Ryan Johansen takes over as top prospect for Columbus Blue Jackets

By Chris Roberts
Photo: After a strong showing at the 2011 WJC, Ryan Johansen takes over as the Blue Jacket’s top prospect. (Photo courtesy of Ken McKenna/HF)

As a whole, the Blue Jackets top-20 prospects consist of mostly the same cast as in September, however there has been some movement up and down the ranks: with statistical regression on both parts, recently drafted Dalton Smith and Petr Straka dropped a couple notches, Allen York and Cam Atkinson, with their impressive seasons in the NCAA, have been given a bump, but perhaps most notably, Ryan Johansen has taken over Nikita Filatov‘s spot as the Blue Jackets top prospect.

Filatov had been the Jackets top prospect in the past four top-20 updates, but with his inability to secure an offensive role in the NHL, combined with Ryan Johansen’s strong showing at the World Junior Championships, the twenty-year-old Filatov drops a spot to number two.

1. (2) Ryan Johansen, C, 18, 8.0C
Acquired: 1st Round, 4th overall in 2010

Though he sits outside of the top thirty in WHL scoring, Ryan Johansen has been one of the most dangerous, skilful, and consistent forwards all season long, something that was further proven at the World Junior Championships in which he was a standout for team Canada. He managed nine points (3 goals, 6 assists) in seven games in the tournament and was on the ice in all key situations. Johansen also showed off his versatility throughout the tournament, making the transition from center to the wing with relative ease and still able to show off his elite playmaking skills.

Though he did look comfortable on the wing in the WJC, Johansen is a natural big-bodied center with all-around talent; he is just as likely to find the back of the net as he is to find the open man, as evidenced by his 27 goals and 34 assists on the season. Truly, Johansen is a multi-threat center. As mentioned, his consistency has been crucial to his success this season. In 46 games, he’s been held without a point on just 12 occasions, and has not gone longer than two games without a point – and that happened just once, early in October. Further, if pace is any indication, Johansen is set to finish off what will likely be his last season in junior with a bang; he’s bettered his point production in each of the succeeding months this season, most recently scoring 15 points in 12 games in January.

Complementing his offensive abilities, Johansen is no slouch in his own end either; in fact, the eighteen-year-old leads his team in plus/minus at plus-31 through just 46 games. With the complete game he brings to the table, it would not be a surprise to see Johansen debut for the Blue Jackets come next October.

2. (1) Nikita Filatov, LW, 20, 8.0C
Acquired: 1st Round, 6th overall in 2008

More so than the previous two season, expectations were not only that Nikita Filatov would make the Blue Jackets out of camp, but that he’d excel in an offensive role. With the departure of defensive-minded Ken Hitchcock, Filatov was expected to be a key offensive piece in new head coach Scott Arniel’s system. Yet, after 23 games in Columbus, Filatov finds himself back in the AHL. In those 23 games, the enigmatic Russian winger failed to score a single goal, while adding seven assists, struggling to cement his role on the top two lines.

Since being demoted to Springfield, he hasn’t exactly dominated, but has been slowly regaining the offensive form that was absent in Columbus; however, he’s been out of action since January 15th with a stiff neck, which seems to fit the story of Nikita Filatov fairly well up until this point, as he’s been unable to find stability thus far in North America.

In the 14 games he’s played for Springfield, he’s managed three goals and six assists for nine points, but many feel he still has some work to do. The Blue Jackets are in a delicate situation with the Russian, but by many accounts, he’s fully committed to playing in the NHL; he just has to earn it first.

3. (3) John Moore, D, 20, 7.5C
Acquired: 1st Round, 21st overall in 2009

Though currently in Columbus and having played his first career NHL game on February 5th against the Oilers, John Moore has spent the first half of his first professional season in Springfield of the AHL. The transition to pro hockey hasn’t exactly been smooth for the former first round pick, but as evidenced by his recent call-up, he’ll be given every chance to flourish into a top pairing defenseman with the Blue Jackets.

The timing of Moore’s recall is a bit odd considering the month of January he’s had. Not only has the month been one in which Moore’s offensive production seemingly dried up, but his defensive consistency suffered quite a bit. Not that plus/minus is always an exact indicator of defensive play, but Moore’s -13 in just 14 January games is more than a bit troubling. In fact, up until January, the rookie defender was just -1 on the season. In terms of offense, his two points in those 14 games is a steep decline from the seven points he registered in just 11 December contests.

January aside, Moore’s season has been fairly respectable. Through 47 games with Springfield, he sits second in scoring by defenseman, behind fellow rookie David Savard, with three goals and 15 assists, and has seen sparse minutes on both special teams. He also participated in the AHL All-Star Game in mid-January.

