After missing the playoffs for a second consecutive season and looking to turn the corner as a franchise, the Columbus Blue Jackets made the biggest splash at the 2011 NHL Draft, acquiring Jeff Carter from the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for Jakub Voracek, the eighth overall pick in 2007, and the team’s first and third round selections in 2011.
It is a trade that looks lopsided in retrospect – Carter lasted just 39 games with the Blue Jackets, while Voracek evolved into an elite playmaker and the Flyers used the eighth overall pick to draft Sean Couturier – but it made sense at the time. Columbus was looking to build a winner around Rick Nash and a young core, while hoping to provide playoff hockey to a starving market.
Looking back, it wasn’t all bad at the 2011 draft for the Blue Jackets. General Manager Scott Howson and the team’s scouting staff seem to have hit on the majority of the team’s six draft picks; Boone Jenner, the team’s first pick at 37th overall, has become a top-six forward, while all but one (Mike Reilly) signed and are still with the organization.
Boone Jenner, C, Oshawa Generals (OHL), 2nd round, 37th overall
Status: NHL Player
NHL Games: 185
Boone Jenner was a point-per-game player prior to being selected by the Blue Jackets, but some scouts thought the Dorchester, Ont. native’s offensive potential was limited. His most valued attributes prior to the draft were his work ethic, size and tenacity. Yet the following season, Jenner proved himself offensively, leading the Generals in scoring with 82 points in 56 games and dressing for the Canadian World Junior team.
As a pro, it took Jenner little time to establish himself as a valued forward for the Blue Jackets. He began his pro career in the 2012-13 season and played just five games for the AHL‘s Springfield Falcons before receiving the call to Columbus, where he went on to play 72 games, scoring 16 goals and adding 13 assists. His 2014-15 campaign was off to a great start but was hampered by a stress fracture in his back, which limited him to 31 games.
This past season, however, Jenner was arguably the Blue Jackets most effective all-around forward; he played in all 82 games, scored 30 goals and added 19 assists, finishing just four points back of Brandon Saad for the team lead in points. He was named an alternate captain at the beginning of the season and looks to be part of Columbus’ leadership group for years to come.
T.J. Tynan, C, Notre Dame (CCHA), 3rd round, 66th overall
NHL Games: 0
Though he recorded 72 points in 60 games with the USHL‘s Des Moines Buccaneers in 2009-10, T.J. Tynan went undrafted, likely because of his (lack of) size. However, the Illinois native proved himself more than capable of playing against bigger and tougher competition as a freshman with Notre Dame in 2010-11. Tynan led the Fighting Irish in scoring in his first year of collegiate hockey, recording 54 points in just 44 games, prompting the Blue Jackets to take him in the third round in the upcoming draft.
Tynan never equaled those numbers of his freshman year, but he compiled an impressive four-year stint at the University of Notre Dame; over the next three seasons, Tynan had 107 points in 120 games.
He turned pro in 2014-15, where he displayed his impressive playmaking abilities with the AHL’s Springfield Falcons, leading the team in assists (35) and points (48). Tynan again led the Blue Jackets AHL affiliate, the Lake Erie Monsters, in assists (40) and points (46) this past season. It is surprising he has yet to play a game in the NHL given his productivity, and it is certainly likely his size has held him back.
Mike Reilly, D, Shattuck St. Mary’s (Minnesota), 4th round, 98th overall
NHL Games: 29
Like Tynan above, Mike Reilly might have fallen in the draft due to his lack of size. In 2011-12 with the RBC Cup-winning Penticton Vees, Reilly was an offensive dynamo, finishing the season with 83 points in 51 games.
Lacking in size and defensive zone play, his game grew considerably through the course of three years at the University of Minnesota – and so did he, hitting a late growth spurt and filling out to his current stature of 6’2 and 191 pounds. His freshman season with the Golden Gophers proved to be quite the adjustment, but he still finished the year as the team’s third-highest scoring defenseman with 14 points in 37 games. The following season was a breakout year for Reilly as he finished the season with 33 points in 41 games, and in his final season of college hockey in 2014-15 he led the Golden Gophers in scoring with 42 points in 39 games.
