Blue Jackets Top 20 prospects

By Ryan Madden

The Top 20 list for the Blue Jackets features a new No. 1 prospect, four fresh 2007 draft picks, and several prospects falling down the rankings.  Jakub Voracek debuts at No. 1 on the list, while Derick Brassard and Kris Russell close out the top 3. 

The largest increase is significant, even if it is only a jump of two spaces.  Steve Mason, who jumps up two spots into No. 6, solidifies his position as the goaltender of the future for the Jackets organization. 

Several players have moved down multiple spots, including Alexandre Picard, Adam Pineault, Marc Methot, Tomas Popperle, Dan LaCosta, and Jared Boll

Top 20 at a glance

1. (NR) Jakub Voracek, LW, 18
2. (1) Derick Brassard, C, 20
3. (2) Kris Russell, D, 20
4. (5) Geoff Platt, C, 22
5. (6) Joakim Lindstrom, LW, 23
6. (8) Steve Mason, G, 19
7. (3) Alexandre Picard, LW, 22
8. (NR) Maxim Mayorov, LW, 18
9. (4) Adam Pineault, RW, 21
10. (7) Marc Methot, D, 22
11. (10) Kirill Starkov, C, 20
12. (13) Matt Marquardt, LW, 20
13. (NR) Stefan Legein, RW, 18
14. (14) Tommy Sestito, LW, 20
15. (11) Tomas Popperle, G, 23
16. (15) Derek Dorsett, RW, 20
17. (16) Ben Wright, D, 19
18. (12) Daniel LaCosta, G, 21
19. (NR) Will Weber, D, 19
20. (18) Jared Boll, C, 21

1. (NR) Jakub Voracek, LW, 18

1st Round, 7th overall, 2007

Voracek ousts Derick Brassard from the top spot on our list.  The slick Czech winger had an impressive rookie season with the Halifax Mooseheads where he recorded 86 points in 59 games.  Voracek won a pair of QMJHL trophies, including the Michel Bergeron Trophy for Best Offensive Rookie and the RDS Trophy for Rookie of the Year. 

After showing off his potential at the Jackets training camp, Voracek has continued to impress with the Mooseheads upon his return this season, winning offensive player of the week for the week ending Oct. 21, after scoring a game winning goal and adding six assists in the team’s three games.  He is tied for seventh in league scoring with 3 goals and 19 assists in eight games with the Mooseheads.   

2. (1) Derick Brassard, C, 20

1st Round, 6th overall, 2006

The 20-year-old Hull, Quebec native continues to figure prominently in the future plans of the Blue Jackets.  Brassard missed most of last season to a shoulder injury suffered just prior to the Blue Jackets training camp, he still managed to score 25 points in the 14 games he played with the Voltigeurs to end the season, and managed another 24 in 12 playoff games. 

Brassard was among the last cuts made by the Blue Jackets at their training camp this season, and has started off at a blistering pace with Syracuse, currently leading AHL rookies and tied for second overall in league scoring with 12 points after 10 games.  He should be one of the first call-ups to the Jackets.

3. (2) Kris Russell, D, 20

3rd Round, 67th overall, 2005

Following another sensational year with the Medicine Hat Tigers in 2006-07, in which he was named the CHL Defenseman of the Year award and won the Bill Hunter Trophy for Top Defenseman in the WHL, Russell was not a surprise to crack the Blue Jackets opening night lineup.  Russell has not sat out a game yet, adding a pair of assists and a -1 rating in 10 games while helping the Blue Jackets to start out a surprising 6-3-1 to open the season.  As Russell adapts to the pro game, look for him to assume a greater role in the Blue Jackets defense corps. 

4. (5) Geoff Platt, C, 22

Signed by Columbus, November 2005

After a season in which he played 26 games and tallied nine points with the Blue Jackets, Platt failed to make his late-season success from 2006-07 translate into an NHL roster spot for the present campaign.  Platt was among the early cuts for the Blue Jackets. 

The speedy and hardworking Platt has 4 goals and 2 assists in 10 games with the Crunch so far this season.  At 22, Platt needs to come up big this season to convince Jackets management to give him another chance in the NHL.  Already small in stature at 5’9, 175, Platt must use his speed and work ethic to win pucks and chances in the opposing teams zone.  He may already have been surpassed by younger talent, such as Brassard, on the Jackets depth charts. 

5. (6) Joakim Lindstrom, LW, 23

2nd Round, 41st overall, 2002

Lindstrom scored his first NHL goal last season during a mid-season call-up.  Lindstrom also put together a solid AHL campaign, gaining 48 points in 50 games for the Crunch.  He was among the very last cuts made by the Jackets this past training camp, and he is currently tied for 10th in the AHL with 10 points, and is second in the league with six goals.  The Jackets are hoping that this is the season that Lindstrom puts it all together.  At 23 years old, Lindstrom must prove to the Jackets that he is ready to take the next step and play regularly in the NHL.  The former second-round pick has the necessary skill, but needs to play tougher in the corners and with the puck to be successful in the NHL. 

