The Five: Times The Columbus Blue Jackets Blew It With Their First Round Draft Pick

By Ed Francis on December 11, 2020 at 1:20 pm
Pascal LeClaire wasn't the worst first round pick, but he was close.
David Zalubowski-AP

When general manager Jarmo Kekalainen announced the Blue Jackets had selected forward Yegor Chinakov with their first round pick back in October, my initial reaction was: "who?"

For a moment, I felt like my examining of possible first round picks for the Jackets had failed. Plenty of players that seemed to fit were still available. A majority of hockey experts, so good at what they do that they have to be verified by Twitter, shared my sentiment. 

Remember that slick, subtle smile that Kekalainen had on his face as he announced the pick, though? We're starting to see why. Chinakov has been impressive in the KHL, scoring eight times and adding seven assists through 27 games with Omsk Avangard. 

But whether or not Chinakov will work out in the NHL is a question we won't have an answer to for years. 

Lucky for us, we *do* have answers to some of the first round picks of years past. The Five looks at five times the Blue Jackets botched their round one selection.

#5: Pascal LeClaire

2001, 8th overall

Blue Jackets Career: 125 games, 45-55-12 record, 2.82 goals against, .907 save percentage

It’s not that Pascal LeClaire was horrible. The defense in front of him wasn’t great, and the 2.82 goals against average while with Columbus probably isn’t far off where most other goalies would have been. But LeClaire never clicked with the Jackets, and was traded to Ottawa in 2009. Mike Smith was the best goalie in this draft, picked at #161 overall. Craig Anderson, Peter Budaj, and Ray Emery could have been options as well, going at #73, #63, and #99. Had the Jackets went the forward route, Ales Hemsky (572 points) went five picks later, and both Jason Pominville (727 points  and Derek Roy (524 points) went in round two. The steal of the draft though? Chicago took Patrick Sharp at #95 overall. 287 goals, 333 assists, and many perfect haircuts later, Sharpie ended his career with three Stanley Cups and an analyst gig with NBCSN.  

#4: Kerby Rychel

2013, 19th overall                                                                    

Blue Jackets Career: 37 games, 2 goals, 10 assists, 12 points

This is the only Jarmo draftee on the list, but it was in his first year. The reality is that the best thing about Kerby Rychel’s draft pick is that it eventually gave the Blue Jackets Scott Harrington when the two were traded for each other in 2016. While a serviceable extra defenseman, Harrington isn’t much to write home about. The Blue Jackets had three picks in the first round of the 2013 draft, using the other two on Alexander Wennberg and Marko Dano. Between the Jackets selection of Rychel at #19 and Dano at #27, they could have opted for Anthony Mantha (20th), Andre Burakovsky (23rd), or Shea Theodore (26th). For what it’s worth, the Blue Jackets didn’t totally bomb this draft: They got Oliver Bjorkstrand in the third round, at #89.  

#3: Gilbert Brule

2005, 6th overall

Blue Jackets Career: 146 games, 12 goals, 20 assists, 32 points

Gilbert Brule isn’t the worst #6 pick in the Jackets draft history – more on that in a moment – but he wasn’t great. The speedy center did score nine goals and add ten assists in his first full NHL season, and actually had a few Calder Trophy votes for the Rookie of the Year. But he scored just once in 61 games  in his second season and was traded to Edmonton prior to the 2008-09 season. He did have one decent season with the Oilers, in 2009-10 (17 goals, 20 points), but faded away again and added only 12 goals in the rest of his career. I very much wanted the Blue Jackets to go for Anze Kopitar in this draft. He went six picks later. TJ Oshie and Tuukka Rask also went later in the round, and while no one saw Paul Stastny, James Neal, or Patric Hornqvist as top round talent, they were all drafted in the class of 2005.

#2: Nikita Filatov

2008, 6th overall

Blue Jackets Career: 44 games, 6 goals, 7 assists, 13 points

I loved his name, but not his game. Expected to be an offensive wizard, Nikita Filatov had a tough time adjusting to the NHL game and just never worked out. The three picks directly behind him were Colin Wilson, Mikkel Boedker, and Josh Bailey. Not exactly household names, but all three scored over 100 goals and played over 600 games in their NHL careers. In fact, of the top ten picks in the 2008 draft, no one played less than 328 games (Cory Hodgson) except Filatov, who ended with 53 games after a nine-game stint with Ottawa. But for what it’s worth, the “right” pick here was Erik Karlsson (15th). Or Jordan Eberle (22nd). Or Tyler Ennis (26th). Or John Carlson (27th). Or Jacob Markstrom (31st). Or Roman Josi (38th). But hey, the Jackets took Cam Atkinson at #157 overall in the 6th round, so that kind of makes up for it.

#1: Alexandre Picard

2004, 8th overall

Blue Jackets Career: 67 games, 0 goals, 2 assists, 2 points

The Columbus Blue Jackets struggled out of the gate. Bad. They were in a tough division, in a conference they didn’t belong in, and never had the luck to get the first overall pick without acquiring it via trade. But better drafting in the early years of this franchise could have drastically changed the course of history. There were a could of botches in this draft; picks 10, 11, and 12 had a total of zero career goals (though two of them were defensemen). The best pick here would have been David Krejci, who went 63rd overall, but he was never thought of as a first-round pick. Picks that the Jackets could have went with: Travis Zajac (20th, 532 points), Mike Green (29th, 501 points), and the list goes on. Just about anyone would have been better here. This pick sucked. Don’t worry though, Picard killed it with the Jonquiere Marquis in the LNAH last year, scoring nine goals in 24 games. Oh, and that stands for Ligue-Nord-Americaine de Hockey, and it’s a low-level pro league based in Quebec. Neat.


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