Columbus Blue Jackets have deep prospect pools in NCAA and Europe

By Richard Greco

T.J. Tynan - Notre Dame University

Photo: Notre Dame forward T.J. Tynan, one of the Blue Jackets’ highest NCAA draft picks, experienced a bit of a down year on the score sheet in his junior season (courtesy of Scott A. Schneider/Getty Images)

A majority of  their early draft picks come from the CHL, but the Columbus Blue Jackets fill out the rest of the system with low risk role players from the NCAA and goaltenders from Europe. Forward prospects like fifth round pick Seth Ambroz and third round pick T.J. Tynan fit into this criteria. Goaltenders Joonas Korpisalo and Anton Forsberg highlight the Blue Jackets’ prospects playing in Europe.

NCAA

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

Martin Ouellette was a stone wall between the pipes for the University of Maine, which entered last season amidst a rebuilding year. Ouellette played a key role in the Black Bears sneaking into the playoffs when he made a save with three seconds remaining to secure the eighth seed in Hockey East with a 4-4 tie with a dangerous Northeastern squad.

The 21-year-old netminder stepped between the pipes as the team’s top goalie for the first time this year and did not disappoint. The junior played in 30 games, his previous high was nine, and posted a 2.42 goals against average and .917 save percentage. Led by a strong second half, Ouellette held opponents to less than three goals 15 times this season. Ouellette will return to Maine for his senior season, where he hopes to help the program return to its prestigious past.

Seth Ambroz, RW, Minnesota Golden Gophers (CCHA)
Drafted in the 5th round, 128th overall, 2011

Seth Ambroz has not lived up to the expectations that surrounded him leading up to the draft. After dominating high school hockey, the 6’3 winger has not been able to achieve a consistent level of success for the Gophers. After posting merely eight points, the 20-year-old doubled his point totals playing on the University of Minnesota’s checking line.

Playing on the checking line has begun to force Ambroz to start using his 209-pound frame along the boards, which will help his development into the role of a power forward. The Minnesota native still has ample work to be done and over the next two seasons needs to improve his positioning in front of the net if he wants to prove all the general manager’s that passed him up in the 2011 draft wrong.

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

T.J. Tynan saw his point totals drop this season. After posting 41 points in his sophomore season at Notre Dame, the 21-year-old could not play at a point-per-game pace this year and finished with 28 points. Tynan’s point totals mark the lowest in his collegiate career as well as the first time he was not named an All-American.

Tynan was named the CCHA’s Player of the Month in December after posting seven points in four games, but his work with the puck was not as evident towards the end of the year. Although the 5’9 forward’s season was overshadowed by the success of junior center Anders Lee (NYI), Tynan’s crisp passing was an important part of Notre Dame claiming the final CCHA championship.

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

Kevin Lynch has provided consistent depth through his four year career at the University of Michigan.  Shocking point totals were never what anyone expected out of the 205-pound center, but in his senior season, Lynch posted a career-high 27 points, doubling last year’s 13 points.

Lynch is not out there to score goals. He is a puck mover, who works hard on the boards. The 22-year-old’s presence was felt this season as he ranked second on the Wolverines with 46 penalty minutes. After only missing two games throughout his four years at the University of Michigan, it has been Lynch’s durability and desire to play every night that separated him from other prospects on a talented Michigan squad.

Mike Reilly, D, Minnesota Golden Gophers (CCHA)
Drafted in the 4th round, 98th overall, 2011

Mike Reilly had the honor of playing on the US World Junior Championship team that brought home the gold medal this past season. During his seven tournament games, Reilly posted three points with a plus-four rating.

Reilly returned to Minnesota following the WJC and finished a solid freshman campaign. Through 37 games, Reilly proved he could be an impactful puck moving defenseman and tallied three goals, 11 assists. At 6’1 and 170 pounds, the Minnesotan still needs to grow into his body and develop his game in his own zone a little better. Over his college career at Minnesota, Reilly should improve his decision making when it comes to joining the rush and staying at home, which is a key facet for any offensive defenseman.

