Blue Jackets Top 20 prospects, Spring 2010

By Chris Roberts

Nikita Filatov’s future has become more questionable with his return to Russia, yet the shifty winger remains the Blue Jackets top prospect.

Top 20 at a glance

1. Nikita Filatov
2. John Moore
3. Cody Goloubef
4. Maksim Mayorov
5. Matt Calvert
6. Kevin Lynch
7. Brent Regner
8. David Savard
9. Kevin Lalande
10. Dan LaCosta
11. Teddy Ruth
12. Will Weber
13. Jonathan Sigalet
14. Cameron Atkinson
15. Thomas Larkin
16. Michael Blunden
17. Tomas Kubalik
18. Tom Sestito
19. Jake Hansen
20. Tomas Kana

1. (1) Nikita Filatov, LW — 8.5C
6’0, 185 lbs
Drafted: 1st Round, 6th overall, 2008
May 25, 1990

Filatov has been the Blue Jackets’ top prospect for quite some time, but he has not been without difficulties. The Russian received limited ice time in just 13 games with the Jackets before being loaned to CSKA Moscow of the KHL. He managed to score two goals in the NHL, but could not solidify a spot on the top three lines in coach Ken Hitchcock’s system of defensive emphasis.  

There’s a strong chance that Filatov gives the NHL another shot with the dismissal of Hitchcock. His stay to Russia may actually help his development when all is said and done, in fact, as Filatov received a lot of ice time and has averaged nearly a point per game with nine goals and 14 assists in 24 games. Next season will be very telling as to Filatov’s future and there is no question that he’ll be given every chance to thrive offensively.

2. (3) John Moore, D — 7.5C
6’2, 189 lbs
Drafted: 1st Round, 21st overall, 2009
Nov 19, 1990

Moore was perhaps the most controversial exclusion for the United States’ World Junior team, however the first-round pick has not allowed that to affect his production in his OHL rookie season. Moore currently sits 12th overall in defensive scoring in the OHL with 41 points in 53 games. He also leads his team in scoring by a defenseman.

The most impressive thing about Moore’s season has been his offensive consistency. After the first month in the season, Moore has had no extended scoring droughts, going just three games without scoring. His defensive consistency is certainly an aspect of his game he needs to work on, however. Moore has had four games where he has been at least a minus three. There’s no denying Moore’s potential as a top-pairing power-play quarterback, but he’ll need to improve his defensive consistency to become a top NHL defenseman.

3. (4) Cody Goloubef, D — 7.5C
6’0, 195 lbs
Drafted: 2nd Round, 37th overall, 2008
Nov 30, 1989

If there was one word to describe Goloubef’s play for the University of Wisconsin throughout his first three seasons, it would be consistent. He has followed up 10 and 13-point seasons with 12 points so far this season, including three goals and nine assists. It’s also impressive to note that Goloubef has been perhaps the most consistent defenseman this year on a Badger team stacked with potential future NHL blueliners.

Goloubef himself suggests that his defensive game has grown immensely in his time with the Badgers which is a great sign for the Blue Jackets as they drafted Goloubef mainly for his strong defensive presence on the blue line. He hasn’t been an offensive dynamo from the point and nor does he project to be, but Goloubef has no real weaknesses. He is very much a well-rounded defenseman.

4. (5) Maxim Mayorov, LW — 7.0C
6’2, 213 lbs
Drafted: 4th Round, 94th overall, 2007
Mar 26, 1989

Mayorov’s production hasn’t progressed as much the Blue Jackets would have liked, but it hasn’t dropped either. His 21 points in 54 games for the AHL Syracuse Crunch as a second-year pro put him on about the same pace as last season as he registered 31 points in 71 games. The entire team struggled early on in the season. The month of December was especially unkind to Mayorov as he played 10 games without registering a single point while going a -8.

As the Crunch have turned their season around, however, so has Mayorov. Their improved play alone has helped his plus/minus while he has been scoring at a higher pace to boot, adding nine points in 21 games. Mayorov was thought to be a strong possibility to earn a spot on the Blue Jackets roster next season, but he’ll certainly need to improve his production over the final stretch of the season.

5. (8) Matt Calvert, LW — 7.0C
5’10, 182 lbs
Drafted: 5th Round, 127th overall, 2008
Dec 24, 1989

Calvert was expected to put up huge numbers as an overage player in the WHL and he has done that and then some. Calvert has scored 81 points in 59 games for the Wheat Kings, and his 39 goals lead the team by quite a margin.

Calvert also showed good play in Columbus’ training camp, hardly looking out of place during the few exhibition games he dressed for, and even added a few goals. His play was impressive enough to earn him a pro contract –- one that Calvert turned down in favor of participating in the Memorial Cup with the Wheat Kings in Brandon. Calvert has also added some muscle over the off-season and has to continue to do so if he is to be an effective pro player.

