Selecting Fifth In The NHL Entry Draft, The Columbus Blue Jackets Have An Array Of Possible Options

By Ed Francis on June 3, 2021 at 1:20 pm
Is William Eklund a target for the Columbus Blue Jackets at #5?

The math held, and the Columbus Blue Jackets will pick from the number five position in this summer's NHL Entry Draft.

It's the first time in franchise history that the club owns the 5th overall pick, but in a draft without a clear-cut, must-have talent at number one, the Blue Jackets have a real chance at getting the talent they have at the very top of their board.

With the order for the non-playoff teams now known, we can begin to examine what route the four teams ahead of Columbus may go, and what it might spell for the Blue Jackets when the draft begins July 23rd.

At least one of the many options for the Blue Jackets is, for all intents and purposes, off the table. The Buffalo Sabres won the lottery and will pick first next month, and that pick will almost definitely be Michigan defenseman Owen Power. He's big, he's agile, and can play both ways. While he may not be the #1 guy on every team's list, he's a safe pick at the top and is likely to be an NHL player when the season begins this fall, especially for the Sabres. They need help everywhere, but particularly on defense.

Seattle and Anaheim swapped spots as a result of the lottery, meaning the expansion Kraken will make the second selection in the draft, and the Ducks will pick third. Seattle is a bit of a wildcard, especially without yet naming a coach. The expansion draft is set to take place just a couple of days before the entry draft, and who the Kraken select from other teams has a likely impact on what route they'll go at number two overall. Power's Wolverine teammate, Matthew Beniers, may be the best forward available in the draft, and quality centers are - as the Blue Jackets have learned in recent seasons - hard to come by. If Beniers doesn't go at number two, the Ducks may swoop him up at number three and the New Jersey Devils, who pick just ahead of the Blue Jackets at number four, could be an option as well. Regardless of where he goes, there's probably not a situation where Beniers falls to the Blue Jackets.

Anything beyond that, though, is on the table. Behind Power, there are three other defensemen that will assuredly go in the top ten: Luke Hughes, Brandt Clarke, and Simon Edvinsson. Making the relatively safe assumption that Beniers is drafted in the top four, this means that Jarmo Kekalainen and company will have the option of at least one of these top blue line prospects. All three have good size, and all three have a case to make as the best defensive prospect in the draft behind Power. Depending on which analyst you ask, any of the three are the second best available, and any of the three are the fourth best up for grabs. There's a drop in talent after this group though, so if the Blue Jackets decide to go defense, the pick will be Hughes, Clarke, or Edvinsson. 

Should they choose to go with a forward, a couple names stand out. Including Beniers, most experts are in agreement that center William Eklund and winger Dylan Guenther are the best offensive talents in the draft. Beniers likely has the inside track as the best of the three, but that's a testament to what he did at Michigan this season (24 points in 24 games, including ten goals) than it is any criticism to Eklund or Guenther. 

Ultimately, the biggest choice the Blue Jackets will have to make may not be specifically who they take, but rather, what position they want to pursue. Seth Jones is very likely on his way out, and the Blue Jackets blue line - once their greatest asset - is in need of a rebuild retool.

At the same time, they've spent years looking for skilled forwards, and they'll have a chance to add one with the fifth pick, if they want to. Young guns like Yegor Chinakov, Kirill Marchenko, and Dmitri Voronkov are impressive, but only one of them (Chinakov) have a chance at making the roster this year, as Marchenko and Voronkov are obligated to the KHL for at least one more year. 

To throw an extra wrench in, there's always the possibility that the club moves out of the spot or trades it away completely. The Blue Jackets own two other yet-to-be-determined picks later in the first round, so they certainly do have the flexibility to make one (or more) moves prior to the draft.

As of now, the most likely outcome is that they'll keep the pick, and if they do, it's almost a lock that one of those five names - Hughes, Clarke, Edvinsson, Eklund, or Guenther - will be the next Columbus Blue Jacket.


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