Over the past decade the Columbus Blue Jackets top 20 prospects would often feature a new face near the top following the annual Entry Draft; however, after dealing their first round selection in the 2011 draft to acquire Jeff Carter, their top 20 remains relatively unchanged. Their second and third round selections – Boone Jenner and T.J. Tynan – crack the top ten, while two second rounders from last year's draft – Dalton Smith and Petr Straka – fall quite a few spots after disappointing seasons.
1. (1) Ryan Johansen, C, 8.5C
Drafted 1st round, 4th overall, 2010
One of the top prospects in all of hockey, it is no surprise that the Blue Jackets are excited about Ryan Johansen's arrival. Since being drafted, the Port Moody native has accomplished everything expected of him as a top-five draft pick; he excelled in his first NHL training camp, barely missing the cut; he was one of team Canada's top players at the World Juniors; and of course, he led his team, the Portland Winterhawks, in scoring last season with 92 points in just 63 games.
Johansen's poise and vision are perhaps two of his most attractive attributes – his 52 assists also led Portland – but he is far from one dimensional; in fact, the 6'3 center is more than an adept goal scorer. He scored 25 in his rookie season, but improved drastically last year, scoring 40 goals to finish second on the team in goals behind fellow first round selection Nino Niederreiter (CLB). Undeniably, Johansen is an imposing offensive threat.
As much as the Blue Jackets may be excited about Johansen, the Jeff Carter acquisition may be a sign that the organization would like to err on the side of caution and not risk rushing Johansen to the NHL. That said, it does appear the nineteen-year-old has nothing left to prove in junior.
2. (4) David Savard, D, 7.5C
Drafted 4th round, 94th overall, 2009
Savard's rise to the number two prospect in the Blue Jackets organization is somewhat in conjunction with former first round pick John Moore's unspectacular season but it is mostly on his own merit. Savard, a fourth round pick in 2009, has been one of Columbus' fastest rising prospects, posting spectacular numbers in both the AHL and QMJHL for the past three seasons. He was one of the most dominant defenseman in his final junior season, registering 77 points in 64 games, and that success carried over to his first professional season in which he finished third in scoring on Springfield with 43 points. Even more notably, he finished 18 points ahead of the next highest scoring defenseman.
More than possessing dangerous offensive skills, Savard's defense has been constantly improving since being drafted. He finished last season at a minus-six while fellow rookies John Moore, Cody Goloubef, and Theo Ruth all reached double digits on the minus side. With a hard, accurate shot from the point and an impressive breakout pass coupled with an improving defensive game, David Savard has become the most complete defensive prospect in the Jackets organization. He'll likely see time – if not the majority of the season – in the NHL this year.
3. (3) Matt Calvert, LW, 7.0B
Drafted 5th round, 127th overall, 2008
At just 5'9, Matt Calvert is used to hearing that he is too small to play in the NHL. Yet, just last season, the former fifth round pick suited up in 42 NHL games, picking up 20 points – including 11 in the month of February where he was announced as the runner up to Rookie of the Month winner Michael Grabner. Though Calvert is undersized and could certainly benefit from added weight and muscle, he has shown to be an effective pro player thus far by utilizing his speed, quickness and a hard, accurate wrist shot.
One of Calvert's main strengths is that – apart from his stature – he has no real weaknesses. He is not a defensive stalwart by any means, but nor is he a liability in his own zone. Also, while he is undersized, he battles intensely for loose pucks and fights hard along the boards. There is no question that Calvert has the drive to compete in the NHL, and after a successful half-season last year, he could very well begin the 2011-12 campaign in Columbus.
4. (2) John Moore, D, 7.5C
Drafted 1st round, 21st overall, 2009
While he did show flashes of his potential last season, it was mostly a disappointing season for 2009 first round selection John Moore. After spending two seasons in the USHL and just one in the OHL, there was a noticeable learning curve for Moore, who recorded 24 points in 73 games and was a team worst minus-27 for the Springfield Falcons. While plus/minus isn't the be all and end all of judging one's defensive ability, with a number that high it is clear that Moore has some adjusting to do before he becomes an NHL regular.
