The Columbus Blue Jackets had seven picks in 2005 and, for the most part, had a successful draft. Their first four picks have all become legitimate NHL’ers while their last three have either seen their window close or have found jobs in other leagues.
Despite drafting a crop of players who have amassed 664 NHL games in just under five years, there is no doubt that the organization could have done better. Their first two picks, Gilbert Brule and Adam McQuaid, are no longer with the organization while Brule himself hasn’t yet been able to live up to the hype that had surrounded him pre-draft. The Jackets next two picks, on the other hand, have turned out to be of great value to the organization as both Kris Russell and Jared Boll remain important players for the team going forward.
Gilbert Brule, C – 1st round, 6th overall – Vancouver Giants (WHL)
NHL Games Played: 222
Status: NHL Player
International Scouting Services had ranked Brule ranked as high as No. 2 on their preliminary rankings in September of 2005, but despite a strong season that year with the Vancouver Giants, Brule would drop to sixth overall at the draft.
Brule made the Blue Jackets the following season, but suffered two injuries, one of them a broken leg that would ultimately force the team to send him back to junior. He recorded four points in seven games at the NHL level that year and dominated the WHL upon returning, scoring at near a goal-per-game pace with 23 in 27 games. He led the Giants to the Memorial Cup tournament, earning multiple scoring accolades on the side, but would ultimately fall short of the title.
The 2006-07 campagin was his first full NHL season. Brule managed to notch 19 points in 78 games, but followed that up the next season with just nine points in 61 games. In the 2008 offseason, he was traded to the Edmonton Oilers. He had an average season in 2008-09 but seems to have found his stride in the NHL, scoring 17 goals and adding 20 assists last season for the Oilers while getting top-six minutes.
Like Brule, McQuaid seems to have finally found a spot in the NHL. Just a year after being drafted in the second round, McQuaid was dealt to the Boston Bruins in exchange for a fifth-round pick. He spent two full seasons with the Providence Bruins where he was able to hone his game as a physical defensive defenseman, before finally cracking the Bruins roster near the end of the season due to injuries.
He played in 19 games this season for Boston and was able to score his first career NHL goal. He appeared in nine postseason games.
Kris Russell, D – 3rd round, 67th overall – Medicine Hat Tigers (WHL)
NHL Games Played: 203
Status: NHL Player
As with McQuaid and Brule, Russell had his best season this past year, scoring a career-high seven goals. He was also named to Team Canada for the World Championships.
The Blue Jackets drafted Russell with hopes that his offensive style and statistics from junior would transfer over to the NHL despite his size. He registered 61 points in 72 games in his draft year and two seasons later he led the Medicine Hat Tigers in scoring with 69 points in 59 games. He made the transition from junior straight to the NHL but it wasn’t exactly smooth – in his second season, he was sent to the AHL. Russell seems to have matured as a defenseman, however, and appears to be a fixture on the Blue Jackets defense in the foreseeable future.
Drafted as a fighting middleweight with some offensive flair, Boll has certainly worked out for the Columbus Blue Jackets, skating in 218 games for the franchise in the last three seasons.
Boll played out his draft year in the USHL where he not only scored near a point per game, but also led the team with 294 penalty minutes. He would play the next two seasons for the Plymouth Whalers of the OHL, continuing to evolve his offensive game while maintaining the physical aspect of his game. In his final junior season, Boll tallied 55 points in 66 games while totalling 198 penalty minutes. Like Russell, he’d also make the jump to the NHL straight from junior, but he has stayed.
To date, Boll has been great in an agitating role for the Blue Jackets, amassing over 500 penalty minutes in his three-year career.
Tomas Popperle, G – 5th round, 131st overall – Sparta Praha (Czech)
NHL Games Played: 2
Popperle was drafted as a 21-year-old who had posted spectacular numbers for Sparta Praha in the 2004-05 season. In 25 games, he had given up just 35 goals, registering a 1.58 GAA and a .949 save percentage. After a season in the DEL, Popperle would venture to North America where he spent a season and a half with the Syracuse Crunch, going a combined 32-27-4. He even managed to get into two games with the Blue Jackets in the 2006-07 season, but returned to the Czech Republic the following season after Dan LaCosta seemed to show promise as a reliable AHL goaltender.
Derek Reinhart, G – 6th round, 177th overall – Regina Pats (WHL)
NHL Games Played: 0
Reinhart’s junior career was one of regression rather than progression. As a late-round pick, Reinhart was labelled as more of a project pick, however, it didn’t work out. He posted just 24 points in his junior career of 196 games and was never offered a professional contract from the Blue Jackets. Reinhart recently graduated from NAIT in Edmonton where he played for their hockey team as well.
Kirill Starkov, LW – 6th round, 189th overall – Frolunda Jrs (Swe)
NHL Games Played: 0
Starkov was drafted out of the Swedish junior program, though he would spend a year playing junior hockey in Canada. He made the move to North America for the 2006-07 season, playing in 72 games for the Red Deer Rebels of the WHL. Starkov managed to score 34 goals in those games, while finishing the season with 71 points. He’d earn a contract from the Blue Jackets, but spent the next year alternating between three leagues: the ECHL, CHL, and the AHL. He started the 2008-09 season with the Syracuse Crunch, but like many fringe Europeans, decided he could earn more money back home. Starkov played limited minutes in 2009-10 for Timra IK of the Swedish Elite League, adding four points in 55 games.