Eager to make a return to the playoffs and to perhaps extend the length of his stay as general manager, Scott Howson made a splash just prior to the NHL Entry Draft, acquiring Jeff Carter from the Philadelphia Flyers. The deal left the club without a first round pick for the first time in franchise history, but with an already impressive group of prospects and the need to win in the immediate future, the club was able to give up the assets required to pry Carter away from the Flyers.
In total, the Jackets were left with six selections. They continued to show a commitment to selecting players following the college route by selecting three college-bound prospects, including two planning on attending the University of Minnesota – Mike Reilly and Seth Ambroz. Aside from that, they continued to show a devotion to hard-nosed gritty forwards, making Boone Jenner their first pick early in the second round.
The Columbus Blue Jackets may not have had a first round selection in this year’s draft, but that is not to say they didn’t end up with first-round talent. The organization was extremely thrilled to land the rugged Boone Jenner – ranked as the 18th best North American skater prior to the draft – with their second round pick.
Jenner provides many of the intangibles that scouts look for in a young prospect: he’s above average at faceoffs, blocks shots, works extremely hard along the boards, and while he isn’t a known fighter, he drops the gloves when the occasion calls for it. His ability on faceoffs is one of his best assets, it is often the case that Jenner is lined up at the defensive zone circle as games come to an end.
More than providing intangibles and character, Jenner’s offensive game has been noticeably developing over the past two seasons in Oshawa. He finished his rookie season in 2009-10 with 49 points, finishing as the runner-up for the OHL rookie of the year. He was not bothered by increased expectations this past season, notching over a point-per-game pace with 66 in 63. He finished the season third in team scoring and second in playoff scoring, despite playing on the second line for the majority of the year. He does not have any glaring weaknesses but his foot speed will have to improve if he is to become a top-six player at the NHL level. However, at worst he could be a prototypical bottom-six forward.
T.J. Tynan, RW – Notre Dame (CCHA)
3rd Round, 66th Overall
Height: 5’9 Weight: 170 lbs
T.J Tynan was a notable omission from the draft board in 2010, but the diminutive winger did not let that discourage him as he began preparing for his freshman season at Notre Dame. His offensive statistics were impressive for the Des Moines Buccaneers of the USHL in 2009-10, leading the team with 72 points, but at just 5’8 prior to the 2010 draft teams were hesitant to select him. Needless to say, many of the doubts about his size have faded after he led Notre Dame in scoring in 2010-11 with 54 points in 44 games. His impressive freshman season was enough for the Blue Jackets to make him an early third round selection.
As evidenced by his assist totals over the past two years – 31 and 55 – Tynan displays great playmaking skills. In fact, his offensive skill in general is not a concern whatsoever. Rather, at just 5’9, the biggest question regarding Tynan is whether or not he can withstand the physical demands of playing professional hockey. Of course, he’ll need to bulk up over the next few seasons and also improve his defensive zone play, but Tynan could potentially be a player that pays big dividends.
Mike Reilly, D – Shattuck St. Mary’s (MN HS)
4th Round, 98th Overall
Height: 5’10 Weight: 150 lbs
Mike Reilly was a late jumper in the 2011 Entry Draft, moving from the 65th best North American skater during the midterm rankings to the 52nd position by the final rankings. Like the Jackets third round selection T.J. Tynan, Reilly is severely undersized. At just 5’10 with a slender frame barely topping 150 lbs, the transition to the collegiate level will be pivotal in determining his future. There is no doubt that Reilly possesses high-end offensive talent – he led his team in production from the back-end with 43 points last season – however his strength and defensive zone coverage will be tested next season where he is to attend the University of Minnesota and compete against a generally larger and more physical group of players.
Ranked as a top-30 skater within North America for most of the past season, it was somewhat of a surprise to see Seth Ambroz fall all the way to Columbus with the 128th overall selection. Though his stock has fallen since he broke into the USHL as a fifteen year old – the youngest in the league at the time – he still has the tools and potential to become a power forward at the NHL level. He has the size and ability to be effective in front of the net and has a release quick enough to catch many goaltenders by surprise. This past season, despite noticing a slight decrease in points, he still led his team with 46 points – 24 goals and 22 assists. He’ll attend the University of Minnesota next season with a chip on his shoulder, hoping to prove himself a potential steal for the Blue Jackets.
Lukas Sedlak, C – HC Ceske Budejovice U20 (CZE U20)
6th Round, 158th Overall
Height: 6’0 Weight: 198 lbs
In the eyes of Central Scouting, Sedlak’s stock dropped quite a bit during the second half of the season. At the mid-way point, the big-bodied Czech was ranked 43rd amongst European skaters but fell to 57th by the end of the season. Despite falling a considerable amount leading up to the draft, the Blue Jackets liked Sedlak enough to select him with their sixth round selection. Through 47 games in the Czech Republic under-20 league, Sedlak scored 14 goals and added 13 assists for a total of 27 points. He’s not particularly known for his offense; rather, he plays a sound all-around game with a strong commitment to defense. He’s also been said to have great leadership skills, proven by his being selected to captain the Czech Republic under-18 junior team. He was recently selected by Chicoutimi of the QMJHL in the CHL Import Draft, but it has not been confirmed if he’ll come to North America immediately.
Anton Forsberg, G – MODO J20 (SWE)
7th Round, 188th Overall
Height: 6’2 Weight: 175 lbs
Unranked by Central Scouting, Anton Forsberg was and still is a relatively unknown goalie prospect. The fact that the Blue Jackets took a flyer on him in the seventh round however, is not all that surprising given that their new goaltending coach Ian Clark spent time as a consultant for MODO (Forsberg’s club) last season. In 33 games last year, Forsberg registered a 2.90 goals against average and a .907 save percentage. He is expected to split time with Mikael Tellqvist on the big club next season. Certainly a long-term project, Forsberg is at least a few years away from coming to North America. That is assuming he does at all.