Another year has passed, and the Columbus Blue Jackets organization is
older, a year wiser, and a year stronger. A deep 2003 NHL Entry Draft
certainly kind to the future of the Blue Jackets, as the likes of
Zherdev and Danny Fritsche were added to the fold. A new hockey season
expectations, new projections and new rankings.
New rankings for Columbus Blue Jacket prospects means taking a deeper
each player, not only at what they’ve accomplished statistically in the
calendar year, but what they are capable of now, the near future, and
2002-03 Club: HC CSKA (RSL)
If there’s anything left to discuss about Nikolai Zherdev, it is his
situation. The crafty sniper apparently has clearance from every institution in hockey
to come across the ocean to play in North America, that is, except his
team, HC CSKA. It has been made evident that General Manager and Head
Doug MacLean has strong desires of bringing Zherdev across the ocean,
appears that Zherdev himself echos the sentiment.
What would Zherdev bring to the line-up in Columbus? The fourth overall
in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft would immediately be another offensive
whichever line he was placed on. Despite being a teenager, the
tools in the arsenal of Nikolai are impressive. His stickhandling
speed and vision make him a threat whenever the puck is in the
2002-03 Club: Syracuse Crunch (AHL)
Just as the name Nikolai Zherdev may very well strike fear in opposing
goaltenders, Jacket goaltending prospect Pascal Leclaire has the
do the same to opposing snipers. Leclaire, the Jackets eighth
selection overall in the 2001 Entry Draft, has the potential to be the
Blue Jackets starting goalie somewhere down the road. In fact, it was
that current Blue Jackets goaltender Marc Denis was merely
position warm’ until Leclaire was ready. While this may not exactly be
anymore with the emergence of Denis as a strong force between the posts
Columbus, it doesn’t diminish Leclaire’s ability or potential.
Although the 2002-03 season wasn’t particularly kind to Pascal
posted an unhealthy goals against average of 3.56, coupled with an
unimpressive .890 save percentage, there is reason to keep an eye on
goaltender. As the 2002-03 season closed out for the Syracuse Crunch,
tampered a touch with his goaltending equipment, opting to use longer
Will his late season success be transferred to the 2003-04 season?
2002-03 Club: Sarnia Sting (OHL)
Heading into the
2003 NHL Entry Draft, Danny Fritsche was projected as a sure-fire first
round selection. Being ranked 10th among North American
what was described as a weak year for European talent, should’ve almost
certainly guaranteed Fritsche being selected among the first thirty
names. He fell to the Columbus Blue Jackets at 46th overall.
two shoulder injuries with the Sarnia Sting in 2001-02, the physical
Fritsche’s game did not diminish in 2002-03. Fritsche, who prides
playing in the mould of modern power-forwards, immediately becomes the
forward prospect in the organization, behind Zherdev, and the club’s
at a future No. 1 middle-man.
2002-03 Club: Quebec Remparts (QMJHL)
No. 4 prospect
position among the Jackets Top Twenty is the top defenseman
in the organization, Aaron Johnson.
Johnson, who signed his first professional contract in
the offseason, will begin his 2003-04 season with the Syracuse Crunch.
choosing not to sign fellow defensive prospect Cole Jarrett,
Manager and Head Coach Doug MacLean made sure he was able to preserve a
the Syracuse Crunch for this offensive defenseman.
who finished up his junior hockey career with the
Quebec Remparts after being dealt from the Rimouski Oceanic, was twice
the Canadian Junior Selection Camp, only to fall shy of joining the
2003 clubs. He will push his hockey career further, as he is currently
attending the Columbus Blue Jackets rookie camp.
2002-03 Club: MoDo (SEL)
Joakim Lindstrom, the Columbus Blue Jackets second
round selection in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft becomes the highest ranked
Swedish-born player to make the Columbus Top Twenty list.
