Avoiding the consensus top pick has worked in the past for the Jackets
In 2016 the Jackets didn’t make the consensus pick. They didn’t do it in 2010 either, and that worked out OK.
For the Blue Jackets, the 2009-2010, like so many others, was abysmal. The team finished 14th in the Western Conference with 79 points, ahead of only the absolutely woeful Edmonton Oilers, who finished with just 62 points.
There was no change to the draft order when the lottery took place in April, 2010. Edmonton was to pick first, with the Bruins picking second (with the Leafs pick, thanks to the Phil Kessel trade), the Panthers picking third and the Jackets scheduled to make the fourth pick in the draft.
That draft was the Taylor or Tyler year, with media and scouts debating whether Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin was the better player. In the end, the Oilers took Hall and the B’s got Seguin.
The Jackets needed a bit of everything that year, but adding a top defenseman in the draft dominated discussion. Almost every mock draft that year had the Panthers taking the consensus top blueliner Erik Gudbranson, and the Panthers would do just that on draft day- taking him third overall.
With the Jackets on the clock, most scouts, fans and media were convinced the Jackets were going to draft defenseman Cam Fowler. He was the guy that went fourth to the Jackets in almost every mock draft that year, and was exactly the type of high-end puck mover the Jackets had never possessed. We had ourselves convinced that Fowler was going to Columbus.
Then they picked a kid named Ryan Johansen.
Sure, we’d heard of him. It wasn’t like he wasn’t on any draft boards. He was the second-ranked center on Central Scouting (10th overall in North America), after all. It’s just that, they were supposed to take Fowler.
The Johansen pick threw a bit of a wrench into the draft, with five forwards taken with the next five picks, followed by the Rangers’ strange selection of defenseman Dylan McIlrath 10th overall. Fowler would go 12th to the Ducks, who practically stumbled over themselves getting to the podium to announce his name.
I think you see where I’m going with this.
The 2010 and 2016 drafts for the Jackets aren’t exactly one-for-one comparables, in that the Jackets passing over Jesse Puljujarvi for Pierre-Luc Dubois is not the same as taking Johansen over Fowler. The common thread however, is the fan reaction.
At the time, there was shock and surprise with the Johansen pick. Sure, Fowler would end up slipping a bit, but he was the guy the Jackets were sure to take. Over time, fans warmed to Johansen, and became downright infatuated with him after he put up 63 points in his third full NHL season. Fowler would become a solid top-four NHL defender, but he’s no Johansen.
Puljujarvi may be a great NHL winger for the Oilers, but let’s wait a couple of seasons to see what the Jackets get in Dubois. In his draft year, Dubois was more highly-touted than Johansen, and at third overall was less of a stretch than Johansen was, being taken fourth when most expected him to barely crack the top ten.
Like in 2010, the Jackets didn’t take who we all thought they should have. It worked out OK, even with Johansen eventually being dealt to the Predators. Now let’s give Dubois a chance to make us forget about that Finnish kid Edmonton took.