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

Thomas Larkin was not the captain of the Raiders for his senior season after wearing the 'C' in a junior year that earned him a spot on the All-ECAC Third Team. The 22-year-old did not let his lack of leadership effect his play as he totaled 14 points for the second consecutive season. At 6’5 and 220 pounds, Larkin takes up a lot of space on the ice and that is exactly what he did for Colgate this season. Unfortunately for the dual-sport athlete – he also plays lacrosse – his plus/minus rating dropped from a plus-13 to a minus-seven.

Larkin’s size is the only reason he stands out on the ice. He has trouble skating and handling the puck, but when he throws the body, his presence is felt. Larkin competed in seven games with the Springfield Falcons after his college season ended where he posted a goal and two penalty minutes.

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

As a senior, Drew Olson had the most experience out of any defenders on the Bulldogs. The 6'0 defender finished his collegiate career with 147 games under his belt. Last season was not a surprising one for the stay-at-home defender. He finished with seven points (six assists), which was one less point than last season's collegiate career high. Olson cut his penalty minutes nearly in half from last year's 51 to just 28 this season. This helps his team, but as a defender it will be important for the 23-year-old to play the same aggressive game that he did as a junior for Minnesota-Duluth.

After his senior year was over, Olson skated in four games with the Peoria Rivermen of the AHL, which last season was the affiliate of the St. Louis Blues. He tallied an assist in his short professional stint.

Europe

Joonas Korpisalo, G, Jokerit (SM-liiga)
Drafted in the 3rd round, 62nd overall, 2012

Korpisalo elected to continue playing in Finnish leagues after being drafted by the Blue Jackets in last year’s draft. He would only play a game in the SM-liiga where he held his opponent scoreless through 15 minutes. The bulk of Korpisalo’s play was split between the Jr. A SM-liiga and Mestis leagues.

He posted a 2.67 goals against average through 13 games with Jokerit U20 and tallied a 2.71 goals against average when he was loaned to Kiekko-Vantaa in Finland's second-tier pro league for 18 games. The 19-year-old started for Finland in the World Junior Championships. He earned wins over Latvia and Germany, but the hybrid goalie gave up four goals against Switzerland, six goals against Sweden, and four goals against Slovakia.

Selected fifth overall by the Prince George Cougars in the 2012 CHL Import Draft, Columbus wants to bring Korpisalo to the CHL for next season, but no decisions have been made yet.

Anton Forsberg, G, MODO (Elitserien)
Drafted in the 7th round, 188th overall, 2011

Anton Forsberg had his best season to date last year. Modo loaned the 20-year-old to Södertälje of the Allsvenskan and Forsberg responded. Through 33 games, Forsberg had a 2.04 goals against average and finished second among the league's starters behind Lars Johansson of Västerås (.937) with a .933 save percentage.

Forsberg’s stellar season only continued in the playoffs where he posted a 3.00 goals against average in eight appearances. His success did not go unnoticed, earning the Swedish product a three year, entry-level deal with the Blue Jackets.

Daniel Zaar, RW, Rögle (Elitserien)
Drafted in the 6th round, 152nd overall, 2012

Daniel Zaar played for five different teams last season. He played at his most productive with Rögle J20 of SuperElit, where he scored at better than a point-per-game rate with 19 points (11 goals and eight assists) in 17 games. The 5’11 winger was not as productive in the Elitserien or Allsvenskan. Through 25 games, he posted just three points and a minus-four rating. Zaar appeared in 15 games when he was loaned to BIK Karlskoga of the Allsvenskan, where he put his playmaking ability on display and posted seven assists. He also skated for Sweden in five games with the U20 team and four games at the 2013 U19 5-Nations Tournament, where the team took home the championship. Zaar finished with six points in nine international matches.

Maksim Mayrov, LW, Atlant Mytishchi (KHL)
Drafted in the 4th round, 94th overall, 2007

After playing in a career high 10 NHL games with the Blue Jackets last season, Maksim Mayrov returned to Russia to play in the KHL. The 6’2 forward scored 16 goals and dished out six assists during the regular season and added an assist through five post season games.

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