NHL Draft: Blue Jackets' biggest needs, top prospects

The Columbus Blue Jackets have one of the deepest prospect pools in the NHL, but will need to transitioned its talent to the next level if they want to compete for a playoff spot. (Getty Images)
The Columbus Blue Jackets have one of the deepest prospect pools in the NHL, but will need to transition its talent to the next level if they want to compete for a playoff spot. (Getty Images)

Columbus will pick sixth overall after acquiring Chicago’s first-round pick. The Blue Jackets select again at 12th for their own slot. As the first team with two picks in the first round this year, the Blue Jackets will have the opportunity to shake up the projected draft order either via trade or by selecting a player of organizational need with more risk. Columbus is already in a good position for the future, boasting one of the deeper prospect pools in the league. That group is headlined by University of Michigan star, and 2021 fifth overall pick, Kent Johnson. At the NHL level, Columbus has young players including Cole Sillinger and Adam Boqvist at the core, but this season the team only managed mediocre results. To expect Johnson or other prospects to step in and fix that immediately is too much. Still, Columbus is headed in the right direction.

Top Prospects

Kent Johnson, F - Aside from Patrick Laine, the Blue Jackets lack elite skill. With Johnson in the fold, the team moves closer to rectifying that issue. Johnson is a playmaker at heart, who will almost certainly start as Columbus’ second or third line center this season. His ability to find seams and generate offence where none seemed possible is a talent every team covets. His performance this season with Michigan was dominant, but it’s the experience he gained with Team Canada at the Olympics and men’s World Championships that will perhaps be most valuable in Johnson’s transition to the NHL.

Daniil Tarasov, G - A 6’6” netminder who put up excellent numbers in four appearances with the Blue Jackets this season, Tarasov is destined for a season as the starter with the AHL’s Cleveland Monsters. That fate was sealed when Columbus re-signed Joonas Korpisalo for another season to serve as backup for Elvis Merzlikins. The most important factor in Tarasov’s development this season will be giving him starts. The 23-year-old only appeared in 15 games this past season.

Kirill Marchenko, F - Some expect Marchenko to jump straight to the NHL next season. He has the size and has demonstrated skill on the International level starring for Russia at both the U18s and World Juniors. Statistically, he had a slight regression in the KHL this season playing for SKA St. Petersburg. How he adjusts will determine if Machenko stays in Columbus or takes time in the AHL first. As a 2018 draft pick, Marchenko will be 22 when he arrives in camp.

One To Watch

Overlooked in the NCAA free agent frenzy was a shorter term, smaller signing, with big potential. That player was Nick Blankenburg, captain of the University of Michigan. A 5’9” defender, already 24-years-old, Blankenburg was undeniably one of the smoothest puck movers in the country. With a bigger frame, NHL teams would have fought tooth and nail over the Michigan native. Stepping into Columbus’ lineup at the end of the season, Blankenburg used his best assets - his mobility and intelligence - to defend, and was effective. He had three points in seven games and was named to Team USA for the World Championships. Jacob Christiansen is another defender with offensive upside to watch. Signed as a free agent after junior, Christiansen this season was named to the AHL Second Team All-Star, scoring 45 points in 62 games.

Ready To Step In

Kent Johnson will get the headlines, but it’s Liam Foudy who will feel the pressure to start the NHL season. The 18th overall pick in 2018, it’s now or never for Foudy to step in and show his worth. He showed his value in 10 playoff games in 2019-2020, but only got into a single NHL game this past season. Foudy has more speed than almost anyone in the game, but sometimes he takes away his own time and space with that blinding pace. When he turns his speed around on opponents, whether it is on the forecheck or rush, he’s effective.

Needs At The Draft

Columbus has organizational depth at all positions but has a void at left wing. While they’ve found success converting players to the position, a true scoring winger to flank Johnson in the future is a need. Whether it’s with their first or second choice of the opening round, players including Frank Nazar, Cutter Gauthier, Jonathan Lekkerimäki, Matthew Savoie, Joakim Kemell, or Brad Lambert should be available. With their other pick, Columbus could use another defender to complement the strong young core they’re developed and already have playing in the NHL.

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