2006 Draft produced three quality NHL players for Columbus Blue Jackets

By Chris Roberts
Photo: After struggling with injuries and inconsistency in his first two NHL seasons, first round pick Derek Brassard has finally started to develop into the capable top-six forward the Blue Jackets projected him as. (Photo courtesy of Holly Gunning/HF)

The 2006 Entry Draft has to be regarded as a resounding success for the Blue Jackets franchise; their first pick, sixth overall, Derick Brassard has been hampered by injuries and inconsistency, but appears to be, at worst, a solid second line center; second round pick Steve Mason has already had NHL success and appears to be the goaltender of the future for the club; and the franchise has seemingly figured out mid to late-round success in the selections of Tom Sestito and Derek Dorsett.

In total, the Blue Jackets made ten picks in the seven round draft. They have added three integral pieces to their NHL roster and have an intriguing prospect still in the system in Sestito. The other six selections are not currently in the organization and are playing elsewhere.

Derick Brassard, C, Drummondville (QMJHL) – 1st round, sixth overall
Status: NHL Player
NHL Games Played: 172

Derick Brassard has not quite reached the status of the five players selected ahead of him in the 2006 draft – Erik Johnson (STL), Jordan Staal (PIT), Jonathan Toews (CHI), Nicklas Backstrom (WAS) and Phil Kessel (BOS) – but at the time, he was considered in equal company. The third-year center has been plagued by injury and inconsistency throughout his career and has yet been able to reach the status of a first line playmaking center the franchise had hoped he would become; in fact, the selection of Ryan Johansen in 2010 seems to confirm the idea, as the Blue Jackets continue to search for a center for Rick Nash.

Prior to the draft, Brassard was certainly in equal company in terms of pure offensive capability with those selected ahead of him. In his draft year, he managed 116 points for Drummondville in just 58 games. Perhaps a warning of what was to come, he was plagued by shoulder problems the following year, playing in just 14 games. Two seasons later, he would suffer a dislocated shoulder which would sideline him for the remainder of the NHL season; this, of course, came off the heels of a start that had him looking like an early season candidate for NHL rookie of the year, with 25 points in 31 games.

Though he was healthy for the 2009-10 season, he was unable to regain the form that he displayed in his rookie season. He has shown improvement this season and at times has even looked comfortable with franchise forward Rick Nash on his wing, but their inconsistent chemistry seems to reflect Brassard’s own weakness – that he has been unable to find a permanent role on the Blue Jackets. Nonetheless, he has become an asset to the Blue Jackets who can center a second line and at times fill in on the top line.

Steve Mason, G, London (OHL) – 3rd round, 69th overall
Status: NHL Player
NHL Games Played: 147

Steve Mason’s career hasn’t exactly played out as hoped since he exploded onto the NHL scene in 2008-09, earning the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie in the process; instead, Mason has struggled gravely. His goals against average was over three last season and is on the rise once again this season, though he has maintained a save percentage of .900. He’s recently been splitting time between the pipes with Mathieu Garon, rather than earning the bulk of minutes as a franchise goaltender – a title that was bestowed on him after his breakout rookie campaign.

Still, Mason is just twenty-two-years-old and has the necessary attributes to be a standout goalie in this league. Furthermore, questions of his regression aside, Steve Mason is undoubtedly, thus far, one of the better value picks in the 2006 drafts and surely the best prospect to come out of the third round.

In fact, it is hard to imagine that Mason would not be drafted in the first round if the players from the 2006 draft were to be redrafted; however, there were reasons as to why he had fallen to the third round in 2006. Though he recorded 45 wins for the power-house London team, his goals against average was over three, and he wasn’t exactly the reason that team was successful. It wasn’t until the following year, split between London and Kitchener, in which his goals against average improved drastically and he led the Canadian Juniors to a gold medal that his status as a prospect risen. Since then, it has been an inconsistent few years at the NHL level, but just two seasons removed from a Calder Trophy, there is no denying that Mason has NHL-level talent; he just needs to employ it on a more consistent basis.

Tom Sestito, C, Plymouth (OHL) – 3rd round, 85th overall
Status: NHL Prospect
NHL Games Played: 13

Scoring just twenty points in his draft year, Sestito’s size and pugnacity had a lot to do with his being drafted in the third round: his 176 penalty minutes attest to the fact. Offensive expectations were increased, however, after scoring 42 goals in 60 games the following year.

Since turning pro in 2007-08, he has been plagued by injuries. When healthy, he’s shown promise, but all too often he has been on the IR. He has shown some offensive skill at the AHL level – 32 career goals in parts of four seasons – but his presence has been mostly noticed in the toughness department. His rookie season in 2007-08, for instance, was highlighted by his 202 penalty minutes in 66 games. He’s received opportunities to prove himself at the NHL level, and while he hasn’t performed badly by any means, he has yet to earn a full-time roster spot. Overall, the Blue Jackets seem to have done well in selecting Sestito near the end of the third round, especially considering the fact that the following 25 players drafted have played a combined nine NHL games; four less than Sestito.

