New additions add balance to Columbus Blue Jackets Top 20 ranking

By Richard Greco

Kerby Rychel - Columbus Blue Jackets

Photo: Kerby Rychel is one of three forwards the Columbus Blue Jackets selected in the first round of the 2013 NHL Draft. Rychel was selected 19th overall. (courtesy of Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Despite recently graduating a large number of players to the NHL, the Columbus Blue Jackets continue to have a well-stocked system. Led by a trio of talented goaltenders and a slew of high-end defensive prospects, Columbus' future in its own zone looks bright. The Blue Jackets have tons of promise offensively too, with forwards Marko Dano, Alexander Wennberg, and Kerby Rychel among the newest members of the prospect pool.

1. (1) Ryan Murray, D, 8.0B
Drafted 1st round, 2nd overall, 2012

Despite missing all but 23 games last year because of shoulder surgery, defenseman Ryan Murray still finished his shortened season in Everett with 17 points. The 19-year-old has an extremely high ceiling and has all the tools to become a top four defenseman in the NHL who can play in all situations. He has proven he can shoot, pass with precision, and join the rush all while maintaining good form in his own zone.

With fellow defensive prospect Dalton Prout forced to undergo abdominal surgery, Murray will have an increased chance to make the NHL roster out of training camp.

2. (4) Boone Jenner, C, 7.5C
Drafted 2nd round, 37th overall, 2011

Jenner had a breakout season in 2012-13, scoring a career high 45 goals and 82 points in 56 games as the captain of the Oshawa Generals. Following the Generals' elimination from the playoffs, Jenner got his first taste of professional hockey. He competed in five regular season games with the Falcons and managed three goals and one assist. He also added five points through eight Calder Cup playoff games with Springfield.

Aside from his giant uptick in goal-scoring, Jenner's biggest improvement over the past season is how he uses size to protect the puck. At 205 pounds he has continued to play physically and had over 50 penalty minutes for the fourth consecutive season.

3. (NR) Alexander Wennberg, C, 7.5C
Drafted 1st round, 14th overall, 2013

Wennberg was the best available player when Columbus selected him 14th overall in this year's draft. Due to his consistent progression, it should not take the Swedish center long to make an impact on Columbus' roster. He is a great passer who does not typically force plays, which makes him a prime candidate to play alongside a sniper or power forward.

Although his playmaking ability is his strongest aspect, Wennberg's smooth skating allows him to play a sound two-way game. The intelligent forward had a plus-10 rating through 46 games with Djurgarden last season. Following his 32 point season with Djurgarden, Wennberg signed a one-year contract with Frolunda of the SHL.

Wennberg also appeared in the 2013 WJC where he finished with three points through six games. Wennberg, along with fellow Blue Jackets' prospects Oscar Dansk and Daniel Zaar, attended Sweden's evaluation camp for this year's WJC.

Despite his lack of physicality, Wennberg is a smart player who prides himself on making the right moves on the ice. He is not a flashy player and has good positioning both on and off the puck. His playmaking ability really shines however when he is paired with aggressive forwards.

4. (3) Tim Erixon, D, 7.5C
Acquired via trade with New York Rangers, July 20th, 2012

Tim Erixon began the 2012-13 season in Springfield and floated between the AHL and NHL for most of last year. Through 40 games with the Falcons he played a great two-way game and tallied 29 points (24 assists). He was called up to Columbus on January 30th and finished the season there, managing five points and a plus-four rating through 31 games.

Erixon has often been criticized for not throwing his 6'2, 205-pound frame around, but he showed an ornery side last season and increased his penalty minutes to 52 between the AHL and NHL. Although there is still ample room to improve on his transition game, Erixon will be penciled in as a bottom four defenseman for Columbus next season.

5. (5) Oscar Dansk, G, 7.5C
Drafted 2nd round, 31st overall, 2012

Dansk played on a defensively challenged Erie Otters team last season, but still managed to flash some leather between the pipes. He finished in the OHL's top 15 for saves with 1296 and saw an average of just under 34 shots per game. Although he was only able to tally 11 wins, night in and night out Dansk was one of the few sure things on Erie's roster.

One of the question marks surrounding Dansk entering last season was his maturity and if he would be able to stay out of his own head. The 19-year-old grew up last season and played with composure on a team that has struggled mightily over the past two seasons.

Although Dansk made Sweden's WJC roster, he did not start in any tournament games last year. He appears a likely candidate for Sweden's starting job in the 2014 WJCs.

6. (NR) Kerby Rychel, LW, 7.5D
Drafted 1st round, 19th overall, 2013

The son of enforcer Warren Rychel, 18-year-old Kerby Rychel is no stranger to dropping the gloves himself. He fought eight times in 2012-13 and racked up 94 penalty minutes with the Spitfires last year.

Rychel also possesses a fair amount of skill, and though Windsor fell to the bottom of the OHL's West Division, the gritty forward was able to increase his point totals to 87 points, including a career high 47 assists.

When he has the puck, Rychel relies on his strength to power his way to the front of the net. Away from the puck, he has improved his two-way game and has a knack for catching skaters with their heads down.

