With No Second Or Third-Round Pick In The Upcoming 2020 NHL Draft, The Blue Jackets Must Find An NHL Contributor With Their First-Round Pick

By Dan Dukart on September 17, 2020 at 8:05 am
Jarmo Kekalainen speaks to the media

The pressure will be on the Columbus Blue Jackets to find an impact NHL player with their first-round pick in the upcoming NHL Draft.

And while that's true in every draft, it's even more apt in the 2020 NHL Draft, where the club is without a second or third-round pick due to prior trades. Said another way, the Blue Jackets don't have a selection between 22nd and 113th overall, per CapFriendly. Large breaks between draft selections is starting to become old hat for the club, who didn't pick until the fourth round (104 overall) in 2019 and traded up to 45th overall for their first selection (Alexandre Texier) in 2017.

In 2019, Columbus traded their second-round pick in 2020 (and 2021!) and Anthony Duclair for 30 games and 13 points from Ryan Dzingel. And in 2018, they traded their 2020 third-round pick for defenseman Ian Cole. And while both trades were made with the right intentions, there's no denying that as it stands today that the Blue Jackets wish they had those picks. 

History has shown us that picking in the low 20's is far from a guaranteed success, but it's still (obviously) a valuable pick. And, as we wrote about in May, the dirty little secret about the NHL Draft is that a) there is an enormous advantage to picking early in the first round and b) there is virtually no difference in a typical player's contribution once we get past the second round.

Still, the club's lack of darts available to throw early in the 2020 draft is less than ideal and puts immense pressure on the franchise to hit on a player with their first pick. While there has been plenty of speculation of trade fodder (Josh Anderson, David Savard, Joonas Korpisalo, etc.), less has been said about the surplus of forwards on the organization's depth chart. A player like Eric Robinson, who is two seasons from UFA at a more-than-reasonable $975k cap hit, could be an enticing player in a trade for a draft pick(s). He wouldn't fetch a second-round pick, I'll grant you, but management may feel that moving a player that they brought in as an NCAA free-agent may be prudent asset management.   

The Blue Jackets have become a successful draft-and-develop franchise even with fewer than optimal draft picks (through NCAA free-agency, CHL overage players, etc.). But with fewer picks comes more pressure for scouts to find diamonds in the rough and for the organization to successfully develop these prospects for years after they've been drafted. With fewer darts to throw in the earlier parts of the upcoming draft, the club must hit on their first-round pick. Adding to their stable of draft picks would go a long way in alleviating that pressure.