Despite his struggles and inconsistency in the AHL, Moore remains a promising prospect with a great amount of offensive potential. His quick release and solid first pass ability complements his tremendous skating, although he does need to gain a better grasp on when to join the rush as he often finds himself caught behind the play. He will likely spend the majority of the season with Springfield, although the Blue Jackets are surely going to give him every chance of succeeding at the NHL level.
5. (5) Tomas Kubalik, RW, 7.5C
Drafted 5th round, 135th overall, 2008
Among the final cuts at last year's training camp, Tomas Kubalik was a pleasant surprise, and he was able to build off that momentum with Springfield, registering 53 points in 76 games a rookie. His game combines size and skill; he is often in the dirty areas using his 6'2 frame to win possession of the puck, and with his offensive instincts, it is no surprise that he was able to lead the Falcons in scoring, notching 24 goals. If his skating improves, he has the potential to be an effective top-six winger.
Heading into the 2011-12 season he has a chance at cracking the Blue Jackets roster, but if he doesn't it is quite likely he'll at least spend some time in the NHL next season either through an injury or a strong performance.
6. (7) Cam Atkinson, RW, 8.0D
Drafted 6th round, 157th overall, 2008
After impressing at Boston College the past three seasons, Atkinson has shown that he has NHL potential, but, of course, as an undersized winger he'll continually face adversity on his road to the show. He registered 105 points in the past two seasons, and even managed to notch three goals and two assists in five regular season games for Springfield near the end of last season, but it is his size that will be the determining factor in his road to the NHL, not his offensive instincts. Atkinson does make up for his diminutive stature with an intense compete level and a desire to fight for the puck against opponents of any size.
He'll be turning pro this season, and while it is likely that he begins the season in Springfield of the AHL, he could very well be a wildcard at the Blue Jackets training camp in September.
7. (6) Cody Goloubef, D, 7.5C
Drafted 2nd round, 37th overall, 2008
Cody Goloubef is an example of a defenseman who plays a sound and steady, yet rather effective game. He hardly ever gambles on an offensive rush and he is often ready and in position in the defensive zone. However, that is not to say the former Wisconsin Badger is simply a defensive defenseman; in 50 games last year – his first professional season – he scored five goals and added 12 assists.
He is a complete defenseman with no real gaping holes in his game. He goes about his business on the ice in a simple and effective manner rather than displaying any flash or taking unnecessary risks. His main strength is in his skating as he reaches top speed in just a few fluid strides. Assuming he can build upon his rather successful rookie season with Springfield, Goloubef should see an NHL arena by 2012.
8. (NR) Boone Jenner, C, 7.5C
Drafted 2nd round, 37th overall, 2011
Boone 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 face-offs 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. His offensive game has been progressing at a nice rate as well, eclipsing a point-per-game last season – 66 points in 63 games – with the Oshawa Generals of the OHL.
One of the most impressive things about Jenner's 2010-11 season was his consistency. He only went three consecutive games without registering a point once, and when he's not scoring, his work is noticed in the faceoff circle and defensive zone. He combines all the pieces needed to become a great character player in the NHL and has the offensive potential to be a top-two center.
9. (12) Will Weber, D, 7.0C
Drafted 2nd round, 53rd overall, 2007
Will Weber has had a decorated three years at Miami University (Ohio). He won the top defensive defenseman in the CCHA conference in the 2009-10 season, and had a successful 2010-11 campaign interrupted by a freak accident in which he had his neck sliced by an opposition player's skate which required 100 stitches and 15 staples to close. Fortunately, Weber returned to action just weeks later, helping to lead his team to a conference title.
His offensive game hasn't exactly been flourishing – he's scored just five goals in the past three seasons – but his defensive zone coverage, man-to-man play, and ability to clear the zone have all been consistently improving. He'll return to the Redhawks for his senior season in 2011-12. Given his progression, he'll almost assuredly earn a professional contract following next season. He projects as a top-four shut-down defenseman at best, but could also become an effective bottom pairing defenseman.
10. (NR) T.J. Tynan, C, 7.5D
Drafted 3rd round, 66th overall, 2011
The Blue Jackets continued to show their willingness to select undersized forwards in the 2011 Entry Draft, selecting 5'9 winger T.J Tynan in the third round. Tynan is a speedy diminutive player with excellent on-ice vision and a solid wrist shot. He has tremendous offensive upside, but like some of the Blue Jackets selections in recent years – Matt Calvert and Cam Atkinson – he'll have to overcome constantly being one of the smallest players on the ice.