7. (NR) Marko Dano, C, 7.5D
Drafted 1st Round, 27th overall, 2013

A strong and skilled forward, Dano plays an aggressive game on the forecheck that should only improve when he returns to Bratislava of the KHL for his second season. He skated in 37 games with Bratislava as a rookie and, after taking some time to find his game among grown men in Russia, tallied seven points and 26 penalty minutes in 37 games.

His speed and explosiveness on the rush make Dano a lot of fun to watch. The intrigue does not stop when he is not in control of the puck because playing in the KHL has forced Dano to step up and throw the body. His agility and quick release give him an extremely high ceiling that could one day allow him to develop into a top-six forward.

8. (9) Dalton Prout, D, 7.0B
Drafted 6th round, 154th overall, 2010

To Prout's benefit he saw playing time alongside a very talented defender in Jack Johnson last season. He never looked back after being called up to Columbus on March 1st and finished his 28 game NHL season with seven points and 25 penalty minutes. An offensively gifted Johnson was an ideal candidate to be paired with a strong stay-at-home defender like Prout. At 6'3, 220 pounds Prout takes up a lot of space on the ice and does a good job cleaning up the crease. He increased his physicality in Springfield where he registered 73 penalty minutes in 40 games.

His offensive ceiling is not high and he has not scored over 10 goals since he played amateur hockey in 2005, but that is not why he is on the ice. He finished second among rookie defenders with a plus-15 rating in Columbus last year. He nearly had his spot on the Blue Jackets' blue line secured before he underwent abdominal surgery on August 15th that will likely leave him sidelined for six weeks, including the start of training camp.

9. (8) Cody Goloubef D, 7.0C
Drafted 2nd round, 37th overall, 2008

With only a handful of injury call-ups to the NHL, Goloubef still has not had a clear chance to play in the NHL. He seems to be the odd man out in Columbus' strong defensive corps and only skated in 11 games with the Blue Jackets, despite being called up from Springfield on four different occasions.

He spent a bulk of last year with the Falcons, where he continued to excel offensively, managing five goals and eight assists through 38 games. He also has continued to improve in his own zone, and finished with a plus-nine rating, the first plus-rating of his three-year professional career.

10. (7) Jonathan Audy-Marchessault, RW, 7.0C
Signed as a free agent, July 1st, 2012

After starting the season on a tear for Springfield, Jonathan Audy-Marchessault was named the AHL's Player of the Month in January and to his second consecutive AHL All-Star game. Following the All-Star game, the playmaker was called up to the NHL on January 30th. He would not stick around and after just two games, he returned to Springfield on February 5th and finished the season in the AHL.

He continued seeing success in the AHL and had over 60 points for the second season in a row. Audy-Marchassault is a great passer, who is able to create scoring opportunities from nearly anywhere in the offensive zone. At 5'9, size is not on his side, but after getting a taste of NHL hockey, he will get another chance at breaking into Columbus' roster in training camp this season.

11. (11) Joonas Korpisalo, G, 7.0C
Drafted 3rd round, 62nd overall, 2012

Joonas Korpisalo spent the majority of last season playing in Finland after passing up an opportunity to play for the WHL's Prince George Cougars. He played for Jokerit U20 before he was loaned to Kiekko-Vantaa and had success at both levels of competition. He also played in one game with Jokerit of the SM-liiga, which is where he will return to compete with Kevin Lankinen and Eero Kilpelainen for the starting job. If Korpisalo can earn a spot between the pipes, this season will be another stepping stone in the his career.

12.  (6) David Savard, D, 7.0C
Drafted 4th round, 94th overall, 2009

Much like many of Columbus' defensive prospects, Savard did not stick around the NHL for much of the 2012-13. He skated in four games with the Blue Jackets, but spent most of the year in the AHL with Springfield. The offensive-minded defender improved his game with the Falcons with 31 points, 26 assists, in 60 regular season games. He added five more points through eight Calder Cup playoff games. His offense was not the only thing that continued to improve as Savard increase his plus/minus to a professional high of 12.  

That all being said, the 2012-13 season was something of a setback for Savard. The 22-year-old seemed to have established himself as an up and coming defender when he recorded 10 points in 31 games for the Blue Jackets in the 2011-12 season, but he was squeezed out of the lineup last year. Although he has improved his positioning, it is going to be hard for Savard to match up with some of the bigger defenders like Prout and Goloubef that Columbus is looking to fill the depth chart with for the upcoming season.

13. (NR) Dillon Heatherington, D, 7.0C
Drafted 2nd round, 50th overall, 2013

Heatherington was an intricate part of a Swift Current Broncos squad that allowed the fewest goals in the WHL last season. While playing alongside Devils' 2011 draft pick Reece Scarlett, the 6'3 defenseman posted a plus-25 rating and racked up 80 penalty minutes in 71 regular season games. Although his play in his own zone and his ability to throw the body make him an ideal defensive-defenseman, Heatherington increased his point totals to 27 points, which was 17 more than he had a year prior. His puck handling has room to improve, but he has done a good job making first passes out of the defensive zone. The 18-year-old was invited to Canada's WJC evaluation camp, which could significantly help his overall development as a defenseman.

