After finishing last in the Central Division the past three seasons, the Columbus Blue Jackets have plenty of top draft picks to begin rebuilding the hockey team.
The Blue Jackets are stacked with defensive talent, including Ryan Murray and the newly-acquired Tim Erixon, and have a knack for drafting undersized wingers who play with an edge like Cam Atkinson and Matt Calvert. Scott Howson has become very good at identifying which free agent prospects have the best upside, and under barely any publicity, he signed undrafted winger Jonathan Audy-Marchessault this summer. The Jackets also have been addressing their problem between the pipes and drafted two goalies with NHL potential in Oscar Dansk and Joonas Korpisalo. The Blue Jackets have entered rebuilding mode but there are plenty of promising prospects capable of improving the team's fortunes.
1. (NR) Ryan Murray, D, 8.0B
Drafted 1st round, 2nd overall, 2012
There was a reason that the New York Islanders were rumored to have offered the Blue Jackets every one of their picks in last summer’s draft, and that lone reason was Ryan Murray. The Saskatchewan product had a standout year as captain of the WHL's Everett Silvertips with nine goals and 31 points in 46 games during the regular season and then three goals and two assists in four playoff games. He also appeared in 12 games of international play, six with Canada’s U-20 team and six with Canada’s World Championship team. That experience made him the second youngest player to ever play for Team Canada in the IIHF World Championship and he joined Jonathan Toews and Jordan Eberle as the only players to play for the Canadian national team before playing in the NHL.
The 6’1", 198-pound defenseman relies on his strong legs to play a quick, physical defensive game. He has great puck moving ability and a quick slap shot that has earned him comparisons to Boston Bruins’ great Ray Bourque. Murray has already been praised for his hockey IQ, which helps him succeed in all situations. Come training camp this season, the 18-year-old will have just as good a chance as anyone to make an immediate impact on Columbus’ blue line.
2. (2) David Savard, D, 7.5C
Drafted 4th round, 94th overall, 2009
David Savard made his NHL debut against the Nashville Predators during the 2011-12 season, going on to compete in a total 31 contests with the Jackets. At 6’2" and 219 pounds, Savard displayed a physical game with 30 hits in the NHL last season. He also showed some flairs of offensive ability with 10 points in his short time in Columbus. The Quebec native was immediately given a significant role on the team and averaged over 16 minutes per game. He showed his offensive ability in the AHL, scoring four goals and 18 assists in 41 games with the Springfield Falcons.
Savard impressed scouts with his shot during his time in Moncton and stood out for the same reason at this year’s developmental camp. His quick shots are usually low to the ice, making them primed for deflections. He has decent size and his skating lets him create momentum when joining the rush. He may not be the most defensive-minded defenseman, but the 21-year-old proved he can be solid in his own zone in his rookie season. Savard took advantage of his limited time in the NHL last year and will be looking to take advantage of another opportunity in this year’s training camp.
3. (NR) Tim Erixon, D, 7.5C
Drafted 1st round, 23rd overall, 2009
Tim Erixon was packaged with Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov and a first round pick in the deal that sent former first overall pick Rick Nash to the New York Rangers. Erixon is a smart offensive defenseman who is able to manage the puck in the offensive zone. He had limited playing time in three separate stints with the Rangers last season, finishing with two assists in a total of 18 NHL games. He spent most of his season in the AHL because of the depth along the Rangers’ blue line. The Swedish product took advantage of the increased ice time at the AHL level and responded with 33 points and a plus-five rating in 52 games with the Connecticut Whale.
Erixon is known for his offensive ability and his role on the power play. He can work the point with an accurate wrist shot but would much rather get the opposing defense out of position with quick passes. The 6’2 defender can stretch the ice with his superb passing ability. Erixon got a taste of the professional game last year and will contend for a spot on Columbus’ depth chart from the start of camp.
4. (NR) Oscar Dansk, G, 7.5C
Drafted 2nd round, 31st overall, 2012
Many scouts argued that Dansk was a first round talent, which made it no surprise that the Blue Jackets’ snatched him up with the 31st pick. The 18-year-old goalie has an impressive pedigree, including experience in North America from his time at Shattuck-St. Mary's and now playing under Brynas' goaltending coach Per-Erik Alcen since returning to Sweden. He has great technique whether playing stand-up or dropping to the butterfly. He plays more like a veteran because his hockey IQ is off the charts and he seems to know how to handle whatever situation is in front of him. He carried Sweden's U-18 World Junior Championship team to a silver medal with a 4-1 record, .937 save percentage, and 1.98 goals against average.
The biggest knock on Dansk is his quiet demeanor, but fellow Swedish goaltender Henrik Lundqvist is also known to be a quiet player. As long as the 6’3" goalie can continue to develop his lateral movement and consistency, Dansk will have a bright future waiting ahead of him in Columbus.
