Blue Jacket Draft Recap with a Crunch Twist

By Jeff Parzych

For a franchise heading into only their third year of existence like the Columbus Blue Jackets, the 2002 NHL Entry Draft was a prime opportunity for the club to continue to try and stockpile as much talent as possible. With that in mind, the Jackets did an excellent job and with a series of deft moves ended up selecting 13 players in the draft and also added one other prospect via the trade route.

In the upcoming paragraphs we will take a look at the 2002 Jacket selections. We also will discuss, since my prime area of coverage is the Syracuse Crunch, how and if these prospects fit into the future plans for the Crunch.

When looking at the Columbus draft from a Crunch perspective it should be noted that over the two years the Jackets have been in the NHL, only 2 of the previous 22 players selected by Columbus have played in Syracuse. Only Martin Paroulek and Andrej Nedorost, ninth round choices taken #278 and #286 overall in the 2000 Entry Draft have spent a considerable time with the Crunch. Pascal Leclaire, the Jackets first pick, eighth overall, in the 2001 draft appeared briefly after a signing an A.T.O with the Crunch late in the 2001-02 AHL season. He backed up J.F. Labbe in Game Six of the Western Conference Semifinals, his only time in uniform for Syracuse.

It also should be noted it is not unusual for a team to have that few prospects play in the American League during that time span. It usually takes a prospect a few years after being drafted to climb his way through the ranks and make it to the AHL and beyond.

An example of this is the two, possibly three players from the inaugural Jackets draft will now be working their way to Syracuse. Right wing Ben Knopp, a third rounder in 2000, has a better than decent chance to don a Crunch jersey this upcoming season.

Defenseman Scott Heffernan, the second of three fifth round selections by Columbus in 2000, is also slated for Syracuse. A third possibility, depending on how the Blue Jackets goaltending situation plays out, is Shane Bendera. Columbus’s sixth round selection, #169 overall in 2000, could spend some time in net for the Crunch in 2002-03.

2002 Columbus Blue Jacket Draft

Round One-Pick #1:Rick Nash
Team: London (OHL)
Position: Left wing
Height/Weight: 6-3,194
Age: 18
Central Scouting: #2 NA Skaters

Analysis:Jackets traded up to top spot to make sure they got their man in Nash. Still think Rick Dudley and/or the Florida Panthers must have owed Columbus GM Doug MacLean money to make the trade that they did. Yes, the Panthers also ended up selecting the man they wanted in Jay Bouwmeester, but they had to give up two picks to Atlanta to ensure they wouldn’t select the Medicine Hat defenseman. In return, the Panthers have the option to flip flop picks with the Jackets in the 2003 Entry Draft. Granted that may turn out to be worthwhile come next June, but they probably did Columbus a big favor.

As far as Nash is concerned, he is the real deal. MacLean has stated on more than one occasion that Nash was their guy all along and it easy to see why. He is the type of player who could eventually define a franchise. He is also another pick for the Jackets that gives them some much needed size to go along with 2001 picks Kiel McLeod (6-5, 211) and Tim Jackman (6-3, 190).

Crunch Impact:If everything goes as planned for the Jackets brain trust, Nash will never don a Crunch uniform. Columbus will give him every opportunity to make the big club, bringing him along slowly in a third line situation. Situation very similar to 2000 first round selection Rusty Klesla, only Nash will be one year younger than Klesla when he attempts to make the jump. If things don’t work out for Nash, he’ll go back to juniors although he probably doesn’t have anything left to prove at that level.

Round Two-Pick #41: Joakim Lindstrom
Team: MoDo (Sweden Elite)
Position: Left Wing
Height/Weight: 6-0, 187
Age: 18
Central Scouting: #13 Euro Skaters

Analysis:Jackets traded down twice before selecting Lindstrom at #41 of second round. Stock has really soared in last six months prior to draft as he was ranked #22 at midseason and finished #13. Described by the Prospect Advisor as having good offensive ability with the skills to put the puck in the net, Lindstrom had seven points (4g,3a) in 42 games for MoDo. While those are not gaudy stats by any means, it was only his first season in the elite league and scouts tend to like the fact that he doesn’t have any real glaring weaknesses in his game.

Crunch Impact:Don’t look for Lindstrom during the 2002-03 season in Syracuse as he probably will spend another season honing his skills with MoDo in Sweden. Is a possible candidate for Crunch in 2003-04.

Round Three-Pick # 65: Ole-Kristian Tollefsen
Team: Lillehammer (Norway)
Position: Defenseman
Height/Weight: 6-2, 200
Age: 18
Central Scouting: Not Listed

Analysis:Was considered a late round selection but was not listed by Central Scouting. Could be considered somewhat a reach by the Jackets. Has been playing in the Norwegian Elite series as an 18 year- old where he posted two goals and five assists to go along with 72 penalty minutes in 37 games. He has very good size already and should fill out even more in years to come. He will need some time to get accustomed to the North American brand of hockey.

