Columbus, MacLean Drafts Shrewdly

By Bill Drake
Klesla, picked 4th overall, has makes a good outlet pass and has a very solid shot form the point. “We really believe this kid can come in now and make our hockey team,” GM Doug MacLean said. “We think he’s the best defenseman in the draft.”

There is no arguing MacLean on the last point. But the notion that he can come in and play right away might just be a case of post-draft hysteria. Sure, Klesla can play he has all the tools to be compete but defensemen are notoriously slow developers and need to refine their game in the minors before setting up shop at the NHL level. Remember current Norris Trophy winner, Chris Pronger, struggled mightly his first year in Hartford.

MacLean’s second round pick was used to procure Marc Denis, a 22 year old goaltender from Colorado, who stands a chance to make a bigger imapct than #1 overall Rick DiPietro.

The third round unearthed a Right Wing that dropped in favor during the draft. Ben Knopp posesses good touch around the net and really found his game towards the end of the season, leading the surpirsing Moose Jaw Warriors into the playoffs. Knopp’s stock dropped, he was ranked 42 NA by the CSB and 52 by THN, because he played on a line centered by Jamie Lundmark much of the season and didn’t finish Lundmark’s passes as frequently as the scouts liked. Still the character and poise Knopp showed towards the end of the season made him a a gem at 69th overall.

The second day of the draft was much busier, albiet with much less fan fare, for Columbus, with the selection of nine players. Starting with Finnish defenseman Petteri Nummelin from HC Davos (Switzerland) with the 133rd overall pick. Nummelin tallied 15-23-38 and 20 penalty minutes in 40 games this year. He also played very well in the World Championships for the Finnish National Team, going 2-4-6 in 9 games. An over age draftee at 27 years old, Nummelin could step right in and help move the puck for Columbus on the Power Play.

The 138th pick landed the BlueJackets Scott Heffernan from the Sarnia Sting of the OHL. Heffernan is very tall, 6-5, but needs to work on his upper body strenght in order to play in the NHL. Scott will return to Sarnia next year and continue his development.

With the 150th pick, Columbus made Tyler Kolarik the first U.S.-born draft pick in franchise history. The Philadelphia-native tallied 31-22-53 in 26 games with Deerfield Academy this season and will play at Harvard University this fall. Kolarik has offensive tools but the transition from Prep School to College to the NHL is a tough one.

The Blue Jackets drafted Red Deer goaltender Shane Bendera in the sixth round (169th). Bendera is from Edmonton, Alberta and is the first goaltender ever drafted by Columbus.

As reported by the Columbus BlueJacket webpage, Finnish left wing Janne Jokila was selected in the seventh round (200th) and New England College center Peter Zingoni in the eighth round (231st). In the ninth round, Columbus selected Czech Republic forward Martin Paroulek of Vsetin HC with a pick (278th) obtained from San Jose. The Blue Jackets then chose Slovakian center Andrej Nedorost with the 286th pick, acquired from Florida for a ninth round pick in 2001. The club made one final transaction, taking Rouyn-Noranda (QMJHL) defenseman Louis Mandeville with the 292nd pick acquired from Detroit for a ninth round pick in 2002.

That does it for the BlueJackets’s first ever draft, Klesla will become the real deal while Petteri Nummelin has the chance to step in like Niclas Halived and Brian Rafalski did last year. Petteri is my sleeper pick of the draft. Now he just has to agree to a contract. This is Bill Drake signing off, reminding everyone its not easy been green or an insidious mascot that insults every educated hockey fan in Ohio.