Blue Jackets Top 20 Prospects, Fall 2008

By Ryan Madden

Columbus has had a wealth of top draft picks lately, which keeps the quality of their prospect pool high.  The depth of their pool is improving, although they still have work to do on this regard, especially at center, where they currently only have one top-20 prospect. 

Top 20 at a glance

1. Jakub Voracek, RW – 8.5B
2. Nikita Filatov, LW – 8.5C
3. Derick Brassard, C – 7.5B
4. Steve Mason, G – 7.5C
5. Cody Goloubef, D – 7.0C
6. Andrei Plekhanov, D – 7.0C
7. Jake Hansen, RW – 7.0C
8. Marc Methot, D – 6.0B
9. Tom Sestito, LW – 6.0B
10. Teddy Ruth, D – 6.5C
11. Adam Pineault, RW – 6.5C
12. Jonathan Sigalet, D – 6.5C
13. Dan LaCosta, G – 6.5C
14. Will Weber, D – 7.0D
15. Matt Calvert, LW – 7.0D
16. Nick Sucharski, LW – 7.0D
17. Maxim Mayorov, LW – 7.0D
18. Allen York, G – 7.0 D
19. Derek Dorsett, RW – 6.0C
20. Alex Picard, LW – 6.0C

Key: Current rankings and grades followed by previous rankings in brackets.   

1. (1) Jakub Voracek, RW

Grade 8.5B (9.0B) Projection: Top line scoring RW / Potential all-star
Age: 19 Height/weight: 6’1, 187
Drafted 7th overall, 2007

Voracek had a great year of development in his first season following his draft.  He remained in the Q, where he was named to the Second All-Star team.  He had 101 points in only 53 games, and added another 18 points in 15 post-season games. 

The young Czech is an explosive scorer and playmaker, with excellent vision and passing.  He has the kind of burst which forces defensemen to back off at the blue line, and he has the ability to set up his teammates with beautiful passes.  An up-and-coming young scorer, he commands the attention of the opposing team whenever he is on the ice. 

2. (NR) Nikita Filatov, LW

Grade 8.5C (NR) Projection: Top line scoring LW / Potential All-Star
Age: 18 Height/weight: 6’0, 172
Drafted 6th overall, 2008

Filatov was chosen sixth overall at the 2008 NHL draft, which made him the first European selected.  He is a natural scorer who does everything well, showing excellent moves and drive to the net, a good shot, and extremely good passing and vision.  The young Russian also displays strong leadership, good defensive awareness, and the ability to control the change the tempo of a game. 

Filatov had 66 points in 34 games in the Russian junior league, and shone for the national team at both the U18 and U20 championships.  This season he plans to play in North America, and he could well be lighting up the lamp in any of the CHL, the AHL, or even the NHL. 

3. (2) Derick Brassard, C

Grade 7.5B (8.0C) Projection: 1st/2nd line scoring center
Age: 20 Height/weight: 6’0, 180
Drafted 6th overall, 2006

Brassard played well in the AHL last season with 51 points in 42 games, but struggled when called up to play in the NHL, where he scored a goal and an assist in 17 games.  Brassard’s development has been incomplete since being drafted because he has been hampered by injuries, missing significant time last year with a broken jaw, and in 2006-07 with a separated shoulder. 

Brassard has plenty of speed to his game, and shows dynamic offensive ability as well.  He has very good vision, and is a very good passer, and creates problems for opponents with his speed and creativity in the offensive zone.  The big key for Brassard will be to stay healthy and to gain more experience with the grind of the NHL’s heavy schedule.  Once he catches up to the NHL’s pace, Brassard should settle in nicely as a scoring line center. 

4. (3) Steve Mason, G

Grade 7.5C (8.0B) Projection: Starting goaltender
Age: 20 Height/weight: 6’3, 186
Drafted 69th overall, 2006

Mason’s stock rose dramatically last year after a dream season in which he led Canada to gold at the WJC.  Traded to Kitchener, where it looked like he would compete for the Memorial Cup, Mason suffered an injury during the OHL playoffs ended his season a month short. 

Mason played 42 games combined with Kitchener and London last season.  The big netminder had an impressive 32-7-3 record, with a .916 save percentage, and a 2.51 GAA.  A big goalie who plays the puck extremely well, Mason maintains his focus and stays well positioned for shots, showing good poise and maturity for his age.  He is very tough to beat when the game is on the line.  He is being groomed to take over the starter’s job after Pascal Leclaire.

5. (NR) Cody Goloubef, D

Grade 7.0C Projection: Top 4 defenseman
Age: 18 Height/weight: 6’0, 195
Drafted 37th overall, 2008

Goloubef had a very good season in the NCAA, where impressively he played a regular shift as an 18-year-old defenseman.  He finished the year with 10 points in 40 games for the Badgers.  An extremely smart defender who makes an excellent first pass, Goloubef plays very well in his own end.  He plays smart and safe, but there also is a good deal of offensive upside to his game.

