Columbus Blue Jackets focused on adding defense at 2009 NHL Draft

By Richard Greco

David Savard - Columbus Blue Jackets

Photo: Defenseman David Savard appears to have carved out a role with the Columbus Blue Jackets this season. Savard was selected 94th overall in the 2009 NHL Draft. (courtesy of Jason Mowry/Icon SMI)

The Columbus Blue Jackets spent four of their six selections in the 2009 NHL Draft stocking up defenders. Of those defensemen, top pick John Moore (NYR) and third round selection David Savard are both in the NHL, while Thomas Larkin and Anton Blomqvist, as expected, are going to need a bit more time to develop.

Columbus also grabbed two forwards in Kevin Lynch and Kyle Neuber, neither of whom are still with the organization.

John Moore, D, Chicago Steel (USHL) – 1st round, 21st overall
Status: NHL Player
NHL Games Played: 153

The Illinois product was selected by the Blue Jackets after posting 54 points through two seasons with the USHL's Chicago Steel.  Following the draft, Moore played a season with the Kitchener Rangers. His lone year in the OHL saw him score 10 goals and dish out 37 assists in 61 games.

He made his professional debut in 2010 after skating in two games with Columbus and 73 with Springfield. Cycling between the NHL and AHL was the theme of Moore's first three years in professional hockey, until he was dealt alongside Derick Brassard and Derek Dorsett to the New York Rangers for Marian Gaborik, Blake Parlett, and Steven Delisle.

The change of scenery was exactly what Moore needed. The puck-moving defender has not made a trip to the AHL since being acquired by New York and registered six points in 13 games with the Rangers last year. Moore has solidified himself this season as an NHL defenseman and seems to have settled into a third-pairing role with Kevin Klein.

Moore also takes shifts on the power play, but is used more as a defensive crutch because the Rangers move Brad Richards to the point when up a man. Although he has room to improve his positioning and has been burned a few times in one-on-one battles, Moore has contributed 10 points in 54 games with the Rangers.

Kevin Lynch, C, US National U18 Team (USDP) – 2nd round, 56th overall
Status: Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

Prior to the draft, Lynch competed for the US U18 program where he posted 47 points in 63. It was his appearance at the U18 WJC however, where he managed 10 points in seven games en route to a gold, which caused his draft stock to rise. It surely did not hurt that he was scheduled to attend the University of Michigan either.

The Blue Jackets knew that Lynch was going to be a long term project. The Michigan native was staying in his home state for college and was a player that needed four years of developing in the Wolverines' program to come into his own.

As a freshman, Lynch managed six goals and 10 assists in 45 games and helped Michigan to a CCHA tournament championship. His sophomore season saw him score 16 points again, but this time around he netted 11 goals. The Wolverines won the Great Lakes Invitational, CCHA regular season and fought their way to the NCAA Frozen Four title game, where they fell to Minnesota-Duluth, 3-2, in overtime. His point totals dropped off during his junior season as he finished with 13 points in 39 games. He suffered his first injury as a junior and missed consecutive games in mid-October.

Although his junior year was nothing to be impressed by, Lynch was named an alternate captain for his fourth and final season at Michigan. He took the responsibility to heart and registered a career-high 27 points (10 goals and 17 assists). In his time at Michigan, Lynch was praised for his work ethic on and off the ice.

Columbus opted to not offer Lynch an NHL contract and he signed a one-year AHL deal with Detroit this past September. He attended training camp, but was sent down to the Grand Rapids Griffins. Lynch would not skate a game in Grand Rapids and was loaned to the ECHL's Toledo Walleye, where he has 18 points in 38 games.

David Savard, D, Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL) – 4th round, 94th overall
Status: NHL Player
NHL Games Played: 78

In the season following his selection by the Blue Jackets, Savard put together his best year in Moncton with 77 points (13 goals and 64 assists) in 64 games. He also led the Wildcats to a QMJHL championship and a berth in the Memorial Cup, where they were eliminated after going 0-3 in round robin play.

