The Columbus Blue Jackets aren’t going to make the playoffs, but don’t expect that trend to continue.
Team General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen and President of Hockey Operations John Davidson, have assembled a small army of young talent that’s ready to place Columbus at the top of the hockey world.
The Blue Jackets have been one of the more aggressive drafting team’s recently. They have had four first-round selections over the last two years and have been extremely diligent scouting later round prospects.
One such prospect is Oliver Bjorkstrand who was drafted in the third round of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. Bjorkstrand has turned a lot of heads in the hockey world with his sensational play for the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks.
Over the last two seasons the 18-year-old has amassed 227 points, which includes a 63 goal season in 2014-15.
Bjorkstrand is a prime example of the aggressive scouting approach shared by Kekalainen and Davidson. However, despite his impressive scoring numbers on the junior circuit, Bjorkstrand might not even be the best prospect in the Columbus system.
Sonny Milano was drafted in the first round ( 16th overall ) of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. Following in the mold of Calgary Flames star Johhny Gaudreau, Milano is an American-born showman. His flashy play can ignite the crowd. (evident by his outstanding YouTube videos ) He projects to be quite the goal scorer in the NHL, something Columbus needs desperately.
With their upcoming slate of prospects dazzling in the junior leagues, there is a healthy amount of talent which has already made an NHL impact, as Alexander Wennberg, Marko Dano, and Kerby Rychel have all seen time with Columbus this season.
The trio were all drafted during the first round of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. So far, the results have been promising for the three young stars.
Alexander Wennberg has been with the Blue Jackets for the majority of the 2014-15 season. He hasn’t had a major impact on the score sheet for Columbus, but has seen time on the team’s first line. Dano and Rychel have played a considerable less amount of time than Wennberg, but both have impressed in their limited showing with the big club.
Rychel has played in five games for the club and recorded three assists before being sent down. Meanwhile, Dano has been one of the team’s most surprising players. In 29 games played he has scored an impressive 16 points while maintaining a +/- rating of +8.
As a result of missing the playoffs, the Jackets will own a lottery pick in the incredibly deep 2015 NHL Draft, so the team will add another prime prospect to their impressive pool.
As it stands now the Jackets are slated to pick at the seventh selection. While the top players like Conor McDavid, Jack Eichel, and Dylan Strome will be long gone, they could still potentially grab Mitch Marner, Ivan Provorov, or Matthew Barzal, players that might be good enough to crack the top-three in any other year
Columbus already sees big contributions from a few young players including Cam Atkinson, Ryan Johansen, Boone Jenner, Rene Bourque, and Ryan Murray. The addition of any of the team’s prospects and future draft picks will only bolster a hungry Jackets team.
Times are tough for Columbus hockey, as injuries have halted the progress of a return to the playoffs. Just don’t get too accustomed to losing Jackets fans, because business is about to pick up.