4. (5) Matt Calvert, LW, 21, 7.0B
Acquired: 5th Round, 127th overall in 2008

Matt Calvert has been a prospect on the rise since his impressive showing at Blue Jackets training camp in the 2009-10 season which resulted in a contract offer that Calvert chose to decline, choosing instead to play his overage season in the WHL, where his hometown Brandon Wheat Kings were to host the Memorial Cup. It could easily be argued that the experience only helped prepare Calvert even further for his first professional season, as the twenty-one-year-old has continued to impress.

In 38 games for Springfield, he had recorded 25 points and along with Tomas Kubalik, formed a legitimate rookie one-two punch, as the pair was first and second in club scoring; however, Calvert has since dressed in 14 NHL games, and as has been the case over the past two seasons, he continues to shine.

In those 14 games, Calvert has three goals, two assists and has moved around in the lineup quite a bit, at times playing on the second line, to playing stretches on the fourth line in a checking role. Certainly, he has not solidified a spot on the Blue Jackets, but he has not been out of place in the NHL thus far. Though it isn’t a certainty that he finishes the season in Columbus, it seems at this point a safe bet to assume he’ll begin the 2011-12 season in a Blue Jackets uniform.

5. (6) David Savard, D, 20, 7.5C
uired: 4th Round, 94th overall in 2009

Much like Calvert, Savard has been rising in the Blue Jackets system since the beginning of last season, in large part due to a strong training camp and a successful season in Moncton of the QMJHL in which he led his team to a league championship. A long shot to make the Blue Jackets roster out of this season’s training camp, Savard has since settled nicely in Springfield of the AHL, leading the team’s defensemen in scoring with 19 points in 42 games, including five goals.

He’s also been fairly consistent all season long in the defensive end, settling in at minus-three through 42 games, and avoiding any prolonged stretches of unimpressive play. Perhaps what’s most impressive about Savard’s play this season has been the discipline he’s shown despite having to contain the league’s top players; in total, the rookie defenseman has taken just three minor penalties, all in the first month of the season. Currently, he has gone 34 games without taking a penalty.

With the recent trend of Falcon defensemen getting a look at the NHL level, including John Moore and Grant Clitsome, it wouldn’t be a shock if Savard were to see time in Columbus before the end of the season, especially given the fact he’s been one of the Falcons most consistent defensemen this season.

6. (18) Tomas Kubalik, RW, 20, 7.5C
Acquired: 5th Round, 135th overall in 2008

Tomas Kubalik, at least thus far, has shown the ability to carry over his offensive production from junior hockey to the AHL game, which was one of the big concerns for the big-bodied Czech. A standout a year prior for the Victoriaville Tigres, there were still questions regarding Kubalik’s skating and whether he’d be able to keep up with the pace of pro hockey. Kubalik has not only kept up, but he’s excelled; in fact, he was a surprise at Blue Jacket training camp and was nearly able to crack the final roster. Upper management liked what they say in the rugged winger, particularly his desire to get physical and go to the dirty areas of the ice, but in the end, felt it was best for his development to begin the season in Springfield. He’s been a fixture on the top two lines for the AHL affiliate, leading the team in points in 34 (16 goals, 18 assists). He also is among the top rookie scorers in the AHL.

7. (4) Cody Goloubef, D, 21, 7.5C
Acquired: 2nd Round, 37th overall in 2008

Pushed out of the top five due more to the rise of both Calvert and Savard rather than his own play, Goloubef has actually enjoyed a fairly decent rookie season, all things considered. Through 32 games, he’s a modest minus-six and has registered 14 points (four goals, 10 assists). Like Savard and Moore ahead of him, he’s played in a variety of situations, given a great amount of responsibility in his first professional season. Goloubef, in fact, plays a similar game to David Savard, as both can provide offense from the point, while being adept defenders in their own zone. Goloubef even seems to have improved his offensive game since turning pro; his 14 points in just 32 games equal his collegiate career high, which was set in 40 games. Like John Moore already has and David Savard likely will, Goloubef could perhaps find himself auditioning in Columbus near the end of the season.

