From the first move of the draft, Scott Howson made it clear that he was serious about improving the Blue Jackets, and as he said in several interviews, he'd consider moving anyone that helped him improve the team.
Trading Jakub Voracek and the 8th and 68th overall picks to Philadelphia for Jeff Carter the day before the draft was his first move. Though he was unable to make another trade for a roster player, Howson continued to look for opportunities, making another move on day two even as he collected several impressive prospects.
Though Columbus was unable to get in moves for Brian Campbell, Brent Burns, or Robin Regehr, Scott How was able to make one somewhat surprising deal on day 2, moving Nikita Filatov to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for the 66th overall pick, putting Columbus back into the third round.
Filatov's relationship with the Blue Jackets has arguably been strained since his sophomore season, when clashes with then head coach Ken Hitchcock saw the winger return to the KHL, but in truth the KHL has been an issue with Filatov since his draft year, when CSKA Moscow fought over releasing his rights, and the Russian Hockey Federation made noises about blocking his move to North America. Though TSN and many analysts blasted Columbus for "rushing" Filatov, it was Filatov himself who set the pace for his introduction to the NHL, using the threat of returning to Russia as a constant factor behind it all. (And, indeed, reports from Tom Reed of the Dispatch indicate that Filatov was once again attempting to use the KHL as leverage, "requesting" a trade from Columbus or he would have stayed in Russia rather than reporting to training camp.)
I also asked Lou Bordeaux, our Falcons expert, for his thoughts on Filatov, since he was able to see him play through the end of the season:
Nikita Filatov appeared in his first game for the Springfield Falcons on December 11th. Adapting to another new city, it was anticipated that it might take a brief amount of time before he found his legs. Through his first five games, he had one goal and three assists for four points. Things were looking up. The Falcons were on a roll and it looked like Filly might be able to find his scoring touch.
Then, it was two scoreless games. The lackadaisical approach that marked his time in Columbus reappeared. As a frequent eyewitness, it was uncanny at just how nearly identical his time in Springfield mirrored his time in Columbus. The missed scoring chances, the casual skating, the "I'd rather be anywhere but here" style. All told, Nik put up 20 points in 36 games for the Birds. Adequate (barely), but certainly not where he needed to be to see a full time return to the Jackets lineup.
I have followed this game for a long time. I always hope for success on all fronts, because it just makes an already great game even better. I couldn't say why Filly was the way he was with the Jackets organization. Definitely time for a change of scenery and for his sake, I hope Ottawa can motivate him in ways that the Jackets could not.
Howson was able to take what had become a bad situation and turn it into a fresh asset. We can't ask for more, and we wish Nikita luck in Ottawa.
Now, let's look at what Columbus did with that 66th pick, and the rest of their selections.
#37th Overall Pick (2nd Round) - Boone Jenner (C), Oshawa Generals
Many thought Jenner might go in the middle to late first round, making him a bit of a steal when he was still on the board at #37.
A strong defensive, two way player, Jenner may not be an offensive superstar, but he has a strong competitive drive, NHL size, and a lot of leadership ability. A lot of comparisons to R.J. Umberger have come up since he was selected in the second round - that's an encouraging sign given some of the character problems the team has encountered in the past. You can hear an interview with Jenner after his selection here.
#66th overall pick (3rd round) - T.J. Tynan (C), Notre Dame
A player in the second year of draft eligibilty, Tynan failed to raise many eyebrows in the USHL, but blossomed into an impressive performer at Notre Dame, leading the CCHA in rookie scoring with 19 goals and 27 assists. There are some concerns about his smaller size, but his speed and offensive gifts are similar to another recent CBJ selection - Cam Atkinson. If he can keep developing his offensive gifts and performing at the NCAA level, don't be surprised if we see him in Columbus in the next 3-4 years. The Jackets have released an interview with Tynan as well.
#98th overall pick (4th round) - Mike Reilly (D), Shattuck St. Mary's HS
One of the most prestigeous hockey prep schools in the US, Shattuck St. Mary's has produced a wealth of NHL alumni, and Mike Reilly hopes to be added to that list. Though he's still growing into his frame (Reilly is 5' 10" and only 150 pounds), he has some exceptional offensive gifts and lead the SSM defense in scoring last season with 43 points (13G, 30A). Likened to Mike Green and Alex Goligoski, he's committed to the University of Minnesota in the fall, giving him more time fill out. Reilly seemed incredibly excited about being drafted by Columbus, and has said he hopes to make it to the NHL "as soon as possible", but I would still expect to see him complete his Junior year, at least, before discussing going pro.
#128th overall (5th round)- Seth Ambroz (RW), Omaha Lancers
Many had projected Ambrosz, a power winger in the USHL, to be taken in the first or second round, so it was quite a surprise when Scott Howson was able to call his name so late in Day 2. He's regarded as an excellent skater for his size (6' 2", 211 lbs!) with impressive passing skills, but the knock on him was that he "disappeared" for a time this season with Omaha Lancers, perhaps leading to his drop. Like Mike Reilly and 2007 pick Jake Hansen, he will play for the University of Minnesota in the fall.
#158th overall (6th round) - Lukas Sedlak (C), Ceske Budejovice
The first European player selected by the Blue Jackets this year, Sedlak is an offensively focused centreman for the Budejovice-JR team, and was reported as having a bit of an "underwhelming" year, but was still rated the #57th European skater by NHL central scouting after a good showing at the Ivan Hlinka tournament this past fall. He's regarded as playing with a lot of passion, but lacking "natural creativity" with the puck. We'll have to see how it goes, but this could be a sleeper pick for Scott Howson.
#188th overall (7th round) - Anton Forsberg (G), MoDo
The other European player drafted by the Blue Jackets this year, Forsberg was not ranked in the top 10 international goalies by NHL central scouting, but he did have a good season for the MoDo Jr. U-20 program this season, with a 2.90 GAA and .901 save percentage in the regular season, and a 2.37 GAA / .920 SV% in the playoffs. Expected to make the main Elitserien club next season, he's welcome depth in the Jackets' pipeline behind Mathieu Corbeil and Allen York.
Scott Howson clearly feels that the Jackets' depth up the middle was a major concern, and did his best to continue filling that need. Between Jenner, Tynan, and Sedlak, he's added a strong core of talent behind Michael Chaput and Ryan Johansen, while Mike Reilly provides another boost to the team's defensive prospect core.
The biggest surprise to me is the wealth of players slated for the NCAA. Though Howson had previously taken a few NCAA bound players (Will Weber, Trent Vogelhuber, Cam Atkinson), this is the biggest crop of NCAA bound picks I can ever recall Columbus taking, and may be an effort to help more prospects be ready to jump into the NHL once they go pro by allowing them to develop an additional 3-4 years in the NCAA rather than expecting them to jump from Major Junior hockey to the pros within a year or two of being drafted.
While the team did not fill two of their major needs at the NHL level (defense and / or goaltending), the addition of Jeff Carter makes one major need, a top six center, and gives the team a major talent boost despite the removal of Voracek and Filatov from the roster.
We're still waiting to see how Howson will continue to rebuild the blue line, but after this weekend, and leading up to the start of free agency on July 1st, the Jackets appear to be in a much stronger position in depth and talent than they were when we woke up Thursday morning, and we cannot ask for Scott Howson to deliver more than that.