14. (NR) Oliver Bjorkstrand, RW, 7.0C
Drafted 3rd round, 89th overall, 2013

Bjorkstrand had the luxury of being on an excellent Portland Winterhawks' program that, for the past three seasons, has been among the top teams in junior hockey. The Danish forward finished with 63 points (31 goals and 32 assists) through 65 regular season games, 19 points in 21 WHL playoff games, and another three points in five Memorial Cup tournament games.

Known primarily as a playmaking winger, Bjorkstrand also has a dangerous rising shot that can give goaltenders a lot trouble. For a 5'11 forward, he plays a tough game and has no problem battling in the crease for rebounds. His biggest area of improvement is his skating. Although he has the ability to beat defenders, it takes him a little too long to get his stride into full gear. He will return to Portland next season and continue to develop in a great system.

15. (10) Austin Madaisky, D, 7.0C
Drafted 5th round, 124th overall, 2010

After the lockout poured any eligible defenders Columbus had into Springfield, Madaisky was forced to the Evansville Icemen of the ECHL. Things went from bad to worse in Evansville as he suffered the wrist injury that left him sidelined for nearly all of last year. He ended up skating in 11 games with the Icemen and tallied six points.

Despite a less than ideal professional debut, Madaisky still has a huge upside. He is a great passer who has a significant offensive touch and is not afraid to throw the body. During the 2011-12 season, he dished out 37 assists and tallied 87 penalty minutes in his final season with the Kamloops Blazers. He has good size, solid positioning and is not afraid to take a penalty. The wrist injury should not set Madaisky back much since he has had about eight months to rehab following the surgery.

16. (12) Mike Reilly, D, 7.0C
Drafted 4th round, 98th overall, 2011

Reilly's freshman campaign at the University of Minnesota was an exciting one. He led all Golden Gophers' freshman with 14 points in 37 games. The Minnesota native is quick to join the rush which made him an ideal choice for the USA's WJC squad. In the WJC, Reilly tallied three points and finished with a plus-four rating as the US took home the Gold medal. Although Reilly's offensive game continues to improve, he needs to fine tune his positioning in his own zone. He also needs to improve his decision making when it comes to joining the rush.

17. (17) Daniel Zaar, RW, 7.0D
Drafted 6th round, 152nd overall, 2012

Consistency was a problem for Zaar last season. He split time between three teams in Sweden and his success was hit or miss. While playing with Rogle J20 in the SuperElit, the winger was lights out with 19 points in 17 games. The success was not sustainable when he tried to play for Rogle in the Allsvenskan, and he was held to three points in 25 games. He was loaned BIK Karlskoga in the Allsvenskan and found his form dishing out seven assists before the season's end.

At 19 years old playing in the Allsvenskan is no easy challenge. It took Zaar quite some time to figure out how to be offensively successful. With his agility and quick release the Swedish product will continue to head towards his ceiling as he returns to Rogle where he needs to gain some confidence and find his scoring touch.

18. (NR) Anton Forsberg, G, 6.5B
Drafted 7th round, 188th overall, 2011

Forsberg plays an interesting modern butterfly style between the pipes, in which he excels when he plays at the top of the crease. This technique was crucial for him after he was loaned from Modo to Sodertalje of the Allsvenskan. Forsberg stood out with a 2.04 goals against average in 33 games as he led Sodertalje to a second place finish and a spot in the Kvalserien playoffs. His success did not carry over to the Kvalserien, as the Swedish goaltender allowed three goals per game and Sodertalje finished the playoffs in last with a 2-7-1 record.

It has been two years since Columbus selected the big netminder and he has steadily trended upwards. He signed a three-year, entry-level deal with the Blue Jackets  and will return to Modo to fight for playing time with Linus Ullmark (BUF) and Bernhard Starkbaum, both of whom skated in six games apiece for Modo last year.

19. (16) Michael Chaput, C, 6.5B
Acquired via trade with the Philadelphia Flyers, February 28th, 2011

Chaput was pushed down in Springfield's depth chart when the work stoppage forced Ryan Johansen and Cam Atkinson to the Falcons. Despite his lack of a perennial role, Chaput's professional debut was relatively successful. He finished the year with 32 points and 57 penalty minutes in 73 games. Chaput's two-way ability was evident last year and next season should allow him to play a more significant role on both the penalty kill and power play.

20. (NR) Josh Anderson, RW, 6.5C
Drafted 4th round, 95th overall, 2012

On a Knights' squad that was led by big names like Bo Horvat (VAN) and Max Domi (PHX), Josh Anderson doubled his production from his rookie year. His 23 goals and 26 helpers were enough to help London finished at the top of the OHL with 105 points and after coming back from a 3-1 series deficit to the Barrie Colts, the Knights were named the OHL champions. During the Knights' playoff run, the 19-year-old winger struggled with three points in 19 games.

Last year may have been Anderson's breakout year, but next year is extremely crucial. He has the work ethic to play effectively in the dirty areas and at 6'2 has the size to succeed as a power forward. As long as Anderson continues to develop in London he can turn out to be a pleasant surprise for Columbus down the road.

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