His breakout season with Moncton left Columbus pleasantly surprised and Savard continued to impress the Blue Jackets with his puck moving ability in his first professional season. He spent the 2010-11 season getting accustomed to the quicker paced game with Springfield and registered 11 goals and 32 assists. He split the following season between the AHL and NHL, registering 10 points in 31 games with Columbus and 22 points in 44 games with the Falcons.

Although he skated in 31 games with the Blue Jackets in his NHL debut season, Savard had trouble cracking a deep Blue Jacket's blue line during the 2012-13 season and only skated in four games. He continued to flourish with Springfield and potted five goals and dished out 26 helpers in 60 games.

This season, Savard appears ready to stay in the NHL for good. He has played in 43 games, tallying 11 points and a plus-seven rating in the process. Columbus is still extremely deep on the back end and earning a spot over Cody Goloubef and Tim Erixon was not easy. However, Savard came out on top and established a place on the Blue Jackets' third pairing alongside Russian defender Nikita Nikitin.

Thomas Larkin, D, Exeter (New Hampshire high school) – 5th round, 137th overall
Status: Prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

A commitment to Colgate University paired with Larkin's 6'5 frame made him an ideal candidate for the Blue Jackets to select late in the draft. Larkin did not disappoint in his first collegiate season as he posted 19 points (three goals and 16 assists) in 33 games.

The defender's strong freshman year turned out to be his best statistically. His point totals feel to 11 during his sophomore season, but he impressed the coaching with his intangibles. He was named Colgate's captain as a junior and responded with 14 points and a plus-13 rating. He did not wear the 'C' during his senior season and despite finishing the year with 14 points once again, had a minus-seven rating, which was the first minus-rating of his collegiate career.

Larkin used size to his advantage in the college game, but when he started playing professionally looked a bit out of place. His physicality did not transfer over and as a result, Larkin has only skated in 14 games in two seasons with Springfield.

This season saw Larkin crack Springfield's lineup in seven games, but he has been floating between the Falcons and the Evansville Icemen of the ECHL. He has been able to harness his size and improve his passing in the ECHL and has 11 points, 50 penalty minutes and a plus-seven rating through 23 games with the Icemen.

Anton Blomqvist, D, Malmo (Allsvenskan) – 6th round, 167th overall
Status: Prospect
NHL Games Played: 0

The Blue Jackets were looking for another big defenseman in the sixth round and Anton Blomqvist fit the mold. Standing at 6'5 and over 200 pounds, Blomqvist is not the easiest player for forwards to get by. He not only takes up a lot of space on the ice, but plays a physical game.

Following the draft Blomqvist continued playing his next two seasons with Malmo. The defensive defender did not turn any heads with his point totals, six points in 76 games in two seasons, but continued to improve his shutdown ability in his own zone. At the conclusion of the Allsvenskan's 2010-11 season, Blomqvist came across the pond to get his first taste of North American hockey. He skated in five games with Springfield, tallying an assist and 21 penalty minutes in the process.

Injuries plagued Blomqvist's next two professional seasons. He was limited to 24 games, where he was held without a point, in what was supposed to be his first full professional season with the Falcons. In 2012-13, the injury bug struck again and Blomqvist skated in 36 games with Evansville, registering three points and 46 penalty minutes in the process.

This season, Blomqvist was loaned back home to Malmo. He established his physical game early and has 95 penalty minutes through 39 games.

Kyle Neuber, Mississauga St. Michael's Majors (OHL) – 7th round, 197th overall
Status: Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

Neuber has had quite the journey looking to find his place in hockey.

After being drafted, Neuber was dealt from Mississauga to the Sarnia Sting, his hometown, where he tallied 10 points and 188 penalty minutes in 60 games. At the conclusion of his season with Sarnia, Neuber made his professional debut with the Syracuse Crunch, where he was held scoreless in his only game. He was signed to a minor-league deal by Columbus and appeared in 15 AHL games in 2010-11.

Neuber then signed a minor-league deal with the Toronto Marlies in 2011, and split the 2011-12 season between the AHL and ECHL. He reached the century mark in penalty minutes for the first time of his professional career as he registered 109 in 34 games with the Marlies. Following the 2011-12 season, Neuber took a year off and sought after colleges. This season he enrolled at the University of Guelph and has 13 points through 21 games.