Hello, folks, this is @CBJProspects coming at you.
As is tradition, The Hockey News "Future Watch" has hit my mailbox, meaning it’s time for my annual State of the Columbus Blue Jackets Prospect Pool.
After a massive drop in last year’s organizational rankings (14 to 23) the Blue Jackets bounced back up to No. 17 while keeping their B- grade. The Blue Jackets’ ranks the last four years are now: 13, 14, 23 and 17, respectively.
I was nervous to see what this year’s list would look like with two of the team’s top three prospects being locks for the Blue Jackets roster when I originally wrote it (they’re currently our No. 4 defenseman and a '1B goalie'. In fact, of the Blue Jackets top 10 prospects on last year’s list, seven have played a game in the NHL this season for Columbus.
The magazine includes a top-10 list of every team’s prospects along with a top-100 list. Here is the Blue Jackets list with their top-100 ranks in parentheses.
- Liam Foudy (26)
- Kirill Marchenko (69)
- Daniil Tarasov (88)
- Andrew Peeke (95)
- Dmitry Voronkov
- Gabriel Carlsson
- Matiss Kivlenieks
- Tim Berni
- Kevin Stenlund
- Trey Fix-Wolansky
Much like last year, I don’t have a problem with this year’s list other than it favors Columbus more than I thought it would. On last year's list, winger Liam Foudy was the Blue Jackets' only prospect in the top 100.
There are three teams with five prospects in the top 100 and two of those three are the top three teams in the league (explain yourselves, Los Angeles Kings). The one prospect The Hockey News seems to love is defenseman Gabriel Carlsson who’s been in the Blue Jackets top-10 list since "Future Watch 2016," while being ranked in the top 100 twice. Carlsson was also ranked as the team’s top prospect in 2018.
For the third year in a row, the Blue Jackets only have one prospect they need to make a decision on. That prospect is Ohio State University senior Carson Meyer. Meyer was the Buckeyes' second-leading scorer and led the team in goals, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him signed by Cleveland Monsters, the Blue Jackets' AHL-affiliate.
Speaking of the Monsters, this will be a busy summer for the club as only four players listed are non-roster players (meaning not on an NHL roster) and are signed for next season. I usually list the free agents, but it’ll actually be easier for me to list the players under contract for next season. Forwards Trey Fix-Wolansky, Zac Dalpe, defenseman Adam Clendening, and goaltender Veini Vehviläinen are the Monsters who have a contract for next season.
Now, I’ll note most of the free agents are restricted free agents who will get their "10 percent bump" and return next season.
As for rookies in Cleveland next year, Foudy can (legally) play for the Monsters next year, but going off his two-game audition in the NHL this season, he very well could be with the Blue Jackets in 2020-2021. Another rookie is defenseman Jake Christiansen who was signed out of the WHL, leading the said league in goals by a defenseman this season. Now, a bit of a wild card is goaltender Daniil Tarasov. Tarasov is signed by the Blue Jackets and could either be in North America or possibly back in Finland next year.
As for where the Blue Jackets prospects will be next year, forward Tyler Angle will be back for another season in Windsor, possibly wearing a letter for the Spitfires. I believe blueliner Eric Hjorth will be back in Sarnia as one of the team’s top defensemen if not the top defenseman, but he could also be back in Sweden (sometimes CHL imports are only loaned for a season).
In the NCAA, forward Kale Howarth will be back in Storrs for another year with the University of Connecticut, where he put up 16 points in 29 games. Defenseman Robbie Stucker will is probable to be a constant in the Gophers lineup after being mostly a power play specialist this year. Then there's Peter Thome, who goes into next season as the NCHC’s goaltending champion. He’ll again be battling with Ohio native Adam Scheel for the North Dakota crease.
Forward Markus Karlberg has one more year on a deal he signed before last season and will be back with Leksands of the SHL, and will stay up in next season due to Sweden’s season being canceled. Karlberg didn’t score any points in the SHL in 13 games but was his usual high scoring self with Leksand’s J20 team (11-21-32, 27 GP).
Newly-signed defenseman Tim Berni will be heading over to North America next season to be in the AHL-NHL pipeline, after a few years stint in Zurich where he was a mainstay in the Lions' lineup.
Russia is where two of the Blue Jackets' top prospects are playing for the next few seasons. Forward Kirill Marchenko is the Blue Jackets' top European prospect, but he’s re-signed with SKA for the next two seasons, where he set a SKA record for most points by a 19-year-old this past campaign. While Marchenko was usually on SKA’s fourth line, forward Dmitry Voronkov was normally listed on the team’s second line. Voronkov is under contract with Ak Bars Kazan until after next season.
As for next year's World Junior Championships in Canada (get those 50-50 tickets ready), it appears defenseman Eric Hjorth is the only current Blue Jackets prospect eligible for the event.
As for the draft, whenever it happens, the Blue Jackets should make picks, not trades, in my opinion (especially in the defense department).
There you have it, folks, my take on the Blue Jackets prospect pool. As for next season, fingers crossed we still have the Traverse City tournament, and I hope to be there.