Hits and Misses: Blue Jackets Have Had Ups and Downs in First Round of NHL Draft

By Jacob Nitzberg on October 6, 2020 at 8:26 am
Aug 9, 2020; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Columbus Blue Jackets forward Liam Foudy (19) carries the puck against the Toronto Maple Leafs during the third period of game five of the Eastern Conference qualifications at Scotiabank Arena. Columbus eliminated Toronto with a win.
John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Blue Jackets' history in the first round of the NHL draft is quite interesting.

In the early years of the franchise, their pick was usually very early on. From 2000 to 2012 (excluding 2011 because the Blue Jackets traded away their first round pick that year), their average place in the first round was 5.9. With those advantageous positions, they were able to draft names like: 

  • Rick Nash (2002, 1st overall)
  • Nikolai Zherdev (2003, 4th overall)
  • Derick Brassard (2006, 6th overall)
  • Jakub Voracek (2007, 7th overall)
  • Ryan Johansen (2010, 4th overall)

It's common sense that the potential franchise-changing players are typically available early on, and that the value of a pick in the top five or even the top 10 dwarfs the value of the 21st pick, which is what the Blue Jackets are working with tonight. They've drafted in the 21st spot once before, selecting defenseman John Moore in 2009. Moore played 86 games for Columbus over three seasons, splitting time between the AHL and NHL. 

More recently, the Blue Jackets have had success in the first round. Pierre-Luc Dubois (2016, 3rd overall) and Zach Werenski (8th overall, 2015) are both outstanding players and leaders.

The Blue Jackets' most recent first-round pick, Liam Foudy, may be a blueprint for success in the draft. In 2018, the Blue Jackets took him with the 18th pick. Two years later, he was suiting up in the Stanley Cup Playoffs at the age of 20. 

Don't look now, but Foudy's younger brother, Jean-Luc, is draft-eligible this year. He'll likely be selected towards the end of the second round or even the third, and I wouldn't put it past GM Jarmo Kekäläinen to trade up to get him. 

We've looked at the hits. Now, let's take a look at the misses.

In the 2013, 2014, and 2015 NHL drafts, the Blue Jackets had a total of six first-round selections. They were: 

  • Alexander Wennberg (2013, 14th overall) 
  • Kerby Rychel (2013, 19th overall)
  • Marko Dano (2013, 27th overall) 
  • Sonny Milano (2014, 16th overall)
  • Zach Werenski (2015, 8th overall)
  • Gabriel Carlsson (2015, 29th overall)

Of those six, three are still with the franchise, and only two have had relative success at the NHL level. While this was certainly a letdown for Blue Jackets fans and the front office, it showcases how vast the difference is between picking in the top ten or top 5 to picking in the later stages.

Other first-round picks that never panned out include: 

  • Alexandre Picard (2004, 8th overall)
  • Gilbert Brule (2005, 6th overall)
  • Nikita Filatov (2008, 6th overall) 

With the Blue Jackets selecting 21st, it's unlikely they'll get a star. After selecting Foudy in 2018, the front office will look to have similar success with a late first-round pick tonight.

The 2020 NHL Draft will be held virtually with Round 1 taking place tonight beginning at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN (livestream). Rounds 2-7 will be held Wednesday, Oct. 7 (tomorrow) beginning at 11:30 a.m. ET on NHL Network.

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