Blue Jackets system flush with NCAA prospects

By Chris Roberts
Photo: Kevin Lynch (11) was drafted by the Blue Jackets in the second round of 2009 for his defensive prowess.  (Photo courtesy of Steven King/Icon SMI)

The Blue Jackets don't exactly have any blue-chip prospects currently playing NCAA hockey, but they've got a number of players who could potentially contribute to an NHL lineup in the near future. Undersized-center T.J. Tynan has quite a bit of offensive potential, while wingers Seth Ambroz and Jake Hansen have looked promising this season. On the back-end, Miami's Will Weber has been one of the top defensive defensemen in the CCHA. The club's lone prospect playing overseas, Anton Forsberg has been progressing better than expected, and at this point, looks to have NHL potential.

NCAA

Seth Ambroz, LW, Minnesota Golden Gophers (WCHA)
Drafted 5th round, 128th overall, 2011

Ambroz didn't exactly have an outstanding season for a freshman, nor was it disappointing. Basically, he did what was expected; on a fairly-talented University of Minnesota team, he finished with eight points in 40 games. That said, he is the youngest player on the team, and received third and fourth line minutes for much of the season. The Gophers are among those remaining in the Frozen Four, so Ambroz will gain some much-needed experience, and if all goes well, he will likely earn top-six minutes next season.

T.J. Tynan, C, Notre Dame Fighting Irish (CCHA)
Drafted 3rd round, 66th overall, 2011

It says a lot about how impressive T.J Tynan's rookie season was when his 41 points in 39 games this season represented a decrease in offensive production. In 44 games last year, the 5'8 pivot totaled 54 points, including 23 goals. It is not as though he had a bad season this year – he was a standout for the United States World Juniors – but his 13 goals is a sharp decline. He has great speed, and like many smaller players these days, plays with an edge to make up for his size. Offensively, he has done what he can at the collegiate level, but it may be in both his and the organization's best interest if he plays at least another year with Notre Dame, adding both size and defensive ability to his game.

Kevin Lynch, C, Michigan Wolverines (CCHA)
Drafted 2nd round, 56th overall, 2009

When he was drafted, Kevin Lynch's defensive abilities were lauded more so than his offensive skills. In three years at the University of Michigan, he has proved to be more than adequate in his own end, but after an impressive offensive output in his freshman season in which he posted 16 points, he has failed to improve much offensively. By most accounts, he'll finish his four years at the University of Michigan, and he'll need quite an offensive outburst next season to warrant his second-round selection back in 2009. At this point, he has not lived up to expectations.

Sean Collins, C, Cornell Big Red (ECAC)
Drafted 7th round, 187th overall, 2008

Sean Collins is an interesting case: he scored just 31 points combined in his first full three season, but in this, his fourth and final collegiate season, he has 26 points in 35 games. With Cornell recently defeated by Ferris State in the second round of the NCAA tournament, Collins NCAA career is over. It remains to be seen whether he will sign an entry-level deal.

Jake Hansen, RW, Minnesota Golden Gophers (WCHA)
Drafted 3rd round, 68th overall, 2007

Much like Sean Collins, Hansen is having a career year in his fourth and final NCAA season. A teammate of Seth Ambroz at the University of Minnesota, the 6'2, 182lb winger has been playing at a near-point-per-game pace this season, recording 37 points in 42 games. His 22 assists are more than his previous three seasons combined. Given the fact he was a third round selection, and his production has steadily risen each season, Hansen should earn a pro contract once his season finishes.

Trent Vogelhuber, RW, Miami (Ohio) RedHawks (CCHA)
Drafted 7th round, 211th overall, 2007

With just four goals and 14 points in 39 games this season for Miami University (Ohio), and in his final season, Trent Vogelhuber is very unlikely to earn a professional contract from the Blue Jackets. He's a decent forechecker, but doesn't bring much else to the ice, and his lack of offense, especially in his senior season, is a red flag for any NHL team.

Will Weber, D, Miami (Ohio) Red Hawks (CCHA)
Drafted 2nd round, 53rd overall, 2007

Weber was drafted primarily for his defensive abilities, and currently in his fourth year at Miami, he has shown just that. Lacking much offense in his game, the 23-year-old has been one of the top defensive defensemen in the NCAA; he's even been recognized as such within the CCHA conference, and he's been a top-four pairing for the Badgers the past few seasons. In 40 games this year he has just four assists, though he should still get an entry-level deal from Columbus.

Thomas Larkin, D, Colgate Raiders (ECAC)
Drafted 5th round, 137th overall, 2009

The 6'5 Larkin, originally from Italy, is an interesting prospect. He has the size and mobility to become a dynamic defenseman, but he needs to work on putting together the rest of his game. His shot could be improved, as could his outlet passes, but the 21-year old does like to get involved in the offense; in 37 games for Colgate University, Larkin registered 14 points, three more than last season, but still short of his impressive freshman campaign. As a senior next year, he'll be expected to post career numbers while continuing to build on his defensive consistency.

Drew Olson, D, Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs (WCHA)
Drafted 4th round, 118th overall, 2008

Drew Olson showed a hint of offense this season. In 39 games, the junior posted a career-high eight points in 41 games for the University of Minnesota-Duluth. That said, the 6'0, 200lb defenseman wasn't drafted for his offensive ability. He has respectable skating skills and plays a physical game, which makes him tough to beat one-on-one. After three years at the collegiate level, he still seems to be a long-shot NHL prospect. He'll need to have a breakout year next year.

Martin Ouellette, G, Maine Black Bears (Hockey East)
Drafted 7th round, 184th overall, 2010

A lanky goaltender from Quebec, Martin Ouellette very much remains a long-term project for the Columbus Blue Jackets. After a less-than-impressive freshman season where he backed up for the University of Maine, he has posted sub-par numbers this year. His save percentage went up a couple points to .871, but his goals against average dropped from 3.18 to 3.42. He has only appeared in 18 games in the past two seasons, so he has yet to really get a chance to show what he can do, but with the Black Bears starting net minder – Dan Sullivan – also a sophomore, Ouellette will have to steal the spot away from him with solid and consistent play.

Europe

Anton Forsberg, G, Modo (SEL/SuperElit)
Drafted 7th round, 188th overall, 2011

A tall, mobile goaltender, Anton Forsberg has been quickly rising up the Blue Jackets prospect charts after being selected in the 7th round of last year's Entry Draft. He was phenomenal for the MODO J20 squad this past season, posting a .923 save percentage, and he backed up the gold-medal winning Swedes at the World Juniors, appearing in two games. He didn't look out of place playing for MODO's men's team either, posting a 3.05 goals against average and a .900 save percentage. Forsberg likely has a few more years in Sweden ahead of him, but with Columbus' goaltender situation more clouded than ever, he is a legitimate option for the future.