It's not a stretch to say that from top to bottom, the Blue Jackets organization is the most talented and diverse it's ever been. There has never been a time in the franchise's history when the depth of talent was equally strong at the NHL level and throughout the prospect pipeline.
Also for the first time, there is no sense of urgency to rush the prospects to the NHL before they have a chance to mature and fine-tune their game. The Jackets roster at an NHL level is stocked with veterans, with perhaps one spot open for a rookie, and that's only if he really blows the team away at training camp or somebody gets hurt.
The Jackets have an affiliation agreement with the Springfield Falcons of the AHL, a partnership that has been quite successful, as the Falcons were one of the top teams in their league the past two seasons with Jackets prospects stocking the roster. The Jackets also have a new affiliation agreement with the Kalamazoo Wings of the ECHL. The team's best and brightest prospects will be developing as professionals with one of those two squads, or will be honing their craft with their junior, college or European club teams.
The focus here will be on the outstanding group of young players who as of this writing are not yet NHL regulars. It's an intriguing crop of youngsters, with a ton of talent and promise.
Alexander Wennberg - The shining star of the prospect pool, Wennberg was taken 14th overall in the 2013 draft- one was one of three first rounders for the Jackets that year. Don't let his SHL stats fool you from last season where he put up "Cy Young" numbers, he's a playmaker. Wennberg will likely play in Springfield this season, but a strong camp could see him stick with the Jackets, at least to start the season.
Kerby Rychel - Rychel was the second of the 2013 First Rounders, and will likely be a Falcon for a bulk of the season, with the exception of the standard caveat of if he has an unbelievable camp he will be a Jacket. Rychel has offense in spades, but brings a physical edge to his game. You can go ahead and call him a power forward.
Marko Dano - The third of the trio of 2014 first rounders, Dano is a two-way forward who like Rychel, plays with an edge. After getting out of a difficult situation in the KHL, he put up 2-4-6 in ten games with Springfield at the end of last season. He'll be able to get a full year with the Falcons in 2014/2015, on his way to becoming a full-time NHLer.
Lukas Sedlak - Sedlak is entering his second pro season with Springfield, and is looking to build off his 14-point rookie season. He's a skill player, but needs to offer a bit more to move up the ladder.
T.J. Tynan - After completing his collegiate career with Notre Dame last season, he had a cup of coffee with the Falcons. He'll be a regular in Springfield this season, and will be looking to show off his high-end offensive skill. He's undersized, but elusive.
Josh Anderson - If you look at Anderson's offensive numbers with the London Knights of the OHL the past three seasons, you'll see a player who's got the ability to put the puck in the net. As a professional, Anderson will more likely serve as a physical, two-way forward. In fact, he reminds me a lot of Curtis Glencross, a former Jacket. He turns pro this season and should be a fixture with the Falcons.
Thomas Larkin - The upcoming season may be Larkin's last chance to make an impact. He's in the final year of his entry-level deal, and played more games in the ECHL than AHL last year. He's a gentle giant, though he plays a shutdown game. He'll always be one of the more intriguing players to be drafted by the Jackets, given his birthplace on London, England and his participation with the Italian national team. He'll try to lock down a spot with the Falcons; otherwise it's another season in the ECHL.
Austin Madaisky - Madaisky is a lot like Larkin, in that his window to impress is closing. He's had a hard time staying healthy since turning pro, so this season is huge for him. He'll either be a Falcon or Kalamazoo Wing this upcoming season, the final year of his entry-level deal.
Oscar Dansk - Here's the thing. Dansk is a very good goaltender. He was drafted high- first pick of the second round of the 2012 draft- but he has yet to show that he's elite. After getting drafted, he made the move from Sweden to the Erie Otters of the OHL. His rookie season was not kind, as the Otters were a league doormat. Last season however, the Otters, led by phenom Connor McDavid, were one of the OHL's top teams. Unfortunately Dansk had a late-season meltdown and lost his starter's job. This season he's gone pro, and will form an all-Swedish tandem with our next prospect.
Anton Forsberg - Forsberg doesn't have the pick status that Dansk does, but Forsberg is a real pro. His resume shows us a goaltender that has excelled in Swedish junior, Swedish international and the SHL itself. Forsberg had a late-season stint with the Falcons and was very good. Following the battle between he and Dansk will be a real treat this season.
