Columbus Blue Jackets First Round Recap

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By Tim Lucarelli (@tlucarelli)

If there’s one thing that Jarmo Kekalainen has, it is a reputation for making smart decisions on draft day. And for an organization that has historically had very little success with first round choices, all eyes were on Kekalainen to see how he would make use of his three choices.

Not surprising, the first choice was a Scandinavian player in center Alexander Wennberg. Wennberg is a pass-first player who possesses a great combination of speed, skill, and defensive responsibility. Ultimately, he will mold into a complementary player who can be relied on for offense, while still being used in all special teams situations.

“Wennberg is a very smooth skating, efficient Swede. He plays the game well at both ends of the ice and has a great deal of hockey sense. He is more prone to setting up goals, yet one should not underestimate his ability to score.” – Trent Klatt, Islanders Player Development

Just five choices later, the Blue Jackets invested in more offensive firepower, choosing left wing Kerby Rychel at 19th overall. Rychel checks in at 6-1, 205 lbs. and is coming off of consecutive 40-goal seasons in the OHL. He’s considered a top-end scorer who brings a bit of sandpaper to his game.

“He’s the type of guy who, when competing really hard, is very effective. When he’s banging around and separating guys from the puck, that’s when he’s really on his game. He has a good shot and the ability to pass the puck in traffic.” Chris Edwards of Central Scouting

Rychel’s father may have put it best though, saying “His work ethic, I don’t think at this age, that anybody matches it. He really wants it.”

Last but not least, the Blue Jackets selected center Marko Dano at 27th overall. Dano was a kid who most projected to fall into the second round, but he certainly comes with upside. Dano was one of only 11 forwards to play in the KHL age 18 or younger, and finished with three goals and four assists in 37 games while also finishing with a plus-four rating, indicating his responsibility in his own end.

In terms of his offensive ability, Dano put on a show at the WJC’s, scoring four goals and adding assists in six games which put him in a tie for fifth-most points in the tournament, tied with the likes of Johnny Gaudreau, Jacob Trouba, Jonathan Huberdeau, and J.T. Miller. Most of those players skated in one more game than Dano, while having much better talent to work with as well.

“Dano’s game is a great combination of skill and grit…He plays a much bigger game than his size would indicate, battling in the corners and in front of the net. He is in the middle of every scrum, playing the agitator role and just loving to get under the skin of his opponents… Dano’s best offensive attribute though are his soft hands which he can use to stick handle and protect the puck from defenders and to score goals in tight.” Ben Kerr of Top Shelf Prospects

All in all, Columbus focused on offense, rather than defense. In summary, they added a two-way forward with top playmaking abilities, a gritty shoot-first scoring winger, and a hard-working, undersized forward with a lot of upside. Overall, the one common trait among all three players is that they all have a reputation of working hard. And when you add players that work hard, the potential is always high.

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