As part of our ongoing Entry Draft Preview, I'll take a look back at the 3 most recent drafts, from a CBJ perspective.
Let's start by looking at the picks from three years ago, the final draft with Doug MacLean as the GM, here are the picks (Round/Overall Pick):
1(6) C Derick Brassard- With the Jackets first round pick they took the playmaking center from Drummondville of the QMJHL. A year after taking Gilbert Brule with their first round pick, the Jackets were looking to add a future top line center to play with superstar Rick Nash. This season was Brass' first full time gig in the NHL, and he didn't disappoint. He was leading all rookie scorers for the first part of the season, until suffering a shoulder injury in a game against Dallas. Next season he will be fully healthy, and will compete with Antoine Vermette or a potential free agent for the first line center position.
3(69) G Steve Mason- Mason is the single biggest reason why the Jackets made the playoffs this past season. He started the season with Syracuse of the AHL, but it wasn't long before he was in Columbus taking the starter's role from Pascal Leclaire. Mason's strong play allowed the team to trade Leclaire to Ottawa for Antoine Vermette. Mason is the undisputed franchise goaltender in Columbus.
3(85) LW Tom Sestito- Sestito is still learning the pro game in Syracuse, and projects as a bottom six checker. He is also a good fighter, and at 6'4 210 has the size to be a heavyweight scrapper.
4(113) D Ben Wright- An offensive defenseman, Wright had a couple of solid seasons with Lethbridge of the WHL, but wasn't offered a contract after the two year draft pick probation period expired. This came as a surprise to me, because at the time the Jackets were thin at the D position. He just finished his junior career.
5(129) RW Bobby Nyholm- A Finnish forward, Nyholm made the trek over to play Canadian juniors rather than stay in Europe. This was potentially a bad decision, as he was property of the Kingston Frontenacs, who while Nyholm was a member were one of the worst junior teams in hockey. Nyholm put up very few points and was never signed by the Jackets.
5(136) RW Nick Sucharski- Sucharski just completed his college career with Michigan State of the NCAA. He hasn't put up the points that were expected of him, and needs to be signed by July 1st. He likely won't get offered a contract, but will be invited to training camp.
5(142) D Maxime Frechette- Frechette is a big body defenseman, but plateaued in juniors after he was drafted. Like Wright, he wasn't offered a contract.
6(159) D Jesse Dudas- Another WHL blueliner, Dudas put up some solid point totals, but struggled with injuries. He was also not offered a contract.
7(189) LW Derek Dorsett- An agitating winger, Dorsett cracked the CBJ lineup and gave the Jackets an energy guy who never quit. After sitting out game one, he was arguably the most consistent forward in the playoffs for Columbus. A fixture on the fourth line in Columbus.
7(194) RW Matt Marquardt- A big winger who played junior with Moncton of the QMJHL, he was traded to the Boston Bruins organization for defenseman Jonathan Sigalet. Sigalet started out strong with Syracuse, but then suffered an injury which knocked him out for the season. Sigalet is a depth defenseman for Columbus.
A quick look at this draft features three CBJ regulars in Brassard, Mason and Dorsett; a potential future enforcer in Sestito, a player who was traded for a depth defender (Marquardt); a fledgling winger who may not get offered a contract in Sucharski, and four busts- Wright, Dudas, Frechette and Nyholm. Overall this was one of, if not the strongest CBJ draft to date. The following two drafts are too recent to judge, but major props to the scouting staff for the 2006 draft.
The second draft I'll look at is the 2007 draft, which was held in Columbus. This was the first draft with new GM Scott Howson at the helm. Here are the picks:
1(7) RW Jakub Voracek- Jake just completed his rookie season with Columbus, making the jump to the NHL directly from Halifax of the QMJHL. He is a playmaking winger and put up impressive stats as a rookie, finishing with 38 points- one fewer than Rick Nash scored in his rookie season. He is a fixture in the top six for Columbus.
2(37) LW Stefan Legein- Legein had a promising junior career with Niagara of the OHL, being a part of two Team Canada world junior teams in the process. This past summer however, Legein announced that he was retiring from hockey. There are many rumors out there as to why he made that decision, but this past January he returned to hockey joining the Syracuse Crunch. He is still a solid prospect, who can play in the bottom six an agitator with scoring ability, but he has a long way to go to regain the trust of the CBJ brass.
2(53) D WIll Weber- Weber is a big defenseman, who can put up points from the back end. He played a year for Chicago of the USHL before joining Miami (Ohio) of the NCAA. He had a solid season with the Redhawks, advancing to the frozen four. Weber is a long term project, but projects as a bottom four pairing defenseman at the NHL level.