Ben Wright, D, Lethbridge (WHL) – 4th round, 113th overall
Status: Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

Projected to go higher than the fourth round, Ben Wright slipped significantly prior to the draft due to concerns of his skating ability. Of course, four and a half years later and currently focusing on school, those concerns were not unwarranted.

Wright did enjoy a lengthy career with the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the WHL; he even enjoyed his most successful year in 2006-07 in which he recorde
d 47 points in 64 games. His point totals steadily decreased the following two seasons, though he still managed to record respectable numbers. That said, Wright was unable to progress much, if at all, throughout his junior career and was unable to earn an NHL contract.

Bobby Nyholm, RW, IFK Jr. (FIN) – 5th round, 129th overall
Status: Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

The Blue Jackets struck out with their fifth round selection of Bobby Nyholm. The 6’1 native of Finland was regarded as more of a low risk high reward selection, given the fact he was taken so late. He did show some promise the following year in 2006-07 with the Kingston Frontenacs of the OHL, registering 34 points in 66 games in his first and only full season in North America. It would not be long – midway through the following season, in fact – until Nyholm ventured back to Finland to resume his playing career. He currently takes the ice for HIFK of the SM-Liga but is often loaned to Kiekko-Vantaa, a second-tier Finnish league.

Nick Sucharski, LW, Michigan State (NCAA) – 5th round, 136th overall
Status: Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

Taken just a few selections after Nyholm, Sucharski’s career in hockey hasn’t faired much better. The lanky winger followed up being drafted by the Blue Jackets with two fairly decent seasons of 24 and 26 points respectively, but he’d miss most of the following season and tallied just 19 points in 2009-10. He wasn’t tendered a contract by the Blue Jackets; and following his collegiate career, he has moved to the Central Hockey League, playing for the Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees.

Maxim Frechette, D, Drummondville (QMJHL) – 5th round, 142nd overall
Status: Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

With their third pick in the fifth round, the Blue Jackets selected a teammate of Derick Brassard, their first round selection. At 6’5, he was regarded as an imposing physical defenseman, which is perhaps why he was drafted at all despite only playing in 13 games in his draft year. He never seemed to be able to fully rebound from an oft-injured draft year and was unable to realize his potential. He played three more seasons in the QMJHL, but saw a steady decrease in penalty minutes, which is troubling for a defenseman drafted for his physicality. What’s even worse is the fact that Frechette, in the four years he spent in the QMJHL after being drafted, never scored a single goal. He currently plays CIS hockey.

Jesse Dudas, D, Prince George (WHL) – 6th round, 159th overall
Status: Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

Like Frechette, Jesse Dudas had a shortened draft year due to injury. After beginning his career in Lethbridge, he spent the following season and a half with Prince George in which he appeared to be an adequate all-around defenseman – he scored a career high 35 points in 2007-08. He began a stint as an overager with the Regina Pats in 2008-09, but ended up finishing the year with the Charlotte Checkers of the ECHL. In his junior career, Dudas suited up for four different teams, and since then, he has featured on four more teams, playing in the ECHL, the IHL, and the CHL.

Derek Dorsett, RW, Medicine Hat (WHL) – 7th round, 189th overall
Status: NHL Player
NHL Games Played: 145

After striking out with their previous five selections, the Blue Jackets were extremely successful with the first of their two seventh round picks, selecting rugged winger Derek Dorsett. A proven pugilist at the junior level, Dorsett developed an offensive game after being drafted, eclipsing over a point-per-game in 2006-07 to go along with his 206 penalty minutes. He immediately brought his roughneck style of play to Syracuse the following season, registering 289 penalty minutes, but also adding 18 points on the score sheet, proving to be more than one-dimensional.

Early into the following season, Dorsett made the jump to the NHL and hasn’t looked back. He immediately became a prototypical fourth line player for the Blue Jackets; a hard-working forechecker with a knack for dropping the gloves when necessary. Much like Sestito and Mason, Dorsett was a great value pick for the Blue Jackets; to this point, he has become the only seventh rounder from the 2006 draft, in fact, to become a full-time NHLer.

Matt Marquardt, LW, Moncton (QMJHL) – 7th round, 194th overall
Status: Bust
NHL Games Played: 0

Out of the Blue Jackets selections who have yet to play in the NHL, Matt Marquardt is perhaps the one player with somewhat of an opportunity to do so in the future. The former point-per-game player in junior currently plays for the Oklahoma City Barons of the AHL and has eight points in 29 games. He also spent two seasons with the Providence Bruins. Despite having a decent rookie season with Providence, however, his game hasn’t matured to the point where he belongs in the NHL; if anything, he is nearing his way out of the AHL.