In fact, because of his size, Tynan was passed over in the 2010 Entry Draft, despite scoring 72 points in 60 USHL games. Instead of being discouraged, it seemed to light a fire under Tynan as he took the NCAA by storm last season, registering 54 points in 44 games for the University of Notre Dame, tying for seventh in scoring across the nation. He'll return to Notre Dame for his sophomore season next year where he'll be expected to not only continue his offensive production but learn to better handle the physical demands of the game.
11. (14) Allen York, G, 7.0C
Drafted 6th round, 158th overall, 2007
A late round selection in 2007, York was considered a project pick at the time; at this point in his development, the selection seems to be paying off. He spent three years at R.P.I – two of which as the team's starting goalie – totaling a 37-34-8 record, but the most encouraging sign is that his numbers improved steadily each successive season. At 6'4, his size is one of his biggest assets, but he must improve his quickness to become a more promising prospect.
York finished last season with Springfield of the AHL, playing in four games and recording a 2.04 goals against average and a .926 save percentage while winning three of those games. Given the struggles of the Blue Jackets AHL netminders over the past few seasons, York could potentially provide a stable force between the pipes in Springfield.
12. (9) Dalton Smith, LW, 6.0B
Drafted 2nd round, 34th overall, 2010
Dalton Smith was unable to build off his successful 2009-10 season; in fact, the rugged winger experienced an offensive regression, scoring just 29 points in 64 games after registering 44 points the previous year. However, ice time was not exactly easy to come across for Smith, who often played on the second or third line on Ottawa while team-mates Tyler Toffoli and Shane Prince occupied the first line. The 67's will be without two of their top scorers next season as both Thomas Nesbitt and Cody Lindsay are ineligible to play junior so Smith will likely be given every opportunity to succeed offensively next season.
Despite his middling production, the Oshawa, Ontario product played the same in-your-face game for much of the 2010-11 season, recording 124 penalty minutes. Given his intensity and physical play, Smith has the tools to be an effective bottom-six forward in the NHL should he not reach his offensive potential.
13. (15) Kevin Lynch, C, 6.0B
Drafted 2nd round, 56th overall, 2009
Known for his defensive abilities more so than his offensive talents in his draft year, Lynch's offensive development has been encouraging. The University of Michigan forward scored just six goals in his freshman year but found the net more often in 2010-11, scoring 11 goals. In total, he still only managed to equal his point total of 16 from his freshman year, but the improved goal-scoring has been welcomed. The team's top three scorers from last season are all ineligible to return so Lynch will surely be given increased offensive opportunities.
Lynch has great positioning in his own zone to go along with his defensive instincts; he has the potential to be a bottom-six center in the NHL who can play on the penalty kill. He's likely still two years away from turning pro, however.
14. (8) Petr Straka, RW, 7.0D
Drafted 2nd round, 55th overall, 2010
Like Dalton Smith who was also drafted in the second round of last year's Entry Draft, Petr Straka had his share of offensive struggles last season. After registering over a point-per-game in his draft year, the Czech native struggled with inconsistency and injuries last season. He suffered an ankle injury in practice that caused him to play in just 41 games; in those 41 games, Straka scored just ten goals and managed 25 points in total.
If Straka can put last season behind him, he has the talent and opportunity to flourish in what will likely be his final season with Rimouski before potentially turning pro. He has above average speed and great hands to go with it, and works well in traffic. More than that, Rimouski will be losing two of their top four scorers from last season and Straka will be the likely beneficiary.
15. (NR) Michael Chaput, C, 6.5C
Acquired via Trade with Philadelphia
Michael Chaput was acquired in a deadline day deal from the Philadelphia Flyers with Tom Sestito going the other way. In Chaput, the Blue Jackets gain an intriguing prospect known for his defensive work, though his offense has been progressing nicely, particularly in last year's playoffs in which the former third round pick registered 20 points in just 13 games. More than that, he has been a consistent scorer the past two seasons, notching 114 points in 130 games.
Along with his swift defensive instincts, Chaput has been developing a bit of an edge to his game, registering 97 penalty minutes last season. He's also been used as a face-off specialist, taking important draws in the offensive and defensive ends. He doesn't have the offensive potential to be a first line player, but at best, he'll likely max out as a second or third liner who's quite proficient defensively.