6. (8) Steve Mason, G, 19

3rd Round, 69th overall, 2006

Mason’s stock has risen dramatically after he led all OHL goalies with 45 wins and led the London Knights through to the third round of the OHL playoffs.  Mason also looked very good in the 2007 Super Series tournament, and again at the Blue Jackets training camp, where he was solid enough to stay around several games into the season, before being sent back down to the Knights for another season of junior. 

Mason has continued his strong play this season, so far a perfect 7-0-0 record in his eight games with the Knights this season, currently second in the OHL with a 2.09 goals against average and a .941 save percentage.  Mason has certainly taken over the role of top goalie prospect in the Jackets organization. 

7. (3) Alexandre Picard, LW, 22

1st Round, 8th overall, 2004

Three years after selecting him eighth overall, the Jackets are still waiting for Picard to live up to the potential they saw.  Picard still shows potential, and at 22 still has time to fill into his body, but the time is beginning to run out.  Picard has only one assist to show for his 40 NHL games over the past two seasons.  With the Crunch last season he managed 29 points in 48 games. 

To make matters worse, he is recovering from torn knee ligaments and probably won’t be playing hockey until January 2008.  The best scenario for him is for him to use the half season he will have to dominate in the AHL and to prepare for what may well be a make or break season next year with the Jackets.   

8. (NR) Maxim Mayorov, LW, 18

4th Round, 94th overall, 2007

The second of four 2007 Columbus draft choices to crack the Top 20, Mayorov is a Russian who was highly touted by some media going into the draft.  Ultimately there proved to be too many question marks surrounding his play as Mayorov slipped into the fourth round.  The slick winger had 12 points in 33 games in the Russian division 2 league last year.  He looked out of place during the Super Series vs. Canada this past summer, managing just two assists in seven games.  Mayorov continues to play in Russia this season with AK Bars, where so far he has one point in nine games. 

9. (4) Adam Pineault, RW, 21

2nd Round, 46th overall, 2004

Pineault is another 2004 draft pick who has dropped a few spots in the Jackets Top 20 list. He has yet to show the offensive results the Jackets were looking for when selecting him in the top 50 of the 2004 draft.  Projected as a goal scorer, Pineault is still adjusting to the size and speed of pro hockey.  A fast and gritty player, Pineault has the necessary athletic tools to compete, but must show he has the necessary finish to be a scoring line player at the pro level.   

Pineault has started out the season on a scoring line with the Crunch, recording four assists through the team’s first 10 games. 

10. (7) Marc Methot, D, 22

6th Round, 168th overall, 2003

Methot, a big, steady, stay at home defenseman with some untapped offensive potential, is a tough defender who is tough to play against.  Methot finished the year with the Jackets last season, playing in 20 NHL games.  Among the last cuts from the squad this year, expect Methot to be the first defender called up to the Jackets this year. 

Selected in the sixth round of the 2003 draft, Methot is looking like a late-round gem who slipped through undetected.  Now playing his third year of professional hockey, this should be Methot’s last year with the Crunch, where he has played in all 10 games this season, and has scored two goal and added one assist with a -1 rating. 

11. (10) Kirill Starkov, C, 20

6th Round, 189th overall, 2005

The high-scoring Russian pivot could not crack the Crunch lineup this fall, in what was a bit of a setback for him, but not really a surprise, given that Starkov was a late-round pick.  He is playing with Elmira of the ECHL.  Starkov must prove that he can be an effective scorer in the ECHL first.  So far this season he has been held pointless in the first four games of the season.  

Starkov has a steep road ahead of him, as do many prospects who begin in the ECHL, as he will have to produce in Elmira to get a taste of Syracuse. 

12. (13) Matt Marquardt, LW, 20

7th Round, 194th overall, 2006

Marquardt is tied for eighth in the Q in goal scoring with 10 goals after 16 games, adding 5 assists for 15 points.  The young sniper, who was picked up in the seventh round in 2006, is hoping to lead the Wildcats back into the playoffs.  Marquardt must continue to work hard to improve his skating and continue to pressure the puck. 

Marquardt is a big hard-working checker who finishes nicely, and projects most probably as a third line role player, if his skating can catch up to NHL standards.  Look for him to continue to be among the QMJHL‘s leading goal scorers and to compete for a spot with Syracuse next season. 

13. (NR) Stefan Legein, RW, 18

2nd Round, 37th overall, 2007

The third 2007 draft pick to crack the top 20, Legein is the type of player everyone loves to have on their side.  An in-your-face agitator, Legein also brings plenty of skill to match his work ethic and hockey sense.  Legein returned to junior this year — Niagara of the OHL.  Legein took part in Super Series this past summer, and while he managed a modest three goals, he managed to lead Team Canada in penalty minutes with 30 in eight games. 

At 5’9, 170, Legein is small, but his feisty competitiveness, his work ethic, and his speed allow him to consistently cause problems to opposing teams.  Tied for 26th in OHL scoring with 19 points after 14 games, and second in the OHL with 52 penalty minutes, Legein will continue to be a premier pest and strong forechecker, a role which he should carry forward straight into the NHL.