Reilly’s production and his skating ability led many to believe he was destined for the NHL, and he intended to turn pro and forego his senior season, though he wouldn’t play for the Blue Jackets. As was his right, Reilly opted to head to free agency, where he accepted an offer from the Minnesota Wild. The hype may have been a bit over the top, however, as the defenseman played just 29 games with the Wild as a 22 year old and instead spent the majority of the season with the AHL’s Iowa Wild.
Seth Ambroz, RW, Omaha Lancers (USHL), 5th round, 128th overall
NHL Games: 0
Projected as a big-bodied power forward, Seth Ambroz has been unable to live up to expectations. Following back-to-back 40-plus point seasons with the USHL’s Omaha Lancers, Ambroz had two straight underwhelming seasons at the University of Minnesota, before turning the corner in 2013-14.
As a junior, Ambroz scored 14 goals and added nine assists for the Golden Gophers. His 23 points was the ninth-most of the team but his 14 tallies tied for second. The following season, Ambroz scored 12 goals and finished eighth on the team in scoring. Because of his skating deficiencies and lack of offensive creativity, Ambroz was the only one of the six 2011 draft picks to not be offered an entry-level deal by the Blue Jackets.
He spent the 2015-16 with the ECHL‘s Cincinnati Cyclones, recording 10 points in 58 games.
Lukas Sedlak was one of the top forwards in the Czech Republic during his draft year, wearing an ‘A’ for the country at the U18 World Championship. After being selected by the Blue Jackets, he was drafted 14th overall by the Chicoutimi Saguenéens in the CHL Import Draft.
Proving his desire to play in the NHL, Sedlak came to North America the following season and spent two seasons with the Saguenéens, recording a combined 79 points in 98 regular season games. He didn’t by any means light the league on fire, but displayed an above average shot and a willingness to play a physical style of play.
He was signed to an entry-level deal in April of 2013 and debuted with the organization’s AHL affiliate in Springfield the following season. In three AHL seasons, the Czech center has recorded 48 points through 159 games. He might be hard-pressed to earn another contract to come back next season, although he is turning in a strong showing for the Lake Erie Monsters during the AHL affiliate’s run to the 2016 Calder Cup Finals.
Anton Forsberg has been one of the surprises of the 2011 NHL Draft, proving to be a valuable goaltender through two seasons with the organization. Prior to signing with the Blue Jackets at the end of the 2013-14 season, Forsberg played in 36 games for MODO of the SHL over two seasons. He also dressed for the team’s U20 team the year after the draft and was loaned to Södertälje SK of the second tier for 33 games in 2012-13.
He has looked out of his element in nine NHL games since signing with Columbus, but has given the team’s AHL affiliate solid goaltending; this season, Forsberg compiled a 2.40 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage, helping lead Lake Erie to the postseason along with Joonas Korpisalo.
One of Forsberg or Korpisalo might get a chance to back up Sergei Bobrovsky in Columbus next season.
Hockey’s Future looks back at a pair of the Blue Jackets’ draftees from 2011, with video footage of picks Boone Jenner and Mike Reilly from the 2011 NHL Combine.
Notable Playoff Performances
The Lake Erie Monsters have enjoyed an impressive playoff run, and a lot of their success is due to a player who spent the year playing college hockey. Zach Werenski, the team’s first round pick in last June’s draft, led the team in scoring through nine games with four goals and six assists. Josh Anderson and Oliver Bjorkstrand, who contributed to the team’s regular season success, were second and third in scoring with eight points each. Between the pipes, Joonas Korpisalo had been winning games, posting a 6-2 record, but sported an unassuming 2.96 goals-against average and a .898 save percentage.
Keegan Kolesar, the team’s third round pick in last June’s draft, followed up an impressive regular season with 15 points in 16 games for the WHL‘s Seattle Thunderbirds, who made it to the league finals before losing in five games to the Brandon Wheat Kings.
Prospect of the Month
As if scoring 14 points in his final seven games of collegiate hockey wasn’t enough for Zach Werenski, the defenseman turned pro and immediately became a force for the AHL’s Lake Erie Monsters, leading the team in scoring with 11 points through 12 playoff games. He scored the series-clinching goal in overtime of the team’s second round series against the Grand Rapids Griffins. It is looking more and more likely he begins the 2016-17 season in the NHL, which is impressive considering he doesn’t turn 19 until July.