6. (5) Kevin Lynch, C – 6.5B
6’1, 190 lbs
Drafted: 2nd Round, 56th overall, 2009
Apr 23, 1991

Lynch had an extremely slow start to the season offensively, which is not exactly surprising for a freshman. He has, however, picked up the pace offensively after scoring his first career NCAA goal on December 29th. He now has 10 points in 35 games, and has begun to make a case for playing time heading into next season. Offense aside, Lynch was heralded as perhaps one of the most complete American players in his draft class, and aspects such as his defensive game and face-off abilities have not gone unnoticed this season.

7. (9) Brent Regner, D – 7.0C
6’0, 170 lbs
Drafted: 5th Round, 137th overall, 2008
May 17, 1989

Despite Ranger’s limited ice time down the stretch for the Syracuse Crunch as a rookie, he remains in the top 10 for Blue Jackets’ prospects. His defensive play has certainly been his weakness as he sits at -11 in just 33 games. His potential, however, is in his offensive production and ability to work the power play. Regner should see more ice time down the stretch, however, as the Crunch sit out of a playoff spot, and he’ll likely be relied upon to lead their power play on a full-time basis next season.

8. (15) David Savard, D – 7.0C
6’1, 200 lbs
Drafted: 4th Round, 94th overall, 2009
Oct 22, 1990

Savard has been the Blue Jackets’ highest rising prospect this season and perhaps the most impressive defenseman in the QMJHL. As a finalist for the best defensive defenseman last season, his play in his own zone is without concerns. His improved offensive production has made him one of the most well-rounded defensemen in the league. 

Savard entered the league in 2007-08, scoring just 12 points in 67 games, but has improved immensely and now leads defensemen in scoring with 71 points in just 57 games. Savard’s value has risen drastically this season, and he very well may have the chance to make a name for himself on a national scale as his Moncton Wildcats are among the favorites to come out of the QMJHL and earn a Memorial Cup bid.

9. (10) Kevin Lalande, G – 7.0C
5’11, 179 lbs
Acquired from Calgary
Feb 19, 1987

Lalande’s season hasn’t exactly been perfect. He struggled for much of the first few months and hit a low point in December, posting a record of 2-4 with a goals against of over four and a sub-.900 save percentage. A new year has certainly brought about change in his game, however, as the recently-turned 23-year-old has gone 10-6-1 in 2010. He’s also come off a six-game winning streak at the beginning of the February, and has easily supplanted Dan LaCosta as the team’s starting goalie. With a young Steve Mason between the pipes in Columbus, the Blue Jackets will likely stick with a veteran back-up next season, but Lalande’s impressive play down the stretch will definitely have him in the mix for a roster spot in the near future.

10. (7) Dan LaCosta, G – 6.5C
6’2, 194 lbs
Drafted: 3rd Round, 93rd overall, 2004
Mar 28, 1986

LaCosta has not only been the worst goalie for the Crunch this season, but he also sits in last place out of all AHL goalies in save percentage. His previous two seasons have been impressive, and it’s hard to forget the shutout he recorded in the NHL last season, but the Labrador product has been a major disappointment this season. Furthermore, unlike Lalande, LaCosta has gotten worse as the season goes on. The numbers don’t lie for LaCosta as he currently has a 3.99 GAA and a .882 save percentage. LaCosta’s contract is up at the end of the season.

11. (11) Teddy Ruth, D – 6.5C
6’1, 204 lbs
Acquired from Washington
Feb 14, 1989

Ruth has had a typical season for Notre Dame this year. He’ll never put up big numbers from the back end, but it is his steady defensive presence that has him so valued by the Blue Jackets. Injuries have halted Ruth’s season as he has appeared in just 18 games, registering three assists. He is in fact still out of the Fighting Irish line-up with concussion symptoms. Ruth will likely finish his NCAA career next season and his game should transfer very well the pro level.

12. (6) Will Weber, D – 6.5C
6’4, 205 lbs
Drafted: 2nd Round, 53rd overall, 2007
Oct 28, 1988

Weber has fallen on the list, but not because of lackluster play, rather it has been the emergence of others like Savard that have bumped him from the Blue Jackets’ top 10 prospects. For his part, Weber has actually been having a good sophomore season with Miami University, improving upon his freshman totals with nine points in 33 games so far this season. Considered a defenseman with a fair bit of offensive potential, Weber hasn’t exactly lived up to expectations thus far though. He has two more years of college to live up to his second-round status from the 2007 Entry Draft.

13. (16) Jonathan Sigalet, D – 6.0B
6’1, 198 lbs
Drafted: 4th Round, 100th overall, 2005
Feb 12, 1986

Sigalet is about as close to NHL ready as any member of the Syracuse Crunch blue line. He came over in a deal last season and recorded 11 points in just 19 games for Syracuse, and while he hasn’t exactly kept up that pace, his numbers have been pretty solid this season for a weaker team. He’s got 18 points in 50 games and has been great on the power play, scoring four goals there. What’s even more impressive for Sigalet is his +4 rating on a team where every other skater, save for one forward, has a minus. Sigalet could perhaps see some time in Columbus after the trade deadline, and will have a great shot at earning a roster spot next season.