5. (9) T.J. Tynan, C, 7.0B
Drafted 3rd round, 67th overall, 2011
Tynan's production dipped to 13 goals, 41 points in 39 games during 2011-12 following a fantastic campaign of 23 goals, 54 points in 44 games as a freshman with the Fighting Irish. The fact that he was still able to set up 28 goals and have a "down" year only shows the offensive potential that the Illinois product possesses. He joined the U.S. National U-20 team in the World Junior Championship, where he stood out because of his play in front of the net. The 20-year-old created a scoring chance for every scrappy play he made, finishing the tournament with three assists in six games.
The biggest thing for Tynan to work on at Notre Dame is his agility. At 5’8", he is not going to be able to power his way through the slot but will have to rely on his speed and elusiveness to shift from the boards to the slot in order to create plays. Playing in the NCAA will give him a chance to refine his positioning and goal scoring abilities, but Tynan still needs time to develop before transitioning to the more physical professional game.
6. (6) Matt Calvert, LW, 7.0C
Drafted 5th round, 127th overall, 2008
Calvert started the season with the Blue Jackets, but was sent down to the AHL twice in the season's first two months. After setting up three goals in 13 NHL games, he spent the remainder of his season in Springfield. He found his laser shot with the Falcons, scoring 17 goals and 19 assists in 56 games last season. The main question that comes up when Calvert’s name enters any discussions is his size. At 5’10", he is not the biggest player on the ice, but the wing does not require the same physicality that playing center does. The biggest thing the Manitoba product needs to improve is his speed and positioning, because they can make up for what he lacks in size.
Calvert has appeared in 55 NHL games over the past two seasons but has not been able to stick in Columbus for an extended period. In order for the undersized winger to make a difference on the ice, he needs to position himself around the net and prove he can play effectively beneath the goal line.
7. (3) Cam Atkinson, RW, 7.0C
Drafted 6th round, 157th overall, 2008
Atkinson started the year off as a disappointment in Columbus with a -6 rating in his first five NHL games and therefore spent his first few months of the season in Springfield. Over the course of 51 AHL games, the Greenwich, Connecticut product scored 29 goals and set up 15 more for the Falcons. After being recalled to the NHL in February, Atkinson added another 14 points in his final 22 games of the year with the Jackets. The 23-year-old scored five goals and an assist in his final two NHL games. Following his NHL season, he was named to the U.S. World Championship team and played on a line with Detroit’s Justin Abdelkader and Anaheim’s Kyle Palmieri, finishing the tournament with three points in eight games.
After an impressive finish to the year, the American winger should have reserved himself a spot on Columbus’ opening day roster. The 5’7" forward had a great professional debut and should only improve his goal scoring ability in the coming seasons. With the need for an elite goal scorer to step up on the Blue Jackets’ roster, Atkinson will have a chance to play a significant role offensively in Columbus.
8. (5) Boone Jenner, C, 7.0C
Drafted 2nd round, 37th overall, 2011
Jenner is the kind of player who uses his positioning to make himself a better player. The 6'1" center is not the most dominating player on the ice, but he finds a way to camp out in front of the net. He has soft hands that are great in one-on-one plays and for cleaning up the garbage in gritty areas. His leadership finally paid off last season when he was named captain of the Oshawa Generals and he responded with 49 points in 43 games. His most impressive performance came in the playoffs when Jenner had seven assists and 11 points in six playoff games. The Ontario native was named to Canada’s U-20 World Junior Championship team and scored a goal in five games of international play.
Jenner has turned heads with his leadership and dedication to improving his game, showing up to developmental camp noticeably faster and stronger than he had been a year earlier. A versatile forward, he can play either wing or center. With an accurate slap shot heading his arsenal, Jenner is also reliable defensively and aggressive on the back check.
9. (7) Cody Goloubef, D, 7.0C
Drafted 2nd round, 37th overall, 2008
Goloubef has never been a flashy player but has made a career excelling at the intangibles and the details in his game. Last season was his second in the AHL and he tallied one goal and 12 points. The Ontario native's -14 rating was the third worst mark on the team, but Springfield struggled as a team to keep the puck out of the net.
The 22-year-old has the skills to be a defenseman who can provide both defensive reliability and still join the rush and contribute offensively. However, he struggled with increased ice time in his second season and tended to get caught out of position. The risks he takes in joining the rush have not led to many points and he would be better served passing the puck more than carrying it himself. On a Columbus team with plenty of young blue line depth, he has to distinguish himself by playing with more consistency at both ends of the ice.