Despite having an
absolute trying season with MoDo of the Swedish Elite League, Lindstrom
still possesses the potential that made him the 41st
the 2002 Entry Draft. His season was cut short due to a shoulder
Despite this injury, Lindstrom was able to put up similar numbers to
2001-02 season, playing in nearly a dozen less games in 2002-03.
is a very
versatile forward whose ability to adapt from wing to center is a
asset. His offensive skills often go unrecognized in the lower scoring
Elite League. Joakim has strong playmaking skills, and will not shy
traffic. It is characteristics such as these that have the Columbus
Jackets organization high on their Swedish selection.
2002-03 Club: Syracuse Crunch (AHL)
Quite possibly the
most NHL-ready prospect, the eighth to last selection in the 2000
Entry Draft checks in as Columbus’ No. 6 prospect. Often called the most talented player on the
Crunch, Andrej Nedorost is merely a heartbeat away from cracking the
Blue Jackets roster, and expectations are that he will manage to do so
season. After seeing action in 12 games with Columbus last season,
should be expecting a strong camp from Nedorost, especially with
on the second, third, and fourth lines in
Arguably the most NHL-ready prospect in the
along with Nikolai Zherdev, Nedorost’s strengths are in his offense.
not putting up overwhelming offensive numbers in Syracuse of the AHL,
hands of Andrej would be best utilized in a scoring fashion on the Blue
roster. Whether or not he’ll be given the opportunity to play on a
line, or even on the big club at all remains to be seen as training
closer and closer.
2002-03 Club: HC CSKA (RSL)
The second of three Russian-born Blue Jacket
prospects cracks the Columbus Top
Twenty list with Nizhni-Novgorod native Dimitri Kosmachev.
Columbus Blue Jackets third selection, 71st overall
2003 NHL Entry Draft, brings a strong defensive presence to the future
in Columbus. In fact, Kosmachev immediately becomes the Blue Jackets
defensive defenseman prospect. The 18-year-old already possesses
and a mental game to match. Kosmachev plays the game like a veteran,
teenager, and that may have been the biggest attraction for Head Coach
General Manager Doug MacLean.
Do not expect
Kosmachev to make the trip across the ocean to participate in the Blue
selection camp. The best place for Kosmachev is where he is, and that
the guidance of Viktor Tikhonov, head coach of HC CSKA. A few seasons
continued development under Tikhonov should prove exceptional for the
defenseman, who could develop into a very impressive thir d or fourth
defenseman for the Columbus Blue Jackets.
2002-03 Club: Syracuse Crunch (AHL)
Crunch member checks in on the Columbus Top Twenty, as former Minnesota
– Mankato forward Tim Jackman is the Blue Jackets No. 8 prospect. After being selected in the second round of the 2001
Draft, Tim Jackman spent an abbreviated time playing college hockey, and signed a professional contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets before
season. Jackman began his professional career with the Syracuse
Jackman, who for the first time played more than 37 games in
a season when he played 77 with Syracuse, possesses an impressive
frame, which compliments his skating and puck ability. Despite being a
years away from taking a regular shift with the Columbus Blue Jackets,
a feeling that Tim Jackman could be ready to push for one of the
spots on the club’s roster.
2002-03 Club: Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)
only prospect in the Columbus Blue Jackets organization
who hails from Norway owns the distinction of cracking the Columbus
Twenty, breaking through as the No. 9 prospect for the club.
If anyone had a
trying season in 2002-03, it had to have been Brandon Wheat King
Ole-Kristian Tollefsen. After coming across the ocean from Lillehammer
in the Western Hockey League, Tollefsen managed to play in a meagre 43
with the Wheat Kings. Despite suffering several injuries, which include
lacerated forearm, whiplash, a concussion, a separated shoulder, a
and more, Tollefsen still managed to put up twenty points while skating
regular shift, as well as seeing time on both the powerplay and penalty
lies in his size and patience from the back end. As a 19-year-old, he
to increase in size, despite already standing at 6’2”. Tollefsen uses
effectively, known as a very gritty stay at home blueliner who
offensive tools, such as an excellent outlet pass out of his own end.