6. (20) Andrei Plekhanov, D

Grade 7.0C (7.0C) Projection: Top 4 defenseman
Age: 22 Height/weight: 6’1, 187
Drafted 96th overall, 2004

Plekhanov vaulted himself into the Blue Jackets top prospect list with a good rookie year in the AHL, where he recorded nine goals and 25 points in 40 games. 

Plekhanov has good stickhandling skills who takes the puck up the ice with ease.  The young rearguard is not yet fully adjusted to the North American game, and still looks a little misplaced at times.  He must continue to gain experience and learn to play within the system, and not try to do too much.  At times he looked like a wild colt last season.  But he has tremendous skill, and his speed and point shot make for an intriguing combination.  

7. (15) Jake Hansen, RW 

Grade 7.0C (7.5C) Projection: 2nd line RW
Age: 19 Height/weight: 6’1, 168
Drafted 68th overall, 2007

Hansen had a good year of development last season, finishing third in the USHL with 31 goals.  He added 27 assists to finish with an impressive 58 points, which tied him for ninth best.  The Minnesota product was a dominating scorer in high school as well.  He is very strong on the puck, and has the ability to drive the puck to the net, creating scoring chances.  Hansen will move on to play with the Minnesota Golden Gophers this season.   

8. (7) Marc Methot, D

Grade 6.0B (6.0B) Projection: Defensive defenseman
Age: 23 Height/weight: 6’2, 196
Drafted 168th overall, 2003

Methot had another solid AHL campaign, scoring 13 points in 66 games, and adding 130 penalty minutes.  The big-bodied defenseman is tough to beat to the outside and plays a physical game.  He skates well for his size and is a steadying influence on the back end, not straying too far out of his way to do his job.

Methot has stalled at the AHL level, and was unable last season to earn regular NHL playing time, despite the fact the Blue Jackets were thin on defense.  He needs to battle hard to win a job in Columbus this season.   If he can’t make Columbus’ roster, he may need a change of scenery.

9. (6) Tom Sestito, LW

Grade 6.0B (6.0B) Projection: 3rd line LW
Age: 20 Height/weight: 6’4, 209
Drafted 85th overall, 2006

Sestito had a good rookie AHL season last year.  The rugged winger had 23 points in 66 games, and added 202 penalty minutes for the Syracuse Crunch.  Sestito is a tough, physical forward who doesn’t give space easily to anyone; he hits hard and works the cycle game to produce chances in the offensive zone, displaying some power forward potential.  The Jackets hope he can find the goal scoring touch he displayed in junior when he scored 42 goals for Plymouth in 2006-07.

10. (14) Teddy Ruth, D

Grade 6.5C (6.5B) Projection: 4th – 6th defenseman
Age: 19 Height/weight: 6’1, 199
Drafted 46th overall, 2007

A former US National Development team defenseman, Ruth had a terrific freshman year at Notre Dame, scoring five points in 42 games and helping lead the Fighting Irish to the national championship game.  Ruth plays a very simple game, limiting his mistakes, and making smart, easy passes out of the zone.  He is not a graceful skater nor incredibly skilled, but he makes up for that with excellent hockey sense and hard work. 

11. (9) Adam Pineault, RW

Grade 6.5C (7.0C) Projection:  3rd line RW
Age: 22 Height/weight: 6’1, 201
Drafted 46th overall, 2004

Pineault is a big winger who played in his second professional season last year.  He scored 21 goals and 48 points in 74 games in Syracuse last season.  Although he has played regularly in Syracuse, Pineault has not yet developed into the kind of scorer that he was predicted to be when drafted.  He has good size and a great shot, but he needs to find a way to get his shot off with more regularity.  

12. (NR) Jonathan Sigalet, D

Grade 6.5C (6.5C) Projection: 4th-6th defenseman
Age: 22 Height/weight: 6’1, 185
Drafted 100th overall, 2005

Last season was Sigalet’s third AHL season, and he while he has played well in all three seasons, he was expendable enough for the defense-rich Bruins to trade him this off-season.  Sigalet had 23 points in 74 games last season.

Like many other of the Jackets’ defense prospects, Sigalet will try to win himself a roster spot on this year’s blue line.  Sigalet is a very good skating defenseman with excellent hockey sense and strong offensive abilities.  He has been groomed for several seasons in Providence, Boston’s AHL affiliate.  He is possibly the Blue Jackets’ most NHL-ready defense prospect, but he must show that in training camp. 

13. (18) Dan LaCosta, G

Grade 6.5C (7.0C) Projection: Backup goaltender
Age: 22 Height/weight: 6’1, 186
Drafted 93rd overall, 2004

LaCosta is a tall goalie who relies on his positioning to make saves.  After two pro seasons, he has yet to find a consistent job, being bounced back and forth between the ECHL and the AHL.  LaCosta showed improvement last year, but he needs to find a solid job for him to be able to show what he can do consistently on a nightly basis.  He had a .932 save percentage and a 2.12 GAA in 15 games for Syracuse last season, finishing with a 10-2-3 record. 