10. (15) Mike Reilly, D, 7.0C
Drafted 4th round, 98th overall, 2011
Reilly dominated the BCHL last year with 24 goals and 83 points in 51 games. The 59 assists show that he can already move the puck well, a skill that should only develop more under Don Lucia at the University of Minnesota. Reilly delivers good breakout passes and can set up his linemates with scoring chances. He played on the U.S. National team at the U-19 World Junior A Challenge with one assist in five games.
At 19 years of age, Reilly has all the tools to be a productive defenseman at the college level. His strong shot and great vision in the offensive end should lead to power play minutes. He will also have an opportunity develop the defensive aspects of the game and add strength as he heads into his freshman season with the Gophers.
11. (NR) Jonathan Audy-Marchessault, LW, 7.0 C
Signed as a free agent July 1st, 2012
Audy-Marchessault made the Connecticut Whale at the age of 20 last season, finishing the year ranked third among AHL rookies in scoring and tied for first on the Whale with 64 points. Despite standing at 5’9", Audy-Marchessault was able to withstand the rigors of his first pro season fairly well and utilize the gritty side to his game. He has steadily improved as a hockey player each season, even going back to his junior hockey with the Quebec Remparts where he increased his point totals every season. He is a playmaker and brought that passing ability to Connecticut with 40 assists in his rookie season.
His signing added another undersized, skilled forward to the Columbus system. Audy-Marchessault played with a chip on his shoulder and earned his ice time by the book last season. He began last season playing on Connecticut’s fourth line and periodically received more and more offensive responsibility, including time on the power play. The right-shooting left winger has responded to every challenge that he has faced leaving the only thing remaining for him to prove is whether he can produce in the NHL.
12. (NR) Allen York, G, 7.0C
Drafted 6th round, 158th overall, 2007
York was a great story last season, seeing time with all three of Columbus' professional affiliates. Early in the season he fluctuated between the NHL and AHL, starting his first game against the Chicago Blackhawks (a 5-2 loss). After an assignment to the ECHL's Chicago Express in February where he posted a 3.28 goals against average, the 6'3" York was again moved to the NHL. He played more of a back-up role when he was on the Jackets until he saw a significant increase in playing time when Steve Mason was injured by a puck in practice. In York’s final four starts of his rookie season, the Alberta product posted a .941 save percentage and a 3-1 record in Columbus.
York improved throughout the course of last year, playing great under pressure and defeating three playoff teams (Detroit, Florida, and St. Louis) down the stretch last season. He plays the angles well and has worked on his lateral quickness, but that speed between the pipes is still an area in need of improvement.
13. (16) Lukas Sedlak, C, 7.0C
Drafted 6th round, 158th overall, 2011
As a 19-year-old, Sedlak has a lot of work to put in. After spending his youth excelling on Czech teams, Sedlak’s first year in the QMJHL served as a wake-up call. He had solid debut during the regular season with 45 points in 50 games, but he nearly disappeared during the playoffs. He only had eight points in 18 postseason games and that trend carried over to his international tournament appearances. In 16 international games at the U-19 and U-20 levels, he was a relative non-factor with only one point and a minus-three rating.
He is a great back-checker and helps shut down the opposition's offensive rush. At 6’0", Sedlak plays a gritty, North American-style game and is well-suited for a checking role. The former assistant captain of the Czech U-18 team plays great in the faceoff dot, but he needs to work on using his soft hands to finish with more consistency.
14. (14) Austin Madaisky, D, 7.0C
Drafted 5th round, 124th overall, 2010
Madaisky was once again an assistant captain for the Kamloops Blazers and posted his best stats yet. He had 37 assists (17 more than 2010-11) and finished with 50 points in 70 games. The British Columbia native had a breakout season playing on the Blazers' top defensive pairing and his total of 13 goals was the first time in his junior career that he reached double digits in goals. Last season was not only an offensive explosion for the 20-year-old, it was also the first time in three junior seasons that he posted a positive rating at +20.
The 6'2" Madaisky can get involved in the physical game, but he also relies on his positioning to get in the way of faster forwards. He is never going to be great at joining the rush, but last year showed that he was capable of producing in the offensive zone when given the opportunity. He will be a rookie pro this season in Springfield.
15. (19) Seth Ambroz, LW, 7.0D
Drafted 5th round, 128th overall, 2011
Ambroz fell rapidly during his draft and struggled to live up to immense expectations during his freshman season at the University of Minnesota. Questions about his conditioning have continued to plague the winger since the draft and he did not help with a string of undisciplined penalties in his first college season. He only posted eight points in 41 games while registering 53 penalty minutes in a checking role.
