Columbus Blue Jackets own enviable depth at all positions

By Richard Greco

Marko Dano - Columbus Blue Jackets

Photo: Forward Marko Dano is one of three forwards the Columbus Blue Jackets selected in the first round of the 2013 NHL Draft. Dano is currently playing for Bratislava Slovan of the KHL. (courtesy of Martin Rose/Bongarts/Getty Images)

The Columbus Blue Jackets are an organization with an extremely deep prospect pool. With names like Boone Jenner, Ryan Murray, Dalton Prout, and David Savard echoing through NHL arenas, it seems as though all of its young talent graduated to the NHL. That is not the case.

The Blue Jackets prospect pool is littered with talented forwards including Kerby Rychel, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Alexander Wennberg, and Marko Dano, all of whom were picked up in this year's draft.

Columbus' biggest problem on defense is having too many prospects. Tim Erixon and Cody Goloubef are waiting to break into the NHL, but they remain in the AHL with Prout, Murray, and Savard already in the NHL. Between the pipes, Oscar Dansk is heading a red-hot Erie Otters club and Anton Forsberg has found his form playing for Modo.

Left wing

The newly added Kerby Rychel stepped into the Blue Jackets' system and was immediately its top prospect at left wing. He returned to a Spitfires squad that he led in the scoring the past two seasons and has 24 points in 14 games after being named captain. Another junior season allows Rychel to fine tune his leadership and mature his physical game.

Seth Ambroz and the Minnesota Golden Gophers got off to a great start to the season by claiming the Ice Breaker Tournament title. Ambroz has a goal and an assists through four games this year. As a junior, the Minnesota-native needs a breakout season and must use his 6'2 frame to win battles in the crease.

Much like Ambroz, Markus Soberg, who was selected 165th overall in the 2013 NHL Draft, is off to a quick start to the year. The right handed sniper has 14 points (nine goals and five assists) and 16 penalty minutes through 14 games with Frolunda J20 in the SuperElit.

In the young AHL season, Dalton Smith registered two assists in five games. The gritty power forward dropped the gloves already this year exchanging blows with Jimmy Bonneau of the Worcester Sharks. Fellow professional prospect Oliver Gabriel is yet to skate in a regular season game this year after being sidelined by an undisclosed injury.

Center

Columbus fans waited two years for Boone Jenner to make his NHL debut and the Ontario product did not disappoint. A great preseason paved the way for Jenner to start the year alongside Marian Gaborik and Brandon Dubinsky on the top line, but he has shifted in recent games. Although he still gets shifts with Dubinksy, Jenner saw time with Mark Letestu and Blake Comeau on the Blue Jackets' third line. Jenner is a threat on the power play and both of his goals have come with his team up a man. Although he has the ability to play center, he has mostly seen time on the wing for Columbus.

Despite drawing looks at camp, Michael Chaput and Sean Collins did not immediately join Jenner in the NHL. Both began the season in the AHL, but have since received call-ups to the NHL, the most recent being Chaput. They are expected to split the 2013-14 season between the NHL and AHL.

Lukas Sedlak is a rookie on Springfield's deep roster. Although he needed to fight for a spot, Sedlak began to find his form and registered two goals and a plus-four rating in seven AHL games.

The Blue Jackets have two recently drafted centers playing in Europe this year. Alexander Wennberg, the 14th overall pick in 2013, took advantage an opportunity to play with Frolunda. Although he is often referred to as a pass-first player, Wennberg found the back of the net six times in Frolunda's first 16 games.

Marko Dano has struggled in his second KHL season. Through 20 games, he has posted two points and a minus-nine rating. As an 18-year-old playing in the KHL, the Austrian is not afraid to throw the body and spent 16 minutes in the penalty box. Dano was selected by the Prince George Cougars in the 2011 CHL Import draft and it would likely be to his benefit if he came to North America and played more minutes against players around his age.

Passing is one area where the Blue Jacket's centers in the NCAA excel at. Notre Dame's T.J. Tynan has seven points (six assists) in six games after being named assistant captain for his senior year. Freshman Peter Quenneville used his passing to solidify his spot of Quinnipiac's roster. Through five games, the 19-year-old has four assists.

Right wing

Jonathan Audy-Marchessault shortened up his last name by dropping the "Audy" from it prior to the season. Marchessault registered three points in the Falcons' seven games this season. He attended Columbus' training camp and saw time in preseason before being reassigned to Springfield. Twenty-four year-old Jake Hansen has been solid in his second season with the Falcons, managing three goals and three assists through his first seven games.

