There is a fabulous debate going on right now among the Blue Jackets’ fan base on what is better for the long-term of this organization; win now, or finish with the highest possible draft pick.
The point of this entry isn’t to weigh in on those discussions.
Instead, I want to focus on a different, draft-related topic…the later rounds.
Yes, there’s no question that the Blue Jackets have not had good success with the first two rounds during their 13 drafts to this point. I’m not going to beat a dead horse here, either, as that carcass is beyond recognition anyway.
I also am not trying to give a lot of credit to the previous administrations (under former general managers Doug MacLean and Scott Howson), as their on-ice records speak for themselves.
What the goal is, though, is to point out that while several of the greatest players in the NHL have been selected with the top three picks in the draft, it isn’t the only way to build a hockey club.
Just use the Blue Jackets as an example. Some of the players showing the most promise this season were not on any draft “experts” watch lists during their draft years.
Matt Calvert is coming off a week where he scored the game-winning overtime goal against Vancouver, forced a turnover to set up a goal the following game against Detroit, then scored a beauty of a game-winning shootout goal the next night in Detroit.
Calvert was taken 127th overall in the fifth round of the 2008 draft.
Just 30 picks later, the Jackets chose Atkinson in the sixth round. He has shown flashes of brilliance in his two NHL seasons, with a combination of speed and skill that have been rare around the home bench in Nationwide Arena. He’s been a productive player this season despite not being 100%, due to a high ankle sprain.
Also in 2008, with the 187th overall selection (seventh round), center Sean Collins was chosen. While his NHL future is far from certain, he did not look out of place in either of his two games earlier this season.
Take it back to 2006, and you find the player that many believe is the “heart and soul” of the Blue Jackets, Derek Dorsett. He also was a seventh round pick (189th overall), and has now played in 280 career NHL games, far above the average for a seventh rounder. Dorsett has scored 27 goals and added 38 assists, and racked up 727 PIMs in his five seasons.
While Grant Clitsome is no longer in Columbus, he’s been a productive player for Winnipeg this year. He was a ninth round choice (271st overall) back in the 2004 Draft.
Same goes for Marc Methot, who’s skill set as a stay-at-home, physical defenseman has yet to be replaced in Columbus (more on that in a moment). He’s now in Ottawa after the CBJ took him in the sixth round of the 2003 Draft with the 168th overall pick.
You can even go back to 2001, when Andrew Murray went in the eighth round, with the 242nd overall pick. You’d be hard pressed to find a NHL player that got more out of his limited talent, and that’s meant as a compliment. He’s made it through 221 career NHL games, and is currently with Peoria, St. Louis’ AHL affiliate.
The next guy on this list very well may be defenseman Dalton Prout. He was taken in the sixth round in 2010, as the 154th overall selection. Prout’s game is very similar to Methot’s; a straight-forward, defense-first, blue-liner.
He likely wouldn’t have spent much time in Columbus this season, if it weren’t for all the injuries on the Blue Jackets’ back end. When Prout made his season debut in Chicago, he was the 11th different defenseman to draw in this season for the Jackets.
Prout would appear to be rising up the crowded ranks of young defenseman in the Columbus system. Second overall pick from 2012, Ryan Murray, is out for the year (Everett in the WHL) following shoulder surgery, but will be a major part of the Blue Jackets’ plans moving forward. Others include 2009 first rounder John Moore, Tim Erixon (acquired in the Rick Nash deal), Cody Goloubef, and David Savard, just to name a few.
The 22-year old Prout has a long way to go before becoming an everyday NHL player. He’s only appeared in 11 career games, and just six this season.
So don’t get caught up in where the Blue Jackets might end up picking three and a half months from now.
Enjoy the current success, and just remember that if Jarmo Kekalainen is able to draft here as wisely as the St. Louis and Ottawa organizations did when he was there, the Columbus Blue Jackets could be in really good shape in a few years.
No matter where the 2013 team ends up finishing.