Crunch Impact:Talked of how he will need some time to develop in North American. He should receive that chance in juniors as the Brandon Wheat Kings selected him with the ninth overall pick in the 2002 Canadian Hockey League Import Draft. He probably will spend at least one season in juniors, but should be a prime candidate for the Crunch by 2004.

Round Three-Pick # 65: Jeff Genovy
Team: Des Moines (USHL)
Position: Center
Height/Weight: 6-3, 191
Age: 19
Central Scouting: #38 NA Skaters

Analysis:Another player whose stock was soaring come draft day. He was ranked #93 at midseason but jumped to #38 in the final rankings. In his first season in the USHL he recorded 23 goals, 23 assists and 86 penalty minutes in 52 games with Des Moines. He is a good face-off man who can play both on the power play and on the penalty kill. He is another player who will add size to the Jacket line-up in the future. Outside of Nash, Genovy probably holds the highest upside of the Jacket 2002 selections.

Crunch Impact:Genovy is expected to attend Clarkson university in the fall. Another very strong possible candidate to skate with the Crunch by 2004. Syracuse fans, if given the opportunity, will quickly fall in love with this tough center as he plays the type of physical game that will endear him to the Crunch faithful.

Round Four-Pick #98: Ivan Tkachenko
Team: Yaroslavl (Russia)
Position: Forward
Height/Weight: 5-10, 183
Age: 22
Central Scouting: Not listed.

Analysis:First player selected by the Jackets on Day 2 of draft. Another player not listed by Central Scouting that may be considered a reach by Columbus. Skated last season with Lokomotiv Yaroslavl in the Russian Hockey League where he registered 13 goals to go along with 21 assists in 44 games. He also played for Russia at the 2002 World Hockey Championship in Sweden and scored three goals and had two assists in nine games. Size is a big question for Tkachenko but in an interview with Stuart McComish for, Columbus Director of Amateur Scouting Don Boyd classified Tkachenko as “a speedy forward who is bigger than people give him credit for.”

Crunch Impact:The first of four more seasoned European players drafted by the Jackets, each has a small chance to be with the Crunch this upcoming season. Tkachenko has been told by MacLean that he will challenge for a job in training camp. If he displays that he can contribute in Columbus he might fall victim to a numbers game and may end up in Syracuse to get some more ice time. That way he will be around as depth for the Jackets if the need arises. Other scenario could have him returning to play in Russia to further his development, returning one or two years down the road.

Round Four-Pick #119: Jekab Redlihs
Team: NY Apple Core (EJHL)
Position: Defenseman
Height/Weight: 6-2,185
Age: 20
Central Scouting: #113 NA Skaters

Analysis:Latvian native played for his homeland in 2000 World Junior Championships. One of only two defensemen drafted by Jackets in 2002. He played last season in for NY Apple Core in EJHL where he registered 38 points (12g,26a) in 86 games. Another player who has good size and should fill out even more in years to come. Needs to continue to adapt to North American style of hockey.

Crunch Impact:No chance for 2002-03 as he will be attending Boston University in fall. Outside chance he may only stay one or two seasons being a little older than most incoming freshman. Best case scenario will be 2003 or 2004.

Round Five-Pick # 133: Lasse Pirjeta
Team: Karpat (Finland)
Position: Center
Height/Weight: 6-3, 222
Age: 28
Central Scouting: Not Listed

Analysis:A veteran player who scouts have grown quite familiar with over the past 10 years. Last season played with Karpat of the Finnish Elite League and led the league in scoring with 15 goals and 26 assists in 55 games. Although he has played overseas for most of his career, he has been described as a North American type-player. Columbus believes he may help them right away in 2002.

Crunch Impact:He has already signed with the Jackets to a one-year deal worth $500,000. Hitch for Crunch is that it is a one-way deal so Columbus will give him a very long look. He has been mentioned in the same breath as Kiel McLeod. It seems to be the case that one or other will make Jackets. Having that one-way deal could give the edge to Pirjeta.

Round Six-Pick # 168: Tim Konsorada
Team: Brandon (WHL)
Position: Right wing
Height/Weight: 6-0, 201
Age: 18
Central Scouting: #49 NA Skaters

Analysis: In his second season in juniors, Konsorada recorded 17 goals and 28 assists in 45 games for the Wheat Kings. He skated in the 2002 CHL Top Prospects Game and scored a goal in that contest. Will be a teammate of fellow Jacket draft pick Ole-Kristian Tollefson who was recently drafted by Brandon in the Canadian Hockey League Import Draft.

Crunch Impact:Heading into his third season in the WHL, he has a good chance of becoming a member of the Crunch in 2003-04. Another player in along line of recent Jacket picks who will add some size to the Crunch and hopefully eventually Columbus.

Round Six-Pick # 184: Jaroslav Balastik
Team: Zlin (Czech Republic)
Position: Forward
Height/Weight: 6-0,198
Age: 21
Central Scouting: Not Listed

Analysis:Played last season for Zlin of the Czech Extraleague where he finished third in scoring with a career best 25 goals and 19 assists in 50 games. The second of four older Europeans drafted by Columbus has been described as having a nose for the net.