8. (11) Cameron Atkinson, RW, 22, 7.5D
Acquired: 6th Round, 157th overall in 2008

In his junior season with Boston College, Atkinson has not only emerged as one of their top offensive players, but one of the premier players in NCAA, having been among the early candidates for the Hobey Baker award and perhaps likely to be a finalist for the award. He’s certainly undersized at just 5’9, but the former sixth round pick is one of the top goal scorers in college hockey, scoring 20 goals in just 26 games so far this season; he scored 30 last season. In total, Atkinson has 35 points in those 26 games (20 goals, 15 assists). To put his offensive dominance in perspective, he has 16 and 19 points more respectively than teammates Jimmy Hayes (TOR) and Chris Kreider (NYR), both of whom are better known than Atkinson and regarded as better prospects by most. Of course, Atkinson does have problems to face going forward – the biggest of which, his 5’9, 166 pound frame. He is, however, a tenacious forward with a will to go to the tough spots on the ice. If that style and fearlessness carries over to the pro game, Atkinson could enjoy a lengthy, successful career.

9. (7) Petr Straka, LW, 18, 7.0C
Acquired: 2nd Round, 55th overall in 2010

After a promising rookie season with Rimouski of the QMJHL that led to his being selected late in the second round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, Petr Straka has been somewhat of a disappointment this season. After registering over a point-per-game with 64 in 62 games last season, he’s managed just 21 points in 32 games this year, scoring just nine goals. Last year, he was a key cog in the team’s offense, proven by the fact he finished second in team scoring – this year, he sits tenth in scoring on his team. Straka recently missed three games with an undisclosed injury. Upon returning, he’ll hope to improve upon his first half numbers and gain momentum for next season, where it is possible that he could make the jump to the AHL if the organization feels he’s ready.

10. (8) Dalton Smith, LW, 18, 6.0B
Acquired: 2nd Round, 34th overall in 2010

Smith is very much relatable to Straka in that they were both taken in the second round of this past June’s entry draft, and after having highly productive draft years, they’ve both seemed to regress offensively this season. Smith, who still brings an element of physicality to his game, hasn’t been quite as effective in the offensive zone, registering just 18 points in 46 games, sitting tenth in scoring on the well-regarded Ottawa 67’s. One possible explanation for the receding offensive numbers in Smith’s game could be the emergence of Shane Prince, who is now getting the bulk of minutes on the left side of the top line alongside highly regarded Tyler Toffoli (LAK). Yet, Smith is a player that, even when he isn’t scoring, his contributions are noticeable – he fights, plays with an edge, and is responsible enough defensively – and it is those intangibles which increase his chances of being an effective pro hockey player.

11. (10) Theo Ruth, D, 21, 6.5C
Acquired: Trade with Washington, 2008

Throughout the first three months of the season, Ruth struggled getting into the lineup on a consistent basis, playing just 21 games in that time. He plays a strictly defensive game so when he isn’t performing well in his own end, it stands out even more so. Thus, Ruth was often a healthy scratch, playing sparingly. However, the seasoned former collegiate defenseman was able to earn minutes on a consistent basis in January, playing in all of the team’s 14 games. In total, he’s managed one goal and three assists in 33 games, while being a minus-eight throughout the season. Unlike the preceding defenseman on this list, Ruth i
s more of a project defenseman and is likely a few more years away from a sniff at the NHL level.

12. (9) Maksim Mayorov, RW, 21, 6.5C
Acquired: 4th Round, 94th overall in 2007

While Mayorov has been a fairly decent AHL’er to this point, he’s yet been able to break out and take the next step offensively. He scored 31 and 32 points respectively in the past two seasons, his first two in North America. This season, in 46 games, he’s recorded 23 points. Moreover, he’s been inconsistent this season; in the month of November, he registered nine points in 12 games, yet, in the other three plus months of the season, he’s managed a combined 12 points, going on several extended pointless streaks. Mayorov has the build and physical skills to be a successful NHLer, but his time is running out. He’ll likely get another audition with Columbus before the end of the season.

13. (15) Will Weber, D, 22, 7.0C
Acquired: 2nd Round, 53rd overall in 2007

Weber is regarded as one of the best defensive defenseman in college hockey, and was recognized as such last season, receiving the CCHA Best Defensive Defenseman award. He is not completely inept in the offensive end either. He’s scored a combined 15 points over the past two seasons, and through 24 games this season, he has one goal and seven assists for eight points. As good as he’s been once again this season, the biggest story surrounding Weber has been a horrific incident on October 24th in which he was on the wrong side of a skate to the neck. Weber required 100 stitches and 15 staples to close the gash on his neck, but, surprisingly, he was back on the ice in just over three weeks. Clearly, as demonstrated by his quick recovery, Weber has both the drive and determination to go with his continually improving defensive play. He’s eligible to play one more season with Miami in the NCAA.

