This morning, our Sam Blazer touched on three defenseman that the Columbus Blue Jackets may select in July's NHL Entry Draft.
With the fifth overall pick, all three options have world-class skill and the ability to become a top blue line player for the team that selects them. The Blue Jackets no longer have David Savard, won't have Seth Jones for much longer, and behind Zach Werenski, don't have a true, solid top d-man. Choosing a defenseman would not be a bad strategy.
But the team also lacks weapons at the forward positions, and drafting an NHL-ready forward has the potential to give the scoring corp the shot in the arm it so desperately needs. Here are three options at forward for Columbus' fifth pick.
If Matt Beniers, who is highly unlikely to be available at #5, is the best overall forward in the draft, then Dylan Guenther is the best pure scorer of the bunch. He's spent part of the last three seasons with the Edmonton Oil Kings of the WHL, and has absolutely dominated: 78 total games, 41 goals, 46 assists, and 87 total points. A few years ago, during the 2017-18 season, he scored 103 points in 30 games (?!) playing with the under 15 Northern Alberta Xtreme in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League. No, it's not the NHL, but 103 points in 30 games is a jaw-dropper against what's supposed to be equal competition. He's creative, he's flashy, and he can score. The knock on him, and it's not really a knock, is that he's pretty exclusively a right winger. Columbus needs help across the board, but the wing slots are where they may need the least amount of help. Talent like Guenther would be hard to pass up, though.
At 5'10" and 175lbs, William Eklund relies on his speed and vision more than his size and strength. Most recently, he had 11 goals and 12 assists in 40 games in the Swedish Hockey League, and it was enough for the league to name him their rookie of the year for the 2020-21 season. While the numbers aren't eye-popping, he's consistent, he's smart, and he's versatile. Eklund can play any forward position on the ice, including center.
There is a lot of Michigan talent in the draft, and Kent Johnson is a name that won't get talked about like that of Owen Power and Beniers, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't. Johnson is a flashy center who put up 27 points in 26 games this season with The Team Up North. Sam Cosentino of Sportsnet says it best when he says that Johnson "may be the best-in-class when it comes to creativity and elusiveness with the puck on his stick." Good centers are hard to come by, and that only increases the value of Johnson.