Updated: Sep 28
COLUMBUS – The disappointment for the Blue Jackets management and fan base is immeasurable after dropping a spot in the NHL draft lottery last Monday. After the worst season in franchise history, the only things that come out of it are a head coach firing and the third pick in the upcoming draft, not the pick we so desperately wanted.
Despite their team sitting at the bottom of the National Hockey League, the Fifth Line sold out eight of the last nine home games. They packed the rink for Tuesday night tilts. It is no question that out of all the teams that were in the running for Bedard, the Jackets had the most loyal fan base. Chicago struggled to sell out the historic United Center on Saturday nights in a city occupied by over 2.5 million people. The highly anticipated draft cookie just didn’t crumble the way this city thought it would.
What has been overlooked is the fact we will still get a quality player who could jump start the rebuild. I have already listed the players that I thought we would benefit most from, and as of right now, I still stick with that list, in that same order. Some Jackets fans have talked about the possibility of drafting Will Smith. Here is the problem with that; Will Smith has played a lower level of hockey than all of the other top prospects in the draft. He is still an extremely solid player with a TON of pro hockey upside, but I wish he could have played more hockey against the top players. He didn’t play in the world juniors (he played in the u18 WJC, but there is a big skill drop off from u20 to u18), and the highest level he has played has been against NCAA D1 teams with the USNTDP. Even if the Jackets were to pick him, he would still need at least a year before NHL readiness.
The Mighty Ducks hold the second pick, and even though all signs point to Adam Fantilli being the choice for Anaheim, could they go a different direction? Absolutely. Mason McTavish and Trevor Zegras are two franchise centers that are being utilized in the top six, and it wouldn’t surprise me if it stayed that way for the next few seasons. Zegras had a solid year with 65 points in 81 games played, and McTavish had 43 points in 80 games as a rookie. With the depth they have at the center position, it might just make sense for them to go with Matvei Michkov, since he could arrive in North America as the rebuild is supposedly wrapping up.
The IIHF World Championships are going on right now, and you can watch some of our draft prospects in this tournament. Adam Fantilli and Leo Carlsson are skating for Canada and Sweden, respectively. This will be a good preview for how they play against players of NHL caliber, and it should show us how they are capable of performing in the hardest league in the world.
The Big Day
Tune into the NHL draft on ESPN June 28th at 7pm Eastern. The Jackets hold 3rd and 22nd overall picks.