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Team needs heading into the draft and the off-season

With the off-season in full effect for the Columbus Blue Jackets, it’s time to start looking at draft prospects. The Jackets will draft 16th in this June’s draft, which is the latest the team has drafted in its ten year existence. (The latest the club had ever drafted previously was eighth in ’01 and ’04).

At first glance, this appears to be a very deep draft. Guys that would go in the top ten in a normal year may fall to the second half of the first round because of the plethora of talent. This bodes well for the Jackets since they will be picking outside the top ten for the first time ever.

Here are the Jackets previous first round picks
2000 – 4th, Rusty Klesla, D
2001 – 8th, Pascal Leclaire, G *
2002 – 1st, Rick Nash, W (traded up)
2003 – 4th, Nikolai Zherdev, W *
2004 – 8th, Alexandre Picard, W (traded down)
2005 – 6th, Gilbert Brule, C *
2006 – 6th, Derek Brassard, C
2007 – 7th, Jakub Voracek, W
2008 – 6th, Nkita Filatov, C/W

* No longer with the club.

Now looking ahead to this year, here is The Hockey News’ list of prospects 10-18:

10 – David Runblad (CAN), C
“He sees the ice well both offensively and defensively and he moves the puck well”

11 – Dmitri Kukikov (RUS), D
“Kukilov has proved to be a dynamic offensive defensemen. He scored more than a point per game during the season and was averaging two per game early on in the playoffs”. Also there is no worry about him wanting to return to Russia.

12 – Simon Despres (CAN), D
“On the positive side of the ledger, Despres is a good skater for a big man and plays a steady game. And while he leaves scouts wanting more, he may deliver on his promise.”

13 – O. Ekman-Larsson (SWE), D
“His skating and his offensive instincts are just out of this world.”

14 – Scott Glennie (CAN), C
“He has great hockey sense. He competes hard and has good offensive instincts.”

15 – Jacob Josefson (SWE), C
“He didn’t get a chance to show too much at the WJC, but he has made strides. He’s a smart offensive Swedish player and pretty good at both ends of the ice.”

16 – Zack Kassian (CAN), RW
“A lot of observers are throwing Milan Lucic’s name around when they speak of Zach Kassian, right down to the fact Kassian’s point and penalty minute totals this season are almost identical to Lucic’s in his draft year.”

17 – Ryan Ellis (CAN), D
“He looks like he’d be able to play the game sitting in a rocking chair. He’s so calm that he almost looks bored out there. He always has the puck and nobody is able to get it away from him.”

18 – John Moore (USA), D
“His skill level is off the charts in the USHL, but it’s his skating ability that will give him the best chance to play in the NHL.”

Three big areas the CBJ will need to address this offseason include the power play, the center position, and finding a scoring defenseman.

The Jackets power play ranked dead last in the league last year so that will obviously be an area of need going into next season. Expect the team to look for a proven forward who has the ability to create chances and throw the puck at the net on the pp. Some possible UFAs (unrestricted free agents) the Jackets could be interested in include Francois Beauchemin, Jaroslav Spacek, Jordan Leopold, Sergei Zubov, Johnny Oduya, or Mattias Ohlund.

Another concern heading into next season is the center position. With only Vermette and Brassard guaranteed back next year, the Jackets will most likely need to find a reliable centerman to run the 3rd or 4th line. The team will likely look to re-sign Malhotra but don’t be surprised to see them part ways with Peca and or Williams.

Also on the wish list is a scoring defenseman who can get pucks to the net and create opportunities from the point, especially on the pp.

Expect most of these areas to be addressed through UFAs but it is possible we could see some draft day trades again like we did last year in attempt to fill the holes.

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