14. (NR) Cameron Atkinson, RW – 6.0B
5’8, 165 lbs
Drafted: 6th Round, 157th overall, 2008
Jun 5, 1989

Atkinson had a solid freshman season with Boston College last year, but his play this season has been beyond the expectation of most. His 35 points in 31 games have him second on the team in scoring and has earned him a spot on the team’s top line. Atkinson’s size is perhaps the one thing that may hold him back from succeeding in the NHL, but he demonstrates a strong will and ability to fight for pucks in the corner, and there is no doubt that he doesn’t let his size affect his game. Atkinson’s offense should continue to rise at Boston College, but more importantly, he has two more years at the collegiate level to work on other aspects of his game before turning pro.        

15. (NR) Thomas Larkin, D – 6.5C
6’5, 221 lbs
Drafted: 5th Round, 137th overall, 2009
Dec 31, 1990

Italian-born Thomas Larkin was definitely a project pick by the Blue Jackets in the fifth round of the 2009 draft, however with his play this season for Colgate University, consider Larkin ahead of schedule. The freshman leads the team in scoring by a defenseman with 17 points in 29 games, and has been putting up such numbers without getting top power-play minutes. Larkin is considered to have great skating ability to go along with a great shot, and of course his biggest asset is his towering size at 6’5.

16. (17) Michael Blunden, RW – 6.0B
6’3, 207 lbs
Acquired from Chicago
Dec 15, 1986

Blunden managed to crack the Blue Jackets roster to start the season, but after being held pointless in 22 games, he was sent back to Syracuse. Blunden, like Picard, can bring many intangibles to the game, but again as with Picard, he was unable to produce any offense whatsoever. His return to the Crunch has seemed to not only lift his offensive production, but also that of the team. In 21 games, Blunden has 16 points -– six goals and 10 assists –- and the Crunch have managed to win 12 of those games. He will likely see more time with the Blue Jackets after the trade deadline.

17. (NR) Tomas Kubalik, RW – 7.0D
6’2, 189 lbs
Drafted: 5th Round, 135th overall, 2008
May 1, 1990

Kubalik was all but an unknown, even a year after his draft year, as he played the 2008-09 season for Plzen HC in the Czech Republic and registered a mere two points in 32 games. By coming over to North America and playing for the Victoriaville Tigres this season, Kubalik has put himself on a scale on which to be compared, and at least statistically speaking, has been tremendous. He sits third in scoring on a very impressive Victoriaville team with 68 points in just 51 games –- he has played 10 fewer games than the top two scorers. Kubalik should get another year of junior hockey before he turns pro, and in that time he’ll need to focus on becoming a much better skater along with developing a more consistent effort every night.

18. (14) Tom Sestito, LW – 6.5C
6’5, 228 lbs
Drafted: 3rd Round, 85th overall, 2006
May 1, 1990

Once again, Tom Sestito has been plagued by injury. The rugged winger, who appeared in just 19 games, is close to coming back from hip surgery and will need to remain healthy heading into the offseason in order to have a shot at cracking the Blue Jackets roster. Sestito is similar to Blunden considering that both can play a physical bottom line role and have displayed offensive potential at the AHL level, however they’ll both need to transfer that ability to the NHL.

19. (13) Jake Hansen, RW – 6.0C
6’1, 182 lbs
Drafted: 3rd Round, 68th overall, 2007
Aug 21, 1989

Hansen hasn’t exactly taken the steps in his progress that were hoped for. He scored just seven points in 33 games as a freshman for the University of Minnesota and has been unable to have his breakout year this year with just eight points in 31 games. As a big point producer from his USHL days, he has obvious offensive potential, but he has not lived up to expectations. However, the Golden Gophers boast an offense with big names such as Jordan Schroeder, Mike Hoeffel (NJ) and Zach Budish (NAS), so Hansen isn’t exactly getting top line minutes. If he cannot improve his production as a junior next season, Hansen may not be in the Blue Jackets’ future plans.

20. (NR) Tomas Kana, C – 6.0C
6’0, 202 lbs
Acquired from St. Louis 
Nov 29, 1987

Kana was acquired along with Brendan Bell mid-season in a trade with the St. Louis Blues. Kana is a former second round pick who spent most of his time in North America in the ECHL, but since coming to the Blue Jackets organization, he has really looked comfortable. He had only recorded six assists in 11 games for the Alaska Aces of the ECHL prior to the trade, but has really found his place in the AHL with the Crunch, scoring 11 goals and adding eight assists in just 32 games. Kana is also the only forward on the team to have a plus rating.