The Blue Jackets went into the 2009 NHL Entry Draft with a pick outside of the top ten for the first time in franchise history and following a flurry of moves ended up selecting even out of the top 20.
First they dealt their 16th overall pick along with the 77th to the New York Islanders for the 26th, 37th, 62nd and 92nd selections. General Manager Scott Howson may have been content selecting at No. 26, but with John Moore still available after the first 20 picks, Howson embraced the opportunity to move back up and select the smooth-skating defenseman.
The Blue Jackets made six selections, four of them defenders — a clear need. They took American born center Kevin Lynch in the second round and right wing Kyle Neuber in the seventh as their only other picks.
It is unlikely that any of their selections will have an immediate impact as it may be three or four years before any of the six newest Blue Jackets are contributors in the line-up. At this early stage the Blue Jackets appear to have had a very successful draft as Moore and Lynch have high potential.
Moore was regarded as one of the best skating defensemen in this year’s draft. Many anticipated him being selected a few picks higher, but Moore, showing a great attitude, was happy with the way things worked out.
“Just to be here with my family is a tremendous honor, and whether that’s [being the] sixth or 20th, whatever. Wherever I go, I’m happy.” Moore said. “Just to be part of the Columbus Blue Jackets, I’m tremendously honored.”
After spending two seasons with the Chicago Steel of the USHL, and being named the defenseman of the year this past season, Moore is ready to head to college to continue his development.
His offensive output is a big part of his game. He totaled 39 points in 57 games last year with the Steel, which included 14 goals. Moore can one day quarterback the Jackets’ power play as he possesses an incredibly accurate shot that has some juice behind it. His speed and awareness in the offensive zone will cause trouble for wingers on the penalty kill. He may need to work on his defensive game a bit more and it is unknown whether his offensive abilities will flourish in the collegiate game as well as they did in the USHL, but Moore looks like one of the best value picks of the first round.
“Columbus can definitely use a puck-moving defenseman and their power play struggled a little last year and that’s something I can come in and fill that void," Moore said.
Kevin Lynch, C – 6’1 190 lbs – US NTDP U18
Selected second round, 56th overall
Committed to University of Michigan
Lynch was a late riser on draft boards. He spent the year with the US National Team Development Program, posting 18 goals and 19 assists for 37 points in 54 games. His numbers weren’t bad, but it was his outstanding two-way game, work effort and ruggedness that attracted scouts.
His stock rose during the Under-18 World Championships where he helped the United States capture gold. Lynch displayed more offense in his game during the tournament, posting five goals and five assists in seven games against the best under-18 players in the world. He was also named one of the top three players on the USA team by his coaches.
His offensive game is on the rise and it will have to continually improve if Lynch is to earn a spot on the top two lines in the NHL, however it is his impressive awareness and defensive play that would gain him a more secure spot on the third or fourth line for him once his college days are over.
Lynch is committed to the University of Michigan for the 2009-10 season.
David Savard, D – 6’1 200 lbs – QMJHL, Moncton Wildcats
Selected fourth round, 94th overall
Savard skated for the Moncton Wildcats of the QMJHL last season, putting up 44 points in 68 games, and finishing strong down the stretch. He scored nine goals and emerged as a top defenseman for the Wildcats after only five points with the team the year before.
Like Lynch, Savard is another fast riser who jumped due to a high level of play at the end of the season, especially in the playoffs. While Moncton was bounced in the second round Savard still managed to put up five goals and five assists with a +9 rating.
Savard doesn’t have many flaws in his game as he is very well-rounded, but he doesn’t excel enough in any one area to make him a blue chip prospect. He already has the size to endure the NHL game but needs to add a more physical aspect to his game to be a standout. The offense he put up on the blue line last year was a huge plus, but it was his defensive game that warrants his fourth-round selection as he was a nominee for the QMJHL’s defensive defenseman of the year.
He will return to Moncton next season.
Thomas Larkin, D – 6’5 206 lbs – USHS, Phillips Exeter
Selected fifth round, 137th overall
Larkin was an under the radar pick. Maybe it was because he spent the year playing high school hockey or perhaps it was because of where he played hockey for much of his life. On June 27, Larkin became the first ever Italian-trained player to be drafted by an NHL club.
Larkin spent most of his life in Italy however has since moved to play his trade at a much higher level. He moved to the United States and played last season as a high school senior with Phillips Exeter. He posted 46 points in 31 games and is committed to Colgate University for the 2009-10 campaign.
Larkin, of course, is more of a project but with his towering size at 6’5 he is a high reward type player. His high school coach Dana Barbin used him in front of the net on the power play, but he needs to improve every facet of his game next season at Colgate.
Anton Blomqvist, D – 6’4 189 lbs – Swe-Jr, Malmö
Selected sixth round, 167th overall
At first glance, Blomqvist follows a trend that Howson has been heavy on since taking over the GM role – big towering defensemen. Unwilling to select a defenseman under 6’1 in his previous two drafts, Howson didn’t disappoint in the 2009 draft.
Blomqvist, at 6’4, is another project on the blue line with the chance of high reward. Although he has a long way to go, his hockey sense and his ability to take the body in his own zone remind many of Niklas Kronwall. Rumblings that the Detroit Red Wings were interested in Blomqvist bodes well as it seems any Swedish player Ken Holland and brass touch turns to gold.
Blomqvist managed to attain 16 points in 31 points for the Malmö under-20 team last season and will look to earn a starting role in the SEL next year as he furthers his development.
Kyle Neuber, RW – 6’2 220 lbs – OHL, Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors
Selected seventh round, 197th overall
Neuber will never play on the top two lines of an NHL club. Normally a 19-year-old who put up 12 points in his second year as draft eligible is likely to get passed over but Neuber is a different case.
Neuber is what he is – a physically bruising player and a “skilled” fighter. His unimpressive skating, offensive awareness and lack of skill do not exactly make him an attractive draft pick. However it is his enforcer type skill set that got him drafted.
He can return to Mississauga as an overager next season or could be offered a contract to play and play in the minors.