Here is a look at the Blue Jackets’ organizational needs and possible draft targets:
The jury is still out on whether Columbus will be able to transform last year’s third overall pick Pierre-Luc Dubois into a center as he has struggled to make the adjustment and still looks more comfortable on the wing where he can concentrate on offence. That being the case the Blue Jackets shouldn’t hesitate to take a center at 24th overall if that’s the top player on their draft list.
Fortunately, Dubois and Boone Jenner offer some flexibilty in that regard as they could still play wing or center in the future, so Columbus will likely just take the top player on its draft board even if there is a virtual tie, and that includes a defenceman.
In the mid 20’s there should still be some intriguing wingers, defencemen and centers available. Jason Robertson, Eeli Tolvanen, Klim Kostin and Jesper Boqvist are all wingers that may have top-six upside, and all will be strongly considered in the 20-30 range of the draft. Tolvanen is not expected to be available at 24 even though Recrutes ranks him at 25, yet a run of defenceman could see him drop to 24 as he’s been falling on a lot of scouts’ lists since the World Juniors.
Filip Chytil is another forward that may go in the 20’s, and much like Jenner and Dubois he can play at center or on the wing, and his recent growth spurt to more than 6-2 and September birthday leave many scouts thinking he’ll be a 6-3 210-pound two way forward by the time he is NHL ready. Kostin is the other burly winger who could go anywhere from the teens to 30’s depending on whether a team is willing to gamble on just how dedicated he is to reach his potential in the NHL.
By the 24th pick it is expected that the top ten centers will be gone, perhaps even more, unless Ryan Poehling slips a bit because there is a run on defencemen. The rangy two-way pivot would fit in nicely as a third-line center on a contender. Morgan Frost and Josh Norris are the two other centers expected by Recrutes to be selected in the first round, and both have top-two upside, so if either is available at 24 the Blue Jackets may look at them seriously.
Zech Werenski had a terrific rookie season and Gabriel Carlsson looks like he’s on track to be a dependable defensive defenceman, yet there is still room for a top-four defence prospect in the system, and at 24 Columbus may ponder taking a flyer on skilled 5-9 defenceman Erik Brannstrom if he’s still on the board. There is no denying the Swede’s puck and skating skills, and if Columbus would like another power play option for the future he could interest the team. Cal Foote is another defenceman who will be strongly considered by many teams picking in the 20’s if he’s still on the board despite concerns with his mobility.
Columbus will not pick again until the 86th selection near the end of round three, and with the remainder of their picks will likely go with the top player on the board regardless of position. If there is a goalie high on their list at 86 the Blue Jackets may add another one to the stable. The club is not exactly brimming with goaltending depth after Oscar Dansk, who was stuck on a struggling team in Rogle, Sweden and needs to be brought back over to North America.