14. (12) Will Weber, D

Grade 7.0D (7.0C) Projection: Top-four defenseman or college standout
Age: 19 Height/weight: 6’4, 205
Drafted 53rd overall, 2007

Weber has all the physical tools to become a very good NHL defenseman, but he is extremely raw.  He has strong skating, has a good build for an NHL defenseman at 6’4, 205, and he has a good shot. 

The big Michigan product had an up and down season last year with the Steel and did not stand out overall as one of the better defensemen on his team.  He had a total of 18 points in 46 games.  He is committed to play at Miami University and will need a few years there to mold himself into a premier quality, polished defenseman. 

15. (NR) Matt Calvert, LW

Grade 7.0D (NR) Projection: 2nd/3rd line LW
Age: 18 Height/weight: 5’9, 164
Drafted 127th overall, 2008

A good scorer, Calvert played left wing on Brandon’s all-rookie line, along with Scott Glennie and Brayden Schenn, scoring 64 points in 72 games on an extremely productive line for the Wheat Kings.  An offensive winger who has a good shot off a quick release, Calvert has some offensive upside and a great work ethic.  He is one of the most committed players on the ice on most nights, and plays a team-first game.  He is very well liked by coaches, teammates, and fans.

16. (13) Nick Sucharski, LW

Grade 7.0D (7.0C) Projection: 2nd/3rd line LW  
Age: 20 Height/weight: 6’1, 165
Drafted 136th overall, 2006

Sucharski is a skilled player with very good puck-control skills and a high level of talent.  A Toronto native playing NCAA hockey, he scored 26 points in 41 games last season.  He has shown the willingness to drive to the net and go into high traffic areas to score.  He has played well as a second-line player on a very good Michigan State team the last two years, but must increase his point total in his senior year. 

17. (19) Maxim Mayorov, LW

Grade 7.0D (7.0C) Projection: 2nd line LW or KHL star
Age: 19 Height/weight: 6’2, 187
Drafted 94th overall, 2007

Last year was a bit of a lost development year for Mayorov, as he only played in 11 games for Ak Bars, scoring only one goal.  Mayorov is a big, skilled winger with a lot of talent.  He has good speed and can take the puck to the net. 

Recently signed by Columbus, they would like nothing more than to have the big winger play in North America this season, ideally in the WHL with the Brandon Wheat Kings.

18. (NR) Allen York, G

Grade 7.0D (6.5D) Projection: Starting goaltender
Age: 19 Height/weight: 6’4, 170
Drafted 158th overall, 2007

York is a tall and slender netminder who plays large in his crease, covers his angles well, and plays a strong positional game.  He has taken his Camrose team on two long playoff runs the past two seasons, and has held up very well under pressure.  He was 24-5 in the AJHL last season, with 2.24 GAA and a .911 save percentage, and then posted a scintillating 1.85 GAA and a .939 save percentage while leading the Kodiaks to the RBC Cup, where he was named Top Goaltender.

19. (10) Derek Dorsett, RW 

Grade 6.0C (6.0B) Projection: Agitating RW
Age: 21 Height/weight: 5’11, 180
Drafted 189th overall, 2006

Dorsett is a handful for opposing teams to handle, and a burr in their saddle.  Hitting early and often, Dorsett is constantly skating hard in the direction of the puck carrier.  The Kindersley, Saskatchewan native had a very promising first professional season last year.  He played a regular shift and scored 18 points in 64 games with the Crunch last season, and added a team-high 289 penalty minutes. 

20. (8) Alex Picard, LW

Grade 6.0C (6.5C) Projection: 3rd/4th line LW
Age: 22 Height/weight: 6’2, 208
Drafted 8th overall, 2004

Picard’s development thus far has been a series of disappointments.  He has not scored an NHL goal in 43 career games, and his offense in the AHL has been regressing each season.  Picard spent the first three months last year sidelined with a knee injury.  The former eighth overall pick from 2004 gives a solid effort, and plays the body extremely well.  He has good size and good speed, but has so far lacked any offensive finish.  He finished last season with 20 points in 50 games for the Crunch. 

Honorable Mention

Stefan Legein, RW

Grade 6.5D (6.5B) Projection: 3rd line RW
Age: 19 Height/weight: 5’9, 170
Drafted 37th overall, 2007

Legein has surprised many by announcing his retirement from hockey this summer.  An offensive player with good speed and a good shot, he was expected to begin his professional career this season.  Legein has announced that he will no longer be playing hockey, and will not attend Columbus’ training camp.  Whether he ever returns to play hockey again remains to be seen.  He had 37 points in 30 OHL games last season, before lighting up the playoffs with 18 points in 10 games.