Dimitri Kosmachev, Tollefsen has the potential to develop into an
defenseman on the Jackets blueline.
2002-03 Club: Yaroslavl (RSL)
The final Russian in
the Columbus Top Twenty owns the claim as a ‘top ten’ prospect in the Blue Jackets organization. He also happens to be the oldest player to make
Some may have been
surprised when the Columbus Blue Jackets used their fourth round
the 2002 NHL Entry Draft to select a 5’10” Russian forward that was
on his 23rd birthday at the time of the draft. General
Head Coach Doug MacLean, however, saw Ivan Tkachenko as much more than
undersized, overaged Russian.
what he had on his hands with the selection of Ivan Tkachenko. His
skating combined with a high level of agility makes Tkachenko a
whenever he’s on the ice. Although undersized and lacking the strength
NHL regular, Tkachenko’s speed is rivalled only by his smooth set of
only question remains if and when Tkachenko will come across to play
2002-03 Club: Jokerit Jr (FIN Jr)
Finnish player checks in as the organization’s No. 11 prospect. Arsi Piispanen has
the potential to play on the top two lines for Columbus. This, however,
expected of him for quite some time. Drafted in the 5th
overall, Piispanen stands at an imposing 6’3”, and a less than
pounds. Despite this, though, Piispanen doesn’t shy away from opponents
In fact, Piispanen’s combination of soft hands and aggressive nature
to seemingly go right through defenders.
2002-03 Club: Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)
second of two
Brandon Wheat King players, Tim Konsorada managed to establish himself
member of the Columbus Top Twenty. Konsorada, who
began the season as a relative unknown in the Blue Jackets
onto the scene with an incredible first month for the Wheat Kings, and
look back. In fact, Konsorada had such a strong season in Brandon, he
to the Canadian Junior Team Summer Evaluation Camp, certainly a special
distinction, the only Columbus Blue Jackets prospect to do so.
versatility also shone through this season, as he excelled in every
was placed, from penalty killing, to quarterbacking the Wheat King
from the blueline.
collegiate athlete bursts through on the list, as Greg Mauldin is
ranked as the
Blue Jackets 13th best prospect.
2002-03 Club: UMass-Amherst (HEA)
Greg Mauldin, a 6th
round selection in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, is on his way to becoming
the premier centermen in college hockey. His skating and puckhandling
make him a threat whenever he hops over the boards and onto the ice.
UMass in scoring for the second consecutive season, the runner up for
East’s All-Star team will only garner more and more consideration as an
prospect as he continues to round out his game.
member of the QMJHL to make the list is Phillipe Dupuis, who manages to
as the No. 14 prospect.
2002-03 Club: Hull Olympiques (QMJHL)
The Central Scouting
Bureau, who placed Philippe 56th among North American skaters, was
the 104th pick in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. In fact, it appears that
fourth rounder, could be another steal for General Manager and Head
MacLean and his scouting staff. Dupuis, a big body, plays with a feisty
complimented by his strong skating ability. 2003-04 should be an
season, especially if Philippe can regain his form from two seasons
he almost single-handedly lead Hull through the first two rounds of the
playoffs, before being eliminated.
only Swiss prospect in the Columbus Blue Jackets
organization, Raffaele Sannitz, checks in on the Columbus Top Twenty.
2002-03 Club: Lugano (LNSw)
The 2002-03 season
was not kind to the shoulders of Columbus Blue Jacket prospects, and
prospect Raffaele Sannitz is no exception. Suffering a separated
before the 2003 World Junior Championships kept Sannitz watching from
bleachers, something that didn’t sit well with the 7th round
selection in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft. Almost completely healed now,
can focus on centering Lugano’s first line in preseason action. The
LNSw season could belong to Lugano and Raffaele Sannitz, as long as he
to stay healthy.
