NHL Mock Draft 2021: Columbus Blue Jackets select Nikita Chibrikov with No. 24 pick

Two European wings in the first round?

With the 24th pick in the 2021 SB Nation NHL Mock Draft, the Columbus Blue Jackets select Nikita Chibrikov, winger, from SKA St. Petersburg.

The picks leading up to this one were as follows:

1. Owen Power - BUF
2. Matthew Beniers - SEA
3. Dylan Guenther - ANA
4. Luke Hughes - NJ
5. William Eklund - CBJ
6. Mason McTavish - DET
7. Kent Johnson - SJS
8. Simon Edvinsson - LAK
9. Brandt Clarke — VAN
10. Fabian Lysell — OTT
11. Jesper Wallstedt — CHI
12. Cole Sillinger- CGY
13. Aatu Räty - MIN
14. Corson Ceuelemans - DAL
15. Chaz Lucius - NYR
16. Matthew Coronato - STL
17. Logan Stankoven - WPG
18. Oskar Olausson - NSH
19. Sebastian Cossa - EDM
20. Isak Rosen - BOS
21. Fyodor Svechkov - MIN
22. Zachary Bolduc - VGK
23. Carson Lambos - FLA

After selecting William Eklund at #5, my hope was to select one of the big need positions: either center or defenseman. My dream pick at that spot was Carson LAMBO, but Florida took him directly before our pick. I could have gone with a center like Francesco Pinelli or Zach Dean, or a defenseman like Daniil Chayka, but they felt like slight reaches there.

If this situation unfolds for Jarmo in the real draft, I think the best strategy in a case like this is to trade down. Move down somewhere from 5 to 15 spots and collect additional picks for this year or next. Get a player you still want at a position more in line with his value, but also get to pick an additional prospect. Of course as we’ve seen with late first round picks like Liam Foudy and Yegor Chinakhov, Jarmo isn’t afraid to reach when his pick is up if he really likes a player.

While trades are allowed in this mock draft exercise, it’s not very fun to trade one of my picks for picks I can’t actually make. Therefore I stuck to my philosophy of Best Player Available and took Chibrikov. You can read more about him in his prospect profile from last week. In reading MrSwift’s write-up, I was left with the impression that Chibrikov is one of the higher-upside offensive talents in the draft. He’s fast and is great with the puck. There are some holes in his game, but you can find question marks with every prospect outside of the top 10. The way his weaknesses are described, they sound like things which can be fixed (or at least minimized) with coaching and practice.

Some of you will likely be wary of us selecting yet another Russian forward. Is that too much investment in players who will spend several years overseas before coming over? Given that the Jackets have nine picks in the draft, I am OK with spending one on another Russian. Given that Chinakhov signed his ELC just one year after his selection gives me hope that being a first round pick would entice Chibrikov to come over sooner rather than later as well. If instead he follows the Kirill Marchenko/Dmitri Voronkov timeline, that’s not the end of the world. It gives him time to develop his game while playing against grown men in the world’s second best league. By the time he comes over, he could be an instant impact player like Artemi Panarin or Kirill Kaprizov (both dynamic, undersized Russian wingers who put up tons of points from day one).

Stay tuned tomorrow, when the mock draft concludes with our final pick at 4 p.m.

Who would you pick at #24 in this mock draft?

I agree with selecting Nikita Chibrikov27
We need a center, take Francesco Pinelli14
We need a center, take Zach Dean8
We need a defenseman, take Daniil Chayka11
Trade down9
Other (explain your choice in the comments)2

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