The words “NHL Draft” can bring mixed emotions amongst the Blue Jackets faithful.
In the early years, it was the disappointment that (in hindsight) management passed over future All-Stars like Scott Hartnell (when he wasn’t in his 30s), Anze Kopitar and Zach Parise for Rostislav Klesla, Nikolay Zherdev and Gilbert Brule.
In the late 2000s, it was the fear that no matter who was drafted, it was seemingly inevitable that they would become a breakout player for a different team (Jakub Voracek, Derick Brassard).
Finally, in the Jarmo Kekalainen era, there's a respectable amount of trust in management. More specifically, in finding young talent, especially talent that fans may be face-palming about on draft day, but are later thankful for (Sonny Milano, Pierre-Luc Dubois).
The Blue Jackets first pick in the draft on Friday night is No. 18 in Round 1, followed by a single pick in Round 2, 3, 6 and 7. While this isn't the best situation possible, the club has had a recent history of finding diamonds in the rough with later picks, including many that are still on the roster:
- Draft Year – 2008
- Round – 6
- Pick – 157
- Career numbers – 447 Games Played, 145 Goals, 128 Assists, 273 Points
The 5-foot-8 kid from Connecticut has turned into one of the most well-known players in team history after low-performance expectations for a stumbling franchise. Now an All-Star and solidified 25-goal scorer, Atkinson has defied the odds of being an end-of-the-draft throwaway pick.
- Draft Year – 2011
- Round – 2
- Pick – 37
- Career numbers – 342 Games Played, 86 Goals, 75 Assists, 161 Points
Has there ever been a more polarizing player on the Jackets? Boone Jenner blew everyone away in his rookie season with 29 points and has been a fan favorite since, thanks to the greasy goals and limitless motor. His up-and-down season this past year had many yelling for a trade in February, but the tail end of his season and performance during the playoffs has quieted the critics for now.
- Draft Year – 2008
- Round – 5
- Pick – 127
- Career numbers – 416 Games Played, 72 Goals, 77 Assists, 149 Points
Thirty picks away from Atkinson in the ’08 draft was Matt Calvert, with his stereotypical hockey player accent. Calvert has been arguably the best postseason player ever for the Jackets, tallying 10 points in 16 playoff games, including two shorthanded goals and two overtime winners (all in road games, I might add).
- Draft Year – 2012
- Round – 4
- Pick – 95
- Career numbers – 159 Games Played, 37 Goals, 27 Assists, 64 Points
The man that fans argued wasn’t valuable enough for a big pay raise after the 2017 season has turned out to be actually pretty valuable, especially for being a fourth-round pick. Taking on the role of a bruiser who can score goals (a departure from the days of Jared Boll and Jody Shelley), Anderson has brought a unique combination of skill and physical play that really defines Blue Jackets hockey.
- Draft Year – 2015
- Round – 7
- Pick – 189
- Career numbers – 127 Games Played, 9 Goals, 21 Assists, 30 Points
Give him a few more seasons, but as of now, he looks to have top-four potential. He's smart with the puck, not deathly afraid of Tom Wilson, and has a nose for the net, even though his mindset is usually steady and focused on moving the puck.