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The top 5 Blue Jackets prospects to watch this week

Some recent draft picks get a chance to shine

2022 Upper Deck NHL Draft - Round One Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images

For the first time since 2019, a collection of prospects and free agent invites will gather in Columbus for the Blue Jackets’ development camp. Included in this group are five of the seven players drafted by the team last week. Here is the full list, followed by the players I’m most eager to see make an impression.

1. Kent Johnson

Position: C/W
Acquired: #6 overall pick, 2021 draft
2022-23 most likely destination: Columbus

Johnson returned to the University of Michigan after last summer’s draft but turned pro at the conclusion of his sophomore season. That allowed him to join the Jackets for the final nine games of the season. He struggled at first, but his three assists showed the skill he possesses that made him a top ten pick.

A big question about Johnson is whether he’ll be a center or wing in the NHL. He played wing on the top line at Michigan, since the top two center positions were already spoken for by NHL talents. Johnson did play center prior to that, and the Jackets drafted him as one. Considering that Jarmo and Co. focused on defense with both first round picks this year, they must have some comfort that Johnson can join Cole Sillinger as long-term center options.

This week can give Johnson a chance to show what he can do at that position. Can he develop chemistry with an NHL-ready wing? (I have an idea below). I’m also curious to see if there have been any physical changes. We are only halfway through the offseason, but it is imperative that Johnson be physically stronger next season.

2. Kirill Marchenko

Position: W
Acquired: #49 overall pick, 2018 draft
2022-23 most likely destination: Cleveland/Columbus

At long last, we finally get to see Marchenko on North American ice with the Jackets. He’s under contract, he was able to get out of Russia, and he is ready to be part of the team. He is one of the older players in camp, with years of professional and international experience. He should be able to dominate his competition here.

There’s a bit of a logjam on the NHL roster for right shot wingers. If he gets to play with Johnson and they click, it gives that combination an inside track to make the opening day roster together.

3. David Jiricek

Position: D
Acquired: #6 overall pick, 2022 draft
2022-23 most likely destination: HC Plzen, Czech League

This pick was acquired from Chicago as part of the Seth Jones trade, and Jiricek could end up taking Jones’s spot on the right side of the top pair next to Zach Werenski. The question is, when? He missed a big chunk of the season with a knee injury, but recovered in time to play in the World Championships. He could return to his home country to continue his recovery and development. It’s also possible the Jackets could move him to a higher tier European league, before bringing him to North America in 2023.

In the meantime, I’m excited to see his physical presence on the ice. It’s a friendly practice situation, but will he lay some hits? And what about his offensive game? He’s supposed to have a cannon of a shot. Can he effectively move the puck up ice as well?

4. Jordan Dumais

Position: RW
Acquired: #96 overall pick, 2022 draft
2022-23 most likely destination: Halifax Mooseheads, QMJHL

Dumais was not a highly ranked prospect, mostly due to his 5’9” stature and lack of high-end speed. Still, with Halifax of the QMJHL he put up 109 points in 68 games this season. So, he’s obviously doing something right.

For a Columbus comparison, Oliver BJORKSTRAND was the #89 pick in 2013 and is bigger than Dumais but not big. He put up 109 points in 69 games in his post-draft season, so in that regard Dumais is already ahead. He’ll spend two more years in the Q but could prove to be a steal if/when he makes the NHL after that.

5. Corson Ceulemans

Position: D
Acquired: #25 overall pick, 2021 draft
2022-23 most likely destination: University of Wisconsin, Big Ten

ESPN’s analysts kept forgetting that the Jackets had selected a defenseman in the first round of last year’s draft, but that player is worth remembering. He’s another big, right-handed defenseman like Jiricek, but was more hailed for his offense. He put up 22 points in 34 games as a freshman at Wisconsin, and that includes a slow start.

Unlike the others on this list, he will be back at school and therefore unavailable for the prospects tournament in Traverse City in September, so enjoy this brief chance to see him in a Jackets uniform for now.

Honorable Mention

Denton Mateychuk, Michael Pyyhtia, Jet Greaves, Luca Del Bel Belluz, Marcus BJORK

Which players are you most curious about? Is anyone planning on attending any of the sessions? They are all open to the public at the Chiller North in Lewis Center, from this morning through Wednesday. Wednesday features the 3-on-3 tournament. The full schedule can be found here.