The 2017 NHL Draft seems like it happened just yesterday, but enough time has passed that we can at least begin to analyze which teams did well at the podium that weekend in Chicago, IL.
The Columbus Blue Jackets were among the teams to find success at this draft, finding Alexandre Texier, Emil Bemstrom, and others in a draft in which they lacked a first and second-round draft pick.
In a recent piece, I established several truisms about the NHL Draft. The first is that it's quite difficult to mine for talent outside of the first round. The second is that, after the first several rounds, there simply aren't that many NHL players in any draft, and teams that find any late-round talent should be commended.
A brief refresher: The Blue Jackets traded their first-round pick alongside David Clarkson's contract to the Golden Knights just days before the draft. They also had to forfeit their second-round pick, #55 overall, to the Vancouver Canucks as compensation for hiring John Tortorella (Aside: I know the rule has since been abolished, but seriously how dumb is a rule that you have to compensate a team that fired their coach?).
But the Blue Jackets' salvaged a bad situation, and then some. They traded Keegan Kolesar, at the time an impressive prospect who was finishing up a solid WHL career, for the 45th pick in the draft. With that pick, the Blue Jackets selected Alexandre Texier, who had yet to play on anything resembling a large stage. While Kolesar, 23, is a player who could still make the jump to the NHL, Texier has leaped ahead of him and looks to be a fixture with the Blue Jackets for the foreseeable future in a top-nine capacity.
The Blue Jackets' scouting department deserves a ton of credit for selecting Texier, who was not seen in the public eye as a top-50 player in this draft. ISS hockey had him ranked #101. Future Considerations was even lower on the Frenchman at #211. The Athletic's Scott Wheeler had him pegged at #91. NHL Central Scouting had him ranked as just the 16th best European skater. In a recent re-draft column by Wheeler, Texier went 19th overall, one pick behind ... Emil Bemstrom.
|Number||Round||Name||Position||Current Team (League)|
|45||2||Alexandre Texier||F||Columbus (NHL)|
|86||3||Daniil Tarasov||G||Assat Pori (Liiga)|
|117||4||Emil Bemstrom||F||Columbus (NHL)|
|148||5||Kale Howarth||F||Connecticut (NCAA)|
|170||6||Jonathan Davidsson||F||Belleville (AHL)|
|179||6||Carson Meyer||F||Ohio State (NCAA)|
|210||7||Robbie Stucker||D||Minnesota (NCAA)|
If the Blue Jackets scouts deserve praise for having the stones to trade up and select Texier, they earned even more credit for selecting Bemstrom. Finding value in a player of his ilk in the middle of the fourth round is incredible, and that he's already a mainstay in the Blue Jackets' lineup at age 21 shows is pretty wild, considering only 11 other players picked after the second round has played even one game thus far in the NHL. Bemstrom's played the most of that group (56). Before coming to the NHL, he dominated the SHL with 23 goals in 47 games, the third-most goals by an under-20 SHL player in its history. Like Texier, Bemstrom looks to figure into the Blue Jackets' long-term plans.
In a draft without a first-round pick, finding even one player that will be a key cog for the franchise would have been seen as acceptable. Finding two is fantastic. Anything more than that would be gravy.
Which is why it's incredible that we haven't seen the last from this class of players at the NHL level.
Jonathan Davidsson was part of the trade with the Ottawa Senators that brought Matt Duchene to the Blue Jackets for last season's playoff run. At one point a few years ago, I believed that he and Bemstrom were neck-and-neck in their development paths, but at this juncture, it's clear that Bemstrom is ahead (though that doesn't mean he'll stay ahead). Davidsson could still see a larger role in a re-building Senators team. Still, he was labeled as the biggest disappointment in 2019-20 by SilverSevenSens, the Senators' SB Nation blog, in part due to injuries. To recap, Davidsson went from 6th round draft pick to one of two key prospects in a trade for an NHL star center and is now labeled a disappointment at 23. While his future is murkier than it was before the trade, he still has NHL potential.
The path to the NHL may be less clear for Meyer, Howarth, and Stucker. Meyer just finished his career at Ohio State after transferring from Miami in 2018. He had an outstanding senior campaign and capped off his career with a four-goal performance against Wisconsin in the Big 10 opening playoff round. His season was shut down before the Buckeyes could host Michigan. He could be in line for an AHL deal next season, should the Blue Jackets choose to keep his rights. Both Howarth and Stucker are rising Juniors at UConn and Minnesota, respectively. I don't believe either are NHL prospects at this time, but could provide organizational depth down the line.
Then there's Daniil Tarasov, who could end up being the crown jewel of this draft. After missing his draft year due to injury, he fell more than anticipated. He didn't have a great season on a losing Assat team in Finland's Liiga, and is expected to play in Cleveland (AHL) this upcoming season. The 21-year old recently signed his entry-level deal and could be a huge part of the club's future, though his leash is longer than his 2017 draft counterparts.
The story hasn't been fully written on the 2017 NHL Draft, but the Blue Jackets showed themselves exceedingly well in the three years since. At the worst, they plucked two NHLers from the group, made only more impressive by the fact that they didn't have a first-round pick. At best, they'll reap the rewards from this draft for the better part of the next decade and beyond.