Mike Reilly - He isn't as high-profile as other prospects due to the fact he plays college hockey, but Mike Reilly is a top-five prospect for the Jackets. He's an offensive blueliner who's coming off a 9-24-33 season in 41 games for the Minnesota Golden Gophers. He was Big Ten defensive player of the year last season, and will return to Minnesota for his junior year this season.
Seth Ambroz - In his draft year, Ambroz went from a potential first rounder to a mid-round pick by the Jackets. He's a power winger who had a decent season last year, but going into his senior year with Reilly and the Gophers he'll have to really impress to earn a pro contract with the Jackets.
Ryan Collins - Collins was a second round pick of the Jackets this past June. He's a monster defenseman checking in a 6'5", 205lbs. He's a defense-first blueliner, who is joining Reilly and Ambroz in Minnesota this upcoming season. Collins would be a terrific compliment to the offensive-minded Reilly.
Tyler Bird - Bird is off to Brown University this season, his freshman year. He was a member of what was considered the best line in high school hockey last season, with J.D. Dudek and A.J. Greer at Kimball Union prep school. He's got good size and a scoring touch.
Oliver Bjorkstrand - If you've read this whole article, I hope you don't consider this post a ranking in any way, rather it's divided into loose sections of guys who will be in the pros, to college guys, to CHLers, to European prospects. Bjorkstrand being this far down the page means nothing. He's a top-five prospect for the Jackets, who will be heading back to the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL this season. He'll be an absolute force for Portland-he was the third-highest scorer in the WHL in the regular season, and led the playoff scoring race last season. Bjorkstrand is all skill- he oozes it.
Sonny Milano - Speaking of skill, Milano's game is all about the amazing things he can do with the puck. After an offseason of uncertainty surrounding whether or not he'd be reporting to Boston College or the Plymouth Whalers of the OHL, he finally chose the latter, and will embark on his rookie season of Canadian junior hockey this year. He's lethal as hell with the puck on his stick, and gives the Jackets an elite scoring winger in the future.
Markus Soberg - Soberg made the decision to move to North America to continue his development, and will join the Windsor Spitfires for the upcoming season. He's a shifty winger with offensive creativity, and could give the Jackets their best Norwegian player since Espen Knutsen.
Blake Siebenaler - The smooth-skating Siebenaler was taken in the third round of this year's draft, and is looking to increase his offensive totals in his second year with the Niagara IceDogs of the OHL. He was a teammate of Milano with the Cleveland Barons U-16 team in 2011-2012.
Julien Pelletier - Pelletier is about to enter his third season with the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles of the QMJHL. The Eagles have made some very good moves over the past couple of seasons to set themselves up for a very strong 2014/2015. Pelletier is a playmaking winger, with excellent hands. Cape Breton is a team to keep an eye on this season.
Olivier Leblanc - Leblanc was taken 11th overall by the Saint John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL in the 2012 draft, and his since put up two solid seasons on a poor Sea Dog squad. He's a puck mover with average size. He'll be back with Saint John this season.
Peter Quenneville - Quenneville started last season with Quinnipiac of the NCAA, but transferred to Brandon of the WHL early in the year, joining his brother John- a first round pick of the New Jersey Devils in June. Peter went on to score 21-30-51 in 44 games, showing his offensive ability. He's a prospect worth keeping an eye on.
Dillon Heatherington - A second rounder in 2013, Heatherington is the definition of steady, and will challenge a spot on Team Canada at the 2015 World Juniors. Heatherington is part of a deep defense corps with the Swift Current Broncos of the WHL.
Nick Moutrey - He's a grinding forward, who put up decent OHL numbers. He's a rough and tumble forward who projects as a fourth liner in the pros. He'll return to the Saginaw Spirit of the OHL this season.
Daniel Zaar - He's known for his terrific shot, and makes the full-time move to the SHL this upcoming season for Lulea. He's got stuff to work on, but the hope is he develops to the point where he can make the move to North America and be an offensive contributor.
Elvis Merzlikins - Aside from having a stellar name, he's a Latvian playing in Switzerland and putting up great goaltending numbers. He'll be back in the Lugano cage this season, and will be looking to continue his development in a league known for producing very good goaltenders.
Joonas Korpisalo - He's bounced around like crazy since the Jackets took him in the third round of the 2012 draft, but he'll be looking to nail down some roots with Ilves of the Finnish League this season. He's a big, talented goaltender that gives the organization even more depth at the position.