14. (14) Tommy Sestito, LW, 20

3rd Round, 85th overall, 2006

Sestito, coming off a solid junior season in the OHL in which he scored an impressive 42 goals to go along with 20 assists for Plymouth, managed to crack the lineup of the Crunch this season.  A naturally large man, Sestito has the type of combination of size and toughness GMs covet to wear down opposing teams’ defense corps.  If Sestito could continue to hone his scorer’s touch, while working on his defense and cycling game, he has the prerequisites to become a quality grinder in the NHL. 

So far this season with the Crunch Sestito managed to see action in eight games, notching three assists while still in search of his first professional goal.  Look for Sestito to gain confidence as the season progresses, if he continues to please coach Ross Yates and earn ice time. 

15. (11) Tomas Popperle, G, 23

5th Round, 131st overall, 2005

Popperle has dipped a few spots in the Top 20, mainly due to the emergence of Steve Mason, but also due to his ordinary start to this season.  Popperle remains the undisputed starter in Syracuse, for the time being, but as all goalies know, there is only room for one person in front of the nets.

Popperle has led the Crunch to a mediocre start of the season, but has a modest 3-4-0 record, which is enough to be better than both of his competitors.  The truth is that the current Crunch defense corps is largely inexperienced, and while there are several talented youngsters among them, it may take them another half a season to gel together and form a cohesive unit.  Until that time it will be Popperle’s job to keep the Crunch in games, and retain their hopes for the post-season.

16. (15) Derek Dorsett, RW, 20

7th Round, 189th overall, 2006

Another reason why the Jackets look like they will get tougher soon, Dorsett brings a rough and ready style of play every night to the rink.  Rugged and determined, Dorsett best quality is his physical play, although he has managed to get on the scoresheet with some regularity as well, tallying 64 points in 61 games last year, and piling up a whopping 206 penalty minutes, which was actually a significant decrease from his draft year. 

Dorsett was at the Jackets camp this fall and unfortunately injured his leg with a stress fracture.  He is skating but has yet to play.  It is not as of yet not certain whether he will be playing in Syracuse or Elmira, although his impressive play at the Jackets camp may have earned him some time in Syracuse. 

17. (16) Ben Wright, D, 19

4th Round, 113th overall, 2006

Wright managed somewhat of a breakout year last year, tallying 10 goals with 37 helpers in 64 games with the Lethbridge Hurricanes.  Wright participated at the Jackets training camp, but was returned to the Hurricanes.  Wright is a solid defenseman who could project to be a regular NHL player at some point in the future.  He will look to improve his skating this season and prepare for next year when he will begin his professional career.  He has collected 6 points in 16 games so far this season, with a -5 rating.

18. (12) Daniel LaCosta, G, 21

3rd Round, 93rd overall, 2004

LaCosta has also fell down the Top 20 rankings, dropping the most places — six. He started this season in the AHL, replacing the injured Adam Munro as Popperle’s backup. Once Munro was cleared to play, LaCosta was returned to Elmira of the ECHL.  So far this season he has played in one game in Elmira, a shootout loss in which he allowed only one goal. LaCosta also lost his only game with the Crunch. 

A high draft pick, LaCosta has to excel at the ECHL and raise his consistency to advance further with the Jackets.  Splitting time between Syracuse and Dayton last season, LaCosta was unimpressive.  He needs to break out and string together several impressive performances, or he will be surpassed by other goaltending prospects.

19. (NR) Will Weber, D, 19

2nd Round, 53rd overall, 2007

The last of four 2007 picks, Weber is certainly not the least.  A big mobile defenseman with offensive upside, Weber was considered by some to be a first round talent in the 2007 draft. Weber managed 38 points last season while playing the back-end for Gaylord High School. 

The No. 1 overall pick in the USHL draft, Weber plays with the Chicago Steel and won Defensive Player of the Week award for the week ending Oct. 15.  Through seven games the big rearguard has generated five points and a +5 rating for the Steel.  Look for him to continue to put points on the board as he continues to play big minutes for the Steel in all game situations. 

20. (18) Jared Boll, C, 21

4th Round, 101st overall, 2005

Boll making the Blue Jackets roster came as a big surprise to anybody who didn’t see how well he played last training camp, in 2006, when he made a strong case for making the team as well.  A heart and soul player who loves to hit opponents and get them off their game, the inclusion of players like Boll in the Blue Jackets lineup is why Columbus will very quickly become a very tough team to play against.  A tireless worker and competitor, Boll also brings a scoring touch which is always crucial to the fourth line in today’s NHL. 

Boll already has two goals after nine games with Columbus this season.  The Blue Jackets will want him to work on his consistency and to keep the pace of the pro game as the season wears on.  He has already exceeded many people’s expectations.  
   

Missing the cut

Philippe Dupuis, C
Trevor Hendrikx, D
Petr Pohl, C

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