14. (14) Thomas Larkin, D, 19, 6.5C
Acquired: 5th Round, 137th overall in 2009

Larkin’s sophomore season has hardly been equal to his freshman season in terms of success. Not only has he experienced a regression in offensive statistics, down from 19 points in 33 games last season to just six points in 27 games this year. Likewise, his team, Colgate University, has also experienced a regression. After winning their first two games of the season, they’ve gone 3-20-2, losing quite a few games wide three or four goals. Larkin, however, remains an intriguing prospect given his sheer size and skating ability. He’s a long term project, and will likely spend the next two seasons at the college level, attempting to improve the finer points of his defensive game.

15. (17) Allen York, G, 21, 7.0C
Acquired: 6th Round, 158th overall in 2007

York had a decent season last year after assuming the starting job with the emergent R.P.I, but he’s been phenomenal this season. He’s been included on the early list for the Hobey Baker, going 16-6-3 thus far with a 1.89 goals against average and a .932 save percentage. With the lack of goaltending depth at the pro level, and York appearing to be the most ready of the Blue Jackets three goalies outside of professional hockey, he may be pressured into signing a contract with the organization following this season. However, the Alberta product is eligible to return for his senior season.

16. (12) Kevin Lynch, C, 19, 6.5C
Acquired: 2nd Round, 56th overall in 2009

Since being drafted with lofty expectations due to a tremendous U18 World Championships, Kevin Lynch has slowly slid down the Top-20. He had a slow start to his freshman season at the University of Michigan last year, but with a strong second half, was able to amass 16 points in 45 games. Like several other Blue Jackets collegiate prospects expecting a rise in offensive production this season, Lynch has struggled, registering just nine points in 30 games, sitting 15th in team scoring. However, Lynch is regarded more so for his defensive abilities, and if he is to make the NHL, it will likely be centering the third or fourth line. That said, with Michigan’s top three scorers all in their senior years this season, there will be amble opportunity for Lynch to succeed in a scoring role next season.

17. (16) Matt Rust, C, 21, 6.5C
Acquired: Trade with Florida, 2010

A teammate of Kevin Lynch at the University of Michigan, Matt Rust currently sits third in team scoring with 19 points in 30 games (four goals, 15 assists). He’s been a fairly productive player for the Wolverines in his four seasons, and emerged as a top playmaking threat with 27 assists last season. The assist total this season, with 15, is not much of a concern; rather, it is his drop in goal production in a senior season in which he should be posting his best offensive totals that is somewhat concerning. Rust has just four goals in those 30 games, the least of any forward out of the team’s top ten scorers. Rust is not guaranteed a contract with the Blue Jackets following this season, but it seems likely that they’ll given him a look with Springfield of the AHL.

18. (13) Brent Regner, D, 21, 6.0C
Acquired: 5th Round, 137th overall in 2008

Regner came into the AHL last season as an undersized defenseman with decent offensive upside, though he has yet to realize that potential, let alone earn consistent ice-time in Springfield. He played 50 games last season, earning a modest 20 points in total. This season, after being a healthy scratch for much of October, he’s registered just eight points in 29 games (two goals, six assists), and is a minus-six. His two goals came in back-to-back games in mid-November, and he has yet to score since. With John Moore, Cody Goloubef, David Savard, and Theo Ruth above him on the AHL depth chart, and up-and-coming defensemen like Will Weber, time is running out for Regner.

19. (20) Austin Madaisky, D, 18, 6.0C
Acquired: 5th Round, 124th overall in 2010

Playing up to last season’s standards, Austin Madaisky has fit in perfectly in Kamloops this season, scoring seven goals and adding 20 assists from the back-end in 55 games. He’s been fairly consistent, averaging near seven points a month, and avoiding any long pointless stretches. He’s currently minus-13 on the season, but for a team that has given up 55 more goals than they’ve scored, that doesn’t seem to be so much of a reflection on his play as it is on his team as a whole. In fact, the Blazers do not have a single defenseman with a plus/minus greater than zero. Madaisky has shown quite a bit in terms of physical play this season, as well as a habit of dropping the mitts. Madaisky recently fractured a vertebrae, however, and is likely out for the season.

20. (NR) Brandon Archibald, D, 18, 6.0C
Acquired: 4th Round, 94th overall in 2010

Split between Saginaw and Sault Ste. Marie, Brandon Archibald has 21 points in 50 games. He was one of the top defensemen on the Greyhounds, earning minutes on the top pairing, but he seen a decrease in ice-time with second-place Saginaw. Thus, his production has dropped some with Saginaw, registering just two assists in 13 games, but it is good for his development to gain the experience he’ll likely receive with a post-season run in Saginaw. Archibald has one more season of junior eligibility, and with the glut of promising defensemen in the Blue Jackets organization, he’ll almost assuredly find himself back with another OHL team next season, if not Saginaw.