The 6'2", 209-pound winger has the size to be a power forward, but does not play well enough along the boards or have the hands in front of the net to assume that role yet. He is too big to not be dominating the crease in college hockey and needs to work harder without the puck. Minnesota is a good place to earn a hockey education as Ambroz works on putting his tools together.
16. (10) Will Weber, D, 6.5B
Drafted 2nd round, 53rd overall, 2007
Senior defenseman Will Weber was named captain of the Miami University RedHawks for the 2011-12 season. The 6’4" defender responded with a solid year in the defensive end, but he only tallied four assists in 40 games, the lowest total since his freshman season. That drop in production matters less for a defensive-defenseman like Weber, who uses his size to keep opposing players on the boards and is very hard to get past in one-on-one battles. As long as Weber does not get caught out of position by pinching in the offensive zone, he should very rarely be a problem in his own end.
As he transitions to the pro game, Weber will need to keep up his physicality during one-on-one battles in the defensive zone and along the boards. He should get plenty of opportunity in a defensive role with the Falcons and have a chance to show he can be a shut down defender at the professional level.
17. (11) Michael Chaput, C, 6.5B
Drafted 3rd round, 89th overall, 2010
Michael Chaput had his best season of junior hockey after being picked by the Shawinigan Cataractes in the dispersal draft following the folding of the Lewiston MAINEiacs franchise. He scored 21 goals and had a career-high 42 assists in 57 games. The 6’2" center excelled in the playoffs for the second straight year with 12 points in 11 postseason games for Shawinigan. He saved his best performance for the team's Memorial Cup victory, where he scored five goals and seven assists for 12 points in six Memorial Cup games for the host team. The Montreal native has the balanced game that coaches looks for in a center because he can set up goals and finish himself. Chaput has also been recognized for his play at the center position. He was the Cataractes’ go-to-guy in the faceoff circle because of his low center of gravity at the dot.
The 20-year-old will make his pro debut in 2012-13 with the Springfield Falcons. The AHL plays a much more physical game than the QMJHL and Chaput will need to use his speed to contribute on both sides of the ice. As a center it will be vital that he protect his own end of the ice and that is an aspect of his game that should translate well in Springfield.
18. (8) Tomas Kubalik, RW, 6.5C
Drafted 5th round, 135th overall, 2008
For the second straight year, Kubalik was called up as an emergency to fill in for an injured player. In 2011-12, it was Mark Letestu's broken hand that led to the Czech forward's call-up to Columbus. The 22-year-old played fourth line minutes, scoring a goal and an assist in eight appearances. At 6’2" and 212 pounds, the physical game came easy to Kubalik in the NHL as he dished out six hits during his limited opportunities with Columbus.
Kubalik again spent the majority of his year in the AHL but took a step back on the score sheet with 11 goals and 23 points in 50 games. There was considerable competition among the team's forward prospects last year and it will be even tighter as he heads into his third pro season. The addition of forwards Brandon Dubinsky and Nick Foligno added depth and checking ability to the Blue Jackets' forward lineup and decreased the number of openings with the big club. Kubalik could get another opportunity in the Jackets' bottom six forwards, but he is likely going to be one of the many forwards in Springfield vying for a call-up.
19. (18) Thomas Larkin, D, 6.5C
Drafted 5th round, 137th overall, 2009
Colgate University's captain had a notable junior season. In his first year with the "C" on his chest, Larkin had a career-high +13 rating. He scored four goals and 14 points in 37 games, a solid total for a defense-first rearguard. At 6'5" and 206 pounds, getting in the way of charging wingers is not a problem for Larkin as he plays a valuable shutdown role for Colgate.
He is not the fastest player on the ice and has the tendency to make poor decisions with the puck at times, but his strong shot is always on the opposition's mind. He is usually the biggest guy on the ice but could stand to increase his physicality. If Larkin is to have success in a shutdown role at the professional level, he needs to improve his one-on-one play and consistency in the physical game.
20. (13) Dalton Smith, LW, 5.5B
Drafted 2nd round, 34th overall, 2010
Smith had 25 points last season, his lowest total since competing in 17 games his first junior season. He has the reputation of a tough guy in the OHL and last season's total of 67 penalty minutes was actually a cutback from over 100 each of the two previous seasons. At 6'2", he is not the most intimidating of players, but he will drop the gloves to protect a teammate and spend plenty of time in the penalty box. He has improved his speed over his junior career and made a positive impression with his skating at this summer's developmental camp.
He fits the organization’s recent commitment to gritty forwards and is best suited for a bottom-six checking role. Smith was not the most talented guy on Ottawa 67's roster, but he found a way to get his name on the lineup card. If the Ontario product can be as physically intimidating in the AHL as he was in the OHL, the 20-year-old may be able to carve out a consistent checking role in Springfield as a rookie.