Oliver Bjorkstrand is no stranger to finding the back of the net and opened the Portland Winterhawks' season on a tear. Through 15 games, the Danish playmaker has a balanced 30 points (14 goals and 16 assists). Although the Winterhawks graduated Seth Jones to the Nashville Predators, they returned center Nicolas Petan (WPG), who provides good support to Bjorkstrand.

Josh Anderson is playing at about a point-per-game pace through 14 games with the London Knights. At 6'2, his physicality improved as he has racked up 32 penalty minutes already this year. The Knights sluggish start to the year is a direct result of losing Olli Maatta (PIT) and Nikita Zadorov (BUF) to the NHL. Anderson is one of five players on London to play at a point-per-game pace, but the squad is still in need of someone to take the reins on offense.

The Saginaw Spirit saw their struggles this season as well. Greg Gilbert's squad has flirted with a .500 record to start the year and Nick Moutrey has seven points and a minus-five rating through 14 games.

Daniel Zaar has been a goal-scorer for Rogle of the Allsvenskan league, managing five goals in his first 16 games. The Swedish forward has shown improved consistency in his all-around game as well.

Defensemen

Ryan Murray broke into the NHL this season and is not looking back. Through 11 games the 20-year-old has developed solid chemistry alongside James Wisniewski, who he played with since preseason. Regardless of how much of his offensive game surfaces at the NHL level, Murray will be a force in his own end for years to come.

David Savard returned to the NHL after skating in 60 games with Springfield last year. His resurgence has been clear as the 23-year-old has registered four assists and saw time in all 11 games. He has played with either Jack Johnson or Nikita Nikitin and has a plus-five rating.

The final defensive prospect with Columbus is Dalton Prout. After undergoing abdominal surgery in the offseason, it was unclear whether or not Prout would start the season with the Blue Jackets. Although he missed the first three games, Prout returned to the lineup and has seven penalty minutes in eight games. The 23-year-old has split his time playing with Johnson and Fedor Tyutin.

With a surplus of talented defensemen, some prospects were left with another year with the Springfield Falcons. Tim Erixon is doing everything he can to earn another shot in the NHL and has nine points (two goals and seven assists) in seven games with the Falcons. Erixon's versatility primes him to be a great two-way defender and he continues to impress on the power play.

Stats do not jump out the for a stay-at-home defender like Cody Goloubef the way they do for Erixon. Goloubef has two assists, while posting an even plus/minus for Springfield. He plays well in his own zone, but needs to be more comfortable moving the puck. Springfield has another defensive defenseman in Ilari Melart. The newly acquired Finnish force is 6'3 and knows the right time to throw the body. Through six games, he has two penalty minutes and a plus-one rating.

Will Weber is another guy that does not like to stray far from his own zone. At 6'4, 227 pounds, Weber is a tough defender to get around untouched. His physicality is impressive and he has already racked up 19 penalty minutes and even added a goal.

The defensive depth has given Austin Madaisky trouble securing an every-day role. He has only skated in four games, registering an assist in the process. While Madaisky was able to stick around the roster, Anton Blomqvist was loaned Malmo of the Allsvensken. He has 28 penalty minutes in 14 games and a minus-three rating. While Blomqvist headed back to Europe, Thomas Larkin was reassigned to the Evansville Icemen of the ECHL. In three games he has three assists.

After a solid freshman campaign, Mike Reilly has four points in the University of Minnesota's first six games. The Golden Gophers made it clear that Reilly was going to be a key to their defense by his ice time last season and the sophomore sensation looks even faster this year.

Dillon Heatherington is off to a quick start with the Swift Current Broncos. After tallying just 27 points last year, the 6'3 defender has 11 points (10 assists) in 17 games. Gianluca Curcuruto is also off to a good offensive start to the year. He has five points through 11 games, but wears a minus-eight rating for a Plymouth Whalers club that has allowed the third most goals in the OHL's Western Conference.

Goaltenders

The Erie Otters resurgence has begun. After finishing dead last in the OHL's Western Conference, the Otters lead the OHL with a 12-2-1 record. Oscar Dansk is a huge reason why. The 19-year-old netminder has a 2.00 goals against average and started 12 of Erie's 15 games this season.

The Blue Jackets have two goalies playing in Europe. Joonas Korpisalo got lit up in his only start for Jokerit before being loaned to Kiekko-Vantaa of the Mestis league. He has not started for them yet.

Anton Forsberg looks sharp for Modo this season. He has split time with Buffalo Sabers' prospect Linus Ullmark and has a 2.17 goals against average through eight games.

Rounding out the goaltending pool is Martin Ouellette. A senior with the University of Maine, Ouellette has started all five of their games, managing a 3-2 record in the process, and posting a 2.78 goals against average.