16. (11) Maksim Mayorov, LW, 6.5C
Drafted 4th round, 94th overall, 2007
While Maksim Mayorov scored his first career NHL goal last season, it was not necessarily a successful year for the big-bodied Russian. In fact, showing no sign of growth and development, his 2010-11 campaign was eerily similar to his previous two seasons; he registered 33 points as opposed to 32 and 31 in his first two seasons, and he appeared in a handful of NHL games. Despite those chances at NHL ice-time, he has yet to earn more than a cup of coffee with the Blue Jackets.
Mayorov doesn't shy away from contact, but given his 6'2 frame he could be a much more effective forechecker. There were rumors that the twenty-two-year-old would leave for Russia prior to the start of this season but as of now it appears he'll remain in North America. If last season wasn't his final kick at the can in becoming a solidified NHLer, this season certainly will be. He'll need either a great training camp or an impressive start to the season in AHL to earn a shot in Columbus. If not, he'll likely be back in Russia by mid-season.
17. (NR) Mathieu Corbeil-Theriault, G, 7.0C
Drafted 4th round, 102nd overall, 2010
Corbeil-Theriault's struggles in Halifax were well documented. Playing for one of the bottom feeders of the QMJHL, his goals against average was just south of 4.00 in two straight seasons before a mid-season trade to the eventual Memorial Cup winners, Saint John Sea Dogs. His numbers in Saint John were remarkably improved; in 15 games he went 13-1-1 with a 2.17 goals against avearge and a .908 save percentage. The consensus seems to be that he is not as bad as his numbers in Halifax indicate, nor is he as good as his numbers in Saint John indicate; the nineteen-year-old still has a lot to learn.
At 6'6, he has the physical tools to become an effective starting goaltender at the NHL level, but for most of his junior career has struggled with quickness and rebound control. Nonetheless, he'll get an opportunity to earn the starter's job for Saint John next season, and playing for a winning team could do wonders for his confidence.
18. (13) Thomas Larkin, D, 6.5C
Drafted 5th round, 137th overall, 2009
Larkin didn't necessarily have a bad season in 2010-11, but he failed to improve upon his impressive sophomore campaign with Colgate University. In 41 games last year, the 6'5 defenseman scored five goals and added six assists for 11 points. He often looked a lot less confident than he appeared in his sophomore season and as a result his play suffered. More than that, he needs to be able to better recognize when to take risks offensively and learn to make the safe play; he seemed to get caught quite a bit firing the puck out through the middle in the defensive zone last season.
Regardless, he has both the physical tools and potential to make the NHL. As a fifth round pick, Larkin could pay big dividends for the Blue Jackets in a few years if he puts it all together.
19. (18) Austin Madaisky, D, 6.0C
Drafted 5th round, 124th overall, 2010
Madaisky had a fairly successful season for Kamloops last season. In 55 games, the Surrey, B.C product scored seven goals and added 20 assists to go along with 104 penalty minutes. He is a smooth-skating defenseman with some offensive upside as his numbers from the past few seasons suggest, and despite his minus-15 rating from last season, he has adequate defensive instincts and is an asset on the team's penalty kill.
He will return to Kamloops for the 2011-12 season where he'll be expected to lead the back-end offensively. His ceiling is likely a bottom-six defenseman, though he has time to develop and flourish his offensive and defensive game.
20. (NR) Seth Ambroz, LW, 6.0C
Drafted 5th round, 128th overall, 2011
A big physical forward, Ambroz has the potential to be an effective power forward at the NHL level; in fact, for much of the 2010-11 season he was pegged as a first or second round talent. He works well in front of and behind the opposition's net, and coupled with a quick release and good hand eye coordination, he has the tools to become an offensive threat. While his skating and speed could be improved, it is by no means sub par. He also needs to provide a more consistent effort away from the puck.
Ambroz failed to improve upon his impressive 2009-10 campaign which certainly hurt his draft stock, though he still did manage impressive numbers; in 56 games for the Omaha Lancers of the USHL, he scored 24 goals and added 22 assists for 46 points to go along with 89 penalty minutes. In three playoff games, Ambroz scored two goals. He'll be attending the University of Minnesota this upcoming season where he'll play with fellow Blue Jackets prospects Jake Hansen and Mike Reilly.