No Picks, No Problem: Jarmo Kekalainen is Dealing Away A Lot of Picks (And That's OK)

By Paul Berthelot on February 25, 2019 at 2:15 pm
Jarmo Kekalainen working the phones
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The Blue Jackets made another trade over the weekend, shipping out a couple of second round picks along with Anthony Duclair for Ryan Dzingel. That trade, along with the one for Matt Duchene, has left the organization's cupboards pretty bare.

The Blue Jackets have already dealt away seven picks over the next three seasons including all three of their second-round picks. As things currently stand, the Blue Jackets have just their third, fourth, seventh, and Calgary’s seventh with the potential for Pittsburgh’s seventh for this upcoming draft.

This has caused some concern as the Blue Jackets have always considered themselves a "draft and develop" organization. It’s pretty difficult to draft and develop talent when you don’t have draft picks – especially high ones. 

For Jarmo Kekalainen and the Blue Jackets, this shouldn’t actually be much of a problem. Under his tenure as GM, outside of picking in the top 10 of the draft, Kekalainen has not had much success in the first two rounds.

Take a look at the first round picks Kekalainen has made as Blue Jackets GM, outside of the top 10.

  • Alexander Wennberg
  • Kerby Rychel
  • Marko Dano
  • Sonny Milano
  • Gabriel Carlsson
  • Liam Foudy

You have four players in this group (Rychel, Dano, Milano, Carlsson) who are not NHL players. Wennberg is quickly playing himself out of his NHL spot. And Liam Foudy looks like a decent prospect, but the fact that he is not the undisputed top prospect in the system is concerning for a player picked in the first round. It’s only been six picks, but given this spotty track record, those mid-to-late firsts are much better off being used to acquire a player of Duchene’s calibre.

To the second round:

  • Dillon Heatherington
  • Ryan Collins
  • Paul Bittner 
  • Kevin Stenlund
  • Andrew Peeke
  • Alexandre Texier
  • Kirill Marchenko

Stenlund has played four NHL games and Heatherington 11. That's it for NHL experience from this group. Texier and Marchenko are two of the team’s best prospects, but overall the second round has been a wasteland.   

We don’t need to go through all of Kekalainen's picks from rounds three to seven, but here are some of the more prominent names.

  • Oliver Bjorkstrand
  • Elvis Merzlikins
  • Vladislav Gavrikov
  • Markus Nutivaara
  • Vitali Abramov
  • Jonathan Davidsson

The biggest thing Kekalainen and his staff have done with later rounds is extract value from them. He’s been able to find regular roster players in Bjorkstrand and Nutivaara, as well as top prospects Abramov and Merzlikins. He’s been able to trade players like Keegan Kolesar for the pick that became Alexandre Texier, and Nick Moutrey was a part of the Ian Cole trade (plus of course Abramov and Davidsson for Duchene).

There are other ways to acquire talent. Look at the Blue Jackets core players: Artemi Panarin, Sergei Bobrovsky, Seth Jones, and now Duchene, were all acquired through trade. Panarin and Bobrovsky weren’t drafted. Cam Atkinson was a sixth round pick, Josh Anderson a fourth, David Savard a fourth.

It’s difficult, but it can be done. You need to hit on your later picks to give your organization a chance, and Kekalainen has shown he can do that.

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