3(68) LW Jake Hansen- Hansen is another player who played in the USHL the year after he was drafted, and is now playing college hockey for Minnesota. He is a high scoring forward. It's hard to project where he will end up, but he will surely spend some time in the minors.
4(94) RW Maksim Mayorov- The Jackets went into the draft with three fifth round picks, but traded all three to the Dallas Stars for their fourth round pick so the Jackets would be able to draft Mayorov. He was projected as a first round pick, but slipped due to the uncertainty of the transfer agreement between the NHL and Russia. He just completed his rookie pro season with Syracuse, putting up solid point totals and showing a physical side to his game. He is considered by many to be trade bait, but if he remains with the Jackets he projects as a top six forward.
6(158) G Allen York- York was drafted out of Camrose of the Alberta Junior A ranks, and is now playing college hockey for RPI of the NCAA. He was one of the top NCAA freshmen this past year. He will likely spend time in both the ECHL and AHL before he gets a sniff at the NHL.
7(211) RW Trent Vogelhuber- With the last pick of the entire draft, the Jackets took Trent Vogelhuber. He is the first ever player to be drafted after developing in central Ohio, so it was fitting that the Jackets drafted him while the draft was hosted by Columbus. He is currently playing with Miami (Ohio) of the NCAA. He has struggled with injuries since being drafted, and won't likely be signed.
This draft shows a change in philisophy. The Jackets previously drafted mostly out of the Canadian junior ranks, but this draft was heavy on college players. The advantage of drafting college players is you don't have to sign them until their college eligibility is over. That means they can develop for four years, rather than having to be signed within two years like juniors or Europeans.
The last draft I'll look at is the most recent, last year's. It's far too early to completely judge the picks, but here they are:
1(6) LW Nikita Filatov- Filatov was touted as being the second best prospect behind Steve Stamkos, who was drafted first overall by Tampa. Luckily for the Jackets, the draft was heavy on blueliners, and with four teams ahead of Columbus in the draft order needing a top defenseman, he slipped to the Jackets at 6. He is a stud prospect, and a big part of the future. He will likely be a full time Jacket next season, who down the road will put up a ton of points at the NHL level.
2(37) D Cody Goloubef- Goloubef is a college blueliner, playing on a deep Wisconsin Badger team in the NCAA. He had a strong freshman season, and was a member of the gold medal winning Team Canada team at the world juniors this past Christmas. He projects as a dependable NHL defenseman, and will have a stop in the AHL on the way up.
4(107) D Steve Delisle- Delisle is a strong, defense-first blueliner drafted out of the QMJHL. He had a decent season last year and the Jackets hope he will continue to develop into a top shutdown defenseman.
4(118) D Drew Olson- Continuing with the trend of drafting college defensemen, the Jackets took Olson, who in his draft year was a finalist for the Mr. Hockey award, given each year to the top high school player in Minnesota. Olson is built like a bowling ball, and will look to develop into a solid pro. He can use his college time to develop further.
5(127) RW Matt Calvert- Calvert is a go-to sniper for a strong Brandon team in the WHL. He plays on a line with two forwards who are expected to go in the first round of this year's draft, so his numbers may be inflated.
5(135) RW Tomas Kubalik- Kubalik is a rarity, in that the Jackets haven't showed a tendency to draft out of the Czech League. Kubalik was a member of this past year's Czech team at the world juniors and had a good showing. It's unknown if he will make the move to North America, but he is a solid power forward who may be able to crack an NHL roster.
5(137) D Brent Regner- Regner was an overage pick, after not getting chosen by any teams in his first year of draft eligibility. This may prove to be a steal, as he has led the Vancouver Giants on the back end, and is a strong offensive type. He may make the jump to the AHL next season, and could see NHL time the year after that if he can continue to develop.
6 (157) RW Cameron Atkinson- A return to the new philosophy of drafting college-bound players, Atkinson is a power forward who will look to develop his offensive game in college.
7(187) C Sean Collins- Another college player, Collins is a center with good size, but is hard to project. He will likely spend all four years with Cornell of the NCAA before the Jackets make a decision on him.
This draft continued to be heavy on college players, and has a potential star at the top in Filatov. Goloubef will likely be an NHLer, and Brent Regner looks like a potential steal. It's too early to grade this draft, but it looks to be a strong one that could develop a ton of depth for the Jackets.
As I've mentioned already, this snapshot of the past three drafts shows a clear change in philosphy since Howson came on board. The focus seems to be on taking the best player available with the first pick, and then going after college players who have a longer development cycle. Also, more defensemen than in year's past have been taken. There are still a lack of high end defensemen, but the depth should be helped.