A Junior from
Harvard, center Tyler Kolarik manages to get his name listed on the
2002-03 Club: Harvard (ECAC)
Tyler Kolarik, an
undersized 5th round selection from the 2000 NHL Entry
Draft, is a
goal-scorer stuck with the ability of a grinder. By this, Kolarik has
potential to someday reach the NHL in a checking role, but has also
ability to put the puck in the net with his sporadic scoring touch.
injuries shook the likes of Ole-Kristian Tollefsen, Raffaele Sannitz
others, Kolarik’s season was all but a healthy one, missing over ten
Harvard. Described as being an extremely hard worker with a great shot
clutch performer, Kolarik’s size may be the factor holding him back.
The first and only
Czech to make the Columbus Top Twenty list is Jaroslav Balastik, who
as the Columbus Blue Jacket organization’s No. 18.
2002-03 Club: Zlin ZPS HC (Czech)
who was selected as a 22-year-old in the 6th round of the
Entry Draft. Balastik, a native of Uherske Hradiste, was brought into
organization with hopes that he would join the Columbus Blue Jackets
Although he remains across the ocean, there is still hope from the
that Columbus Blue Jacket fans will see Jaroslav in the familiar navy
the near future.
Another Finnish player sees his
name go on the Columbus Top Twenty
list, as Janne Jokila breaks through as the No. 18 prospect in the
Columbus Blue Jackets organization.
2002-03 Club: River City Lancers(USHL)
Janne Jokila, who just recently signed a contract with the Syracuse
Crunch, has quick feet, matched only by how fast he can move his hands
when stickhandling down the ice. In fact, he’s impressed many with his
lethal combination. His size, however, leaves something to be desired.
Standing at 5’9″, Jokila will never be mistaken for Tim Jackman on the
ice. Whether or not size is going to be an issue for Jokila as he makes
his professional debut this season with the Syracuse Crunch in 2003-04.
The Columbus Blue
Jackets No. 19 prospect was the only to spend last season in a Junior A
as Kevin Jarman gets ready to move from Stouffville of the OPJRA to
2002-03 Club: Stouffville (OPJRA)
Kevin Jarman, who
has signed a letter of intent to play alongside Greg Mauldin at U-Mass
was made the 103rd overall selection in the 2003 NHL Entry
Ranked 99th among North American prospects by the Central
Bureau, Jarman possesses strong offensive skills, highlighted by his 43
in 46 games, and complimenting 36 other goals for a total of 79 points.
these skills translate onto the college scene, remains to be seen.
Rounding out the
Columbus Blue Jackets Top Twenty List is another collegiate, with
Jekabs Redlihs ranked No. 20.
2002-03 Club: Boston University (ECAC)
Columbus 4th round selection in the
2002 NHL Entry Draft saw the
selection of Jekabs Redlihs, who after playing one season in the EJHL
Apple Core, made a very successful jump to college hockey with Boston
University. In fact, the defenseman’s first season was so successful,
was named to Hockey East’s 2002-03 All Rookie Team. Jekabs, who is a
contributor at both ends of the ice, is a solid skater and very able at
the puck. All these attributes, if developed further, could lead him to
becoming a strong powerplay quarterback, something that the Columbus
Jackets could use in the future.
Recap of Ranking
1. Nikolai Zherdev
2. Pascal Leclaire
3. Danny Fritsche
4. Aaron Johnson
5. Joakim Lindstrom
6. Andrej Nedorost
7. Dimitri Kosmachev
8. Tim Jackman
9. Ole-Kristian Tollefsen
10. Ivan Tkachenko
11. Arsi Piispanen
12. Tim Konsorada
13. Greg Maudlin
14. Philippe Dupuis
15. Raffaele Sannitz
16. Tyler Kolarik
17. Jaroslav Balastik
18. Janne Jokila
19. Kevin Jarman
20. Jekabs Redlihs
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