A big scoring forward from the WHL might have the Blue Jackets' front office sitting up and taking notice.
Current Team: Red Deer Rebels, WHL
Date of Birth: July 2, 1996
Place of Birth: High River, Alberta, Canada
Weight: 196 lbs
Once again we are in the WHL to look at a prospect who promises to be The Real Deal. Conner Bleackley brings size, skill and scoring to the table -- with ample quantities of each. Consider that in the 2012-13 season for the Red Deer Rebels, Bleackley posted 12 goals, 10 assists and 22 points in 71 games. Fast forward to this season, where he amassed 30 goals and 41 assists, for 71 points in 79 games. If that isn't an example of a young man finding his game, I'm not sure what is.
Bleackley holds the #26 slot in the ISS Final Rankings and the #35 position in the NHL Central Scouting Final Rankings. The latter was an inexplicable drop from the #31 slot at mid-season. By all accounts, Bleackley brings the full spectrum of skills -- plus character and effort -- to the mix. While his skating is viewed by some as inconsistent, that's a teachable shortcoming. You don't flirt with point-per-game numbers without some speed and agility, and Bleackley has both.
NHL Central Scouting has nothing but good things to say:
He deserves every point he has with his strong work ethic and decent size. He hustles every shift, and is not afraid to get in on the forecheck and make things happen. He's solid with smart positioning, and he pays attention to detail at both ends of the rink. B.J. MacDonald -- NHL Central Scouting
A Good Fit in Columbus?
There is a lot to like with this young man, and you have to believe he is on Jarmo Kekalainen's radar, in the event he's available. From his rankings, he seems very likely to be around at the #16 slot. The question then becomes whether he merits that high of a selection. As usual, the answer there is "It depends upon who else is on the board, and whether the Blue Jackets are looking for offense, defense or the best available athlete in the first round."
Bleackley certainly has the attributes that Columbus treasures -- a solid work ethic, effort on every shift, and three-zone presence. His offensive upside seems real, with the sole question being whether the 2013-14 campaign was a fluke, or a sign of things to come. With 196 pounds on a 6'1" frame, Bleackley is physically ready to go in the big time, and simply needs seasoning at higher levels of competition. I wouldn't be shocked to see Columbus trade down in the first, and grab both Bleackley and an extra pick.
Bleackley in Action