Crunch Impact:Like fourth round pick Tkachenko,Balastik is expected in training camp in September and will battle for a spot in Columbus. Same situation all around for Balastik, if he impresses in camp but can’t crack the Jacket line-up, he could end up in Syracuse waiting for an opportunity. Also could return to the Czech league with Columbus monitoring his progress while retaining his rights.

Round Seven-Pick # 199: Greg Mauldin
Team: Massachusetts-Amherst (Hockey East)
Position: Center
Height/Weight: 5-11, 180
Age: 20
Central Scouting: #169 NA Skaters

Analysis:Mauldin just completed his sophomore season with the Minutemen and was the teams leading scorer with 12 goals and 12 assists in 33 games. Size a possible question for the 20-year old from Hollaston, Mass. Was named EJHL MVP with the Boston Jr. Bruins in 2000-01.

Crunch Impact:Supposed to return to Umass-Amherst for his junior season. Candidate for the Crunch most likely in 2004-2005.

Round Seven-Pick # 225: Steven Goertzen
Team: Seattle (WHL)
Position: Right wing
Height/Weight: 6-1, 190
Age: 18
Central Scouting: Not Listed

Analysis:Another player with good size, Goertzen registered 9 goals, 15 assists to go along with 44 penalty minutes in 66 games during his rookie season. Also had two goals in 11 WHL playoff games for Seattle this past season.

Crunch Impact:A real project for Columbus. Probably won’t see Syracuse until at least 2004-05.

Round Eight-Pick # 231: Jaroslav Kracik
Team: Plzen (Czech Republic)
Position: Center/Wing
Height/Weight: 6-0, 190
Age: 19
Central Scouting: #103 Euro Skaters

Analysis:Another European selected by Jackets, this one a little younger. Played mostly with Plzen junior team where he registered 14 goals and 35 assists in only 39 games. Made an appearance late in the season with senior club and had one assist in four games.

Crunch Impact:Most likely to spend a few more seasons in the Czech league where he should become a regular on the senior club. Could don a Crunch uniform in 2004.

Round Nine-Pick # 263: Sergei Mozyakin
Team: CSKA Moscow (Russia)
Position: Left wing
Height/Weight: 5-10, 165
Age: 21
Central Scouting: Not Listed

Analysis:Columbus traded a ninth rounder in 2003 to Florida to obtain pick to tab Mozyakin. Recorded 64 points (34g,30a) in 54 games for CSKA Moscow. Also had 21 points (9g,12a) in 12 games during the playoffs to lead his club to the league championship. Size will be a question for him, has the skill, but will need to put some weight on.

Crunch Impact:Is a little older, but the talk is that he will return to Europe for at least one more year. Possible 2003 candidate.

**Acquired via trade:Columbus also acquired Right wing Mike Pandolfo in a trade with the Buffalo Sabres.
Team: Boston University (Hockey East)
Position: Right wing
Height/Weight: 6-3, 221
Age: 21

Analysis:Originally drafted by Buffalo in the third round of the 1998 entry draft, he could never come to terms with the Sabres. One more player that GM Doug MacLean picked up to increase the overall size of the Jackets. A former captain at B.U., he led them with 22 goals and 18 assists in 40 games with the Terriers. A strong overall player, he was named Hockey East’s best defensive forward.

Crunch Impact:The one player with the best chance to appear for the Crunch this season. Would be a welcome site in Syracuse and would give the Crunch some desperately needed slot area presence.

Crunch One-Timers:

Development Camp:The Jackets are holding their 2002 development camp at the CoreComm Ice Haus this week. It is a seven-day camp that boasts the likes of Rostislav Klesla, Pascal Leclaire, and 2002 number one draft pick Rick Nash.

Seven players who have appeared in Syracuse are attending the camp led by Crunch veteran Chris Nielsen. The other players are Matt Dziedusycki, Ben Knopp, Trevor Ettinger, Paul Manning, Tyler Sloan, and goaltender Karl Goehring. All but Knopp have appeared in a game for the Crunch at some point.

Another player, Scott Heffernan, a defenseman penciled in at Syracuse for the upcoming season is also attending the camp. One other note of interest is that they have Trevor Ettinger listed as a defenseman. He skated last season as a forward with the Crunch, but may be more effective on the blue line in the future.

Jackman Signs:The Blue Jackets signed right wing Tim Jackman to a multi-year deal on Tuesday. The former Minnesota State University-Mankato player was the Blue Jackets second pick, 38th overall in 2001. Last season he posted 14 goals and 14 assists to go along with 86 penalty minutes in 36 games with MSU-Mankato. Doug MacLean has been quoted as saying that “he (Jackman) will have an opportunity to make the Blue Jackets roster in the fall.” If he fails to crack the Jackets line-up, look for him to be learning the pro game this upcoming season in Syracuse.