then it's entirely worth a prospect like Dalton Prout or a roster player like Marc Methot to move up and take him. If (when?) Rick Nash is traded Yakupov would make a fine replacement. Of course it could be the Blue Jackets might not have to move at all to draft Yakupov as the Oilers are reportedly considering taking Ryan Murray.

Ryan Murray
Based on the last two drafts it appears character is an important aspect in Scott Howson's drafting decisions. After the Nikita Filatov disaster it is not at all surprising to see the organization put as much weight in character as they do in skill. Players like Boone Jenner and T.J. Tynan are examples of players that seem to be picked not only for their abundant skill, but also for their attitude and leadership abilities. Aside from his skills, Murray's greatest asset appears to be his character and leadership. A smooth-skating two-way defender, Murray is the captain of the Everett Silvertips of the WHL and was the captain of Team Canada at the World Under-18 Championships. He also recently played with Team Canada at the World Championships alongside current NHL players. Murray has drawn comparisons to former great Scott Niedermayer and projects to be a top-pairing defenseman. The Blue Jackets have never had a defenseman that possesses the skill of Murray, and this could be the player that turns the defensive corps into a respectable unit. Think of a defense next season with pairings that consist of Johnson-Wisniewski, Tyutin-Nikitin, and Moore-Murray with Marc Methot available to be plugged in on any pairing in case of injury. Wisniewski on the top pairing doesn't make me especially confident, but he and Jack Johnson seem to have developed good chemistry as have Nikita Nikitin and Fedor Tyutin. If Moore continues to improve his game we could have three legitimate defensive pairings and some good depth in Springfield with players like Dalton Prout, Cody Goloubef, and David Savard developing.

Alex Galchenyuk
Barring a serious knee injury it is entirely possible we could be discussing Galchenyuk as a contender for the first overall selection with his former teammate Nail Yakupov. Galchenyuk was born in America and is the son of Alexander Galchenyuk a former Russian Super League and IHL player. Due to a serious knee injury his health was a major concern heading into the draft combine, however those concerns should have been put to rest after his impressive performance in Toronto. Galchenyuk absolutely dominated the anaerobic fitness peak power output test, a test that measures explosiveness, where he bested every other player there. A known fitness junkie, Galchenyuk's impressive frame (6' 198lbs.), gritty board work, and excellent on-ice vision make Galchenyuk a very tempting prospect at the top of the draft. The main concern with drafting a player like Galchenyuk second-overall is even if he's recovered physically from his torn ACL he lost an entire season of development. It's doubtful Galchenyuk would be able to step right into the Columbus lineup and take a top six center spot next season. When you're a team as low on talent as the Blue Jackets, ideally the number two pick would step in and play right away. It's really a shame Galchenyuk was injured, as without the season to judge him on, it would be tough to take him second overall, even if his ceiling is higher than some of the other players that will be available. Imagine a center depth chart that looks like this in two-three years: Galchenyuk - Johansen - Jenner - Chaput

Filip Forsberg
The top-ranked European skater in the draft crop this season is this 6'2" 181lb center. Currently playing in a professional league in Sweden, Forsberg's numbers don't look very impressive at first glance. Then you look at the league he plays in and the typical role of players his age in the league. Forsberg is playing in a league against grown men similar to the ECHL or AHL at the age of 17 and holding his own. A tough player who scores and passes adeptly and protects the puck very well, Forsberg is a bit of an unknown for Blue Jackets fans. If Forsberg is the target of Howson I wouldn't be surprised to see him attempt to trade down a bit as it is thought Forsberg will be available outside the top four. If Toronto GM Brian Burke falls in love with a player or new Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin wants to make a big splash I could see them offering something enticing to trade places with the Jackets. If Forsberg is selected he will probably be sent back to Sweden for further development. This could lead to a long development time as he has yet to get acclimated to the smaller North American ice.

Possibilities If We Trade Down
Mikhail Grigorenko
Morgan Rielly
Jacob Trouba
Matthew Dumba
Teuvo Teravainen


  1. At different points, I've said with absolute confidence that we should draft Murray, Galenchyuk, or Forsberg. But I am not at all convinced that Yakupov will work out. From brief clips of his play I've seen, he appears to be a very physical, hello-Mr.-Shanahan type of player who will 1) be injured, 2) may rile up the other club with questionable hits, and 3) get suspended (Wiz...). I have major concerns with him and of course Grigorenko. I like Murray, but do we want another young defenseman playing in Columbus who will be very pricey? Perhaps a veteran would be a better pickup. Like Galchenyuk's fire, we could use more of that, and Forsberg's toughness and willingness to sacrifice himself blocking shots. I think either of those two, for the Jackets' needs, is the best choice. But both are probably at least a year away from the NHL.

    1. I am of the opinion that we take the best player we can get over the long haul. Whether the player can help this year should not be a consideration.


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