As we reach the quiet part of the off-season, it’s once again time to rank and profile the top 25 players under the age of 25 within the Columbus Blue Jackets organization.
Unlike past iterations in 2018 and 2019, the team is in a very different place. Back then, draft picks and prospects were dealt every year in order to make short term improvements for a playoff-bound roster. In 2021, the core of the Tortorella-era teams has been dismantled, resulting in the acquisition of draft picks and prospects to replenish the depleted pipeline.
It is up to each reader to determine how you rank the players. My suggestion is you consider the impact you expect each player to have on the Blue Jackets’ roster going forward. That can be this year, or three years from now. If you were building the franchise from scratch, which of these players would be your building blocks?
The cut-off date is the start of the season on October 14, 2021. Kevin Stenlund just misses the cut, as he turns 25 less than a month before then. Matiss Kivlenieks (#20 on the 2019 list) would have turned 25 this month, and typing his name in this context makes me sad. (It doesn’t feel right to list him below as having aged out, nor to say he is no longer with the organization. He’ll always be 24, and always be a Blue Jacket.)
As always, I relied on this handy Depth Chart from Elite Prospects. Feel free to click the link to investigate any names which may be unfamiliar to you. The eligible players are either under contract with the Jackets, or the team retains their rights (I left off Peter Thome, whose rights will likely expire this month). In the past, some people have complained that it was too difficult to rank 25 names, so you can rank fewer if you’d like. I will require that each entry have at least 10 players selected, however.
Voting closes on Friday, and we’ll combine the readers’ votes and writers’ votes to assemble the final ranking. We’ll start the countdown with the #25 player on Monday, with a new post every weekday up until the start of training camp.
Unlike the Werenski/Dubois battle last time, I think we can safely assume who #1 will be, but I’m curious to see how the rest of it shakes out. Will familiarity boost players that have already made their CBJ debut? Where will the recent draft picks end up?
The following players from the 2019 ranking have aged out:
#3 Oliver BJORKSTRAND
#6 Vladislav Gavrikov
#11 Eric Robinson
#15 Kevin Stenlund
The following players from the 2019 ranking are no longer in the organization:
#1 Pierre-Luc Dubois
#8 Sonny Milano
#9 Veini Vehvilainen
#14 Kole Sherwood
#18 Paul Bittner
#19 Maxime Fortier
#24 Ryan MacInnis
#25 Ryan Collins
That leaves 12 players from the 2019 list who are still eligible this time, and a whopping 26 who were either unranked in 2019 or who have been added to the organization since then.