With such a young team already, it feels odd to be looking into the future to see who may fill out the ranks of the Columbus Blue Jackets in the coming years. After Jarmo Kekalainen basically emptied the cupboards over the previous few years, he has wasted very little time re-stocking them with high-end talent.
Let’s take a look at some of the top prospects in the Jackets’ system not currently playing in Columbus or Cleveland this year.
Kent Johnson (C) - University of Michigan - 8GP 4G 6A
Arguably the Jackets’ new top prospect, Kent Johnson and his stacked Michigan squad are putting up big numbers. Johnson is playing on the wing with Seattle Kraken #2 overall pick, Matty Beniers, and is second on the team in scoring.
In addition to the point production, the level of skill that Johnson shows is off the charts. There have been multiple instances of Johnson just toying around with the puck on his stick and scoring goals, including this one that landed Kent in the SC Top Ten Plays at #3:
Proof that Kent Johnson is a WIZARD pic.twitter.com/pN1GRny1VO— Michigan Hockey (@umichhockey) October 30, 2021
While this year will undoubtedly benefit Johnson, it’s pretty clear there is not much more for him to prove at the collegiate level, aside from winning a National Championship. Aaron Portzline of The Athletic has convinced Johnson to keep up with a diary this season which is worth checking out as well.
Kirill Marchenko (RW/LW) - SKA St. Petersburg - 23GP 9G 5A
Kirill Marchenko is in what Jackets fans hope is his last season in his native Russia. The skilled Russian winger got off to a strong start, posting 4 points (3G, 1A) in his team’s first three games while playing big minutes. He has cooled off significantly since then and has seen his ice time dwindle as a result, including being dressed as the 13th forward and a recent healthy scratch.
His decrease in playing time is odd considering that he is the team’s fourth leading scorer. Hopefully this treatment will make his decision to come to Columbus next year easier. The Blue Jackets can certainly use his skill.
Dmitri Voronkov (LW/C) - Ak Bars Kazan – 24GP 3G 4A 22PIMs
The other Russian we’ve heard so much about the last few years, Voronkov, is doing more of the same in the KHL. While his numbers aren’t jumping off the page, he is still playing a large role for his club.
He is coming off a suspension after his second fight of the year (two fights equals an automatic suspension in the KHL). While he will never be a prolific scorer, Voronkov will be a gritty, hard-nosed NHL player and, as seen below, can finish when he has opportunities.
Corson Ceulemans (D) - University of Wisconsin – 8GP 0G 1A 6PIMs
This year’s 25th overall selection, Corson Ceulemans, is playing college hockey at the University of Wisconsin. Ceulemans is already eating big minutes as an 18-year-old true freshman. This level of hockey is a pretty big step up from the AJHL, but so far he has held his own. Ceulemans will also have a lot of time to grow and develop with the Badgers. His Wisconsin squad recently split a two-game series with Kent Johnson’s heavily favored Michigan Wolverines.
Ole Julian Bjorgvik Holm (D) - Mississauga Steelheads - 7GP 1G 2A 15PIMs
After making his debut last year with the Cleveland Monsters, Holm headed back to the OHL this season where he has taken on a leadership role with the club, wearing a letter. He’ll be a mainstay on the Steelheads’ blue line.
James Malatesta (LW/C)- Quebec Remparts 12GP 4G 6A
The little pitbull, James Malatesta, plays the game at 100mph at all times. He showed this off in Traverse City (for better and for worse), and has kept up that pace of play in the QMJHL. He is playing at a near point-per-game pace on a very good Remparts team that is looking to make a Memorial Cup run this year.
Eric Hjorth (D) – Kalpa/IPK – 10GP 2G 3A
Once the OHL canceled their season due the the pandemic, Hjorth headed back to Europe to get back on the ice. Since then, he has bounced around a bit, going from Frolunda in the SHL to Kalpa in Finland. From there, he’s been sent down to play with the U20 team and has been loaned to IPK of the second-tier Mestis league where he has found his groove.
Stanislav Svozil - Regina Pats 11GP 0G 6A
Svozil came to North America this year after playing his entire life in his native Czech Republic. He figures to be a big part of the Pats’ blue line and eat lots of minutes. He’s off to a very respectable start with 6 assists in his first 11 games. Many scouts recognized the value of drafting Svozil in the third round.
Samuel Knazko - TPS - 14GP 2G 10A
Knazko is playing top minutes with the U20 team for TPS in Finland. I thought he’d get more time with the big club this year, but he has only appeared in one game thus far. Until he gets a chance to show his talents at the top level, he can keep dominating with the U20 team, where he’s nearly a point-per-game on the back end. He should also see time with the national team this year.
Martin Rysavy - Moose Jaw Warriors - 10GP 3G 4A 10PIMs
The Blue Jackets’ last pick in the 2021 NHL draft, Rysavy opted to come to North America to continue his journey of playing professional hockey. The physical, two-way forward has gotten off to a respectable start in the WHL, putting up 7 points in his first 10 games, including a goal and an assist in his most recent game.
Mikael Pyyhtia (LW/C) – TPS - 18GP 4G 3A
Pyyhtia was supposed to be playing with fellow Jackets’ prospect, Samuel Knazko, with TPS, but surprisingly Pyyhtia was the one who stuck around with the big club. He is currently playing a bottom six role, and has a modest 7 points in 18 games this year, posting 1G,1A in TPS’ most recent game.
Ben Boyd (W/C)- Charlottetown Islanders - 11GP 2G 1A 13PIMs
Boyd is doing what he always has done, and probably always will do: play very physical, bring energy and punish opposing defenseman on the forecheck. Any offense Boyd adds is a bonus. This is not to say he can’t improve on that part of his game, but that is not what Jarmo Kekalainen drafted the bruising forward to do.
Guillaume Richard (D)- Providence College - 9GP 1G 4A 10PIMs +10
Richard, another 18-year-old freshman, is playing meaningful minutes for the #7 ranked Friars at the college level. He is off to a great start with a goal and four assists, and not to mention a league-best +10 rating. Richard was named the Hockey East Defender of the month for October. Not bad at all for the Jackets’ fourth round pick. If he keeps on this path, he could end up being a steal of a mid-round pick.
Nikolai Makarov (D) - CSKA Moskva
Makarov played 6 games in the KHL and VHL registering 0 points but has posted 1/3/4 in 6 games in Russia’s MHL. Makarov is only 18 and already has experience playing in Russia’s top league, so the talent is there. I’d expect him to be back at the top level sooner rather than later, especially if he keeps excelling at the junior level.