The Columbus Blue Jackets don't have a history of grade-A drafts.
The 2021 NHL Entry Draft has plenty of potential to buck that trend.
From The Athletic to ESPN+ and Elliotte Friedman to Frank Seravalli, almost all of the experts agree that the Blue Jackets had a winning draft. Time will tell just how successful of a two-day period that general manager Jarmo Kekalainen and the Columbus front office had, but the Blue Jackets seem to have made all the right moves when on the clock.
Here's how the entire draft shook out for Columbus, and what to expect from each of the teams' nine selections.
Round 1, Pick #5: Kent Johnson (C)
When the Blue Jackets moved Seth Jones just before the draft and acquired Adam Boqvist and Jake Bean - two young defensemen - in return, it became obvious that Columbus was going to go with a forward. William Eklund and Dylan Guenther were available, but the Blue Jackets really liked the dynamic play-making ability of Johnson, who will stay at Michigan for his sophomore season. Called a "puck magician" by The Draft Prospects and someone who can make "jaw-dropping plays" per TheHockeyProspect.com, the 18-year-old Johnson has the ability and the raw talent to ooh-and-ahh the Nationwide Arena crowd as soon as the 2022-23 season, possibly as a center but more likely as a winger.
Round 1, Pick #12: Cole Sillinger (C)
This could be the steal of the draft. While Johnson provides elusiveness and dazzle, Sillinger gives the Blue Jackets a lethal combination of instinct and size. At 6'1" and over 200lbs at just 18-years-old, Sillinger is still growing and could become a power forward when he arrives in Columbus. The son of former Blue Jacket Mike Sillinger had 24 goals and 46 total points in 31 games with Sioux Falls in the USHL for the 2020-21 season. His 1.48 points per game was good enough to rank 4th at seasons' end. Columbus won't want to rush any of their picks from this season, but if anyone sees a little late-season NHL action, it could be Sillinger.
Round 1, Pick #25: Corson Ceulemans (D)
Ranked as high as the 5th best defenseman available in the draft, Ceulemans is heading to Wisconsin as a leader of the Badgers defense, and will continue to develop his already-promising game. Mike Morreale of NHL.com says that the 6'1" blue liner "has the potential to become a top-four NHL defenseman able to play big minutes in all situations." Ceulemans is still a few years away, but could be worth the wait.
Round 3, Pick #69: Stanislav Svozil (D)
Larceny. That was the word used by J.D. Burke of The Elite Prospects Podcast, a show he co-hosts with former NHL executive Craig Button, when describing what the Blue Jackets got in the third round.
Stanislav Svozil to the Columbus Blue Jackets at No. 69 overall is one of the steals of the draft. Just absolute larceny.— J.D. Burke (@JDylanBurke) July 24, 2021
Played his worst hockey of the season at the U18s, but he was lights out at the U20s and in the Czech Extraliga. Projects as a shutdown No. 4 d-man.
Svozil won't be a power play quarterback - but he plays a strong, physical game. Picture Vladislav Gavrikov, but without facial hair (yet). Another 18-year-old, Svozil alo already has professional hockey under his belt, playing two seasons with HC Kometa Brno in the Czech Repbulic. This could be the best value pick for not only Columbus, but of any pick in the draft.
Round 4, Pick #101: Guillaume Richard (D)
After spending last season with the Tri-City Storm of the USHL, Richard will play this fall at Providence College in Rhode Island. It's worth noting, though, that Richard turned down multiple offers to play in the QMJHL. There's still a lot to be learned for Richard to make the NHL (especially offensively), but his size (6'2") and intelligence as a stay-at-home defenseman give him a chance.
Round 5, Pick #132: Nikolai Makarov (D)
After snagging forwards with the first two picks, Columbus saw a need to replenish their blue line depth, and that continued in round five. Makarov, a native of Perm, Russia, is one of the biggest prospects in the entire draft, checking in at 6'4" and 235lbs. He's not flashy and doesn't bring a lot of offense with him, but he doesn't need to. His size alone will make forwards think twice.
Round 5, Pick #133: James Malatesta (C/RW)
- Tons of on-ice energy, like the recently departed Cam Atkinson.
- A later-round draft pick, like the recently departed Cam Atkinson.
- 5'8", like the recently departed Cam Atkinson.
No, Malatesta is probably not going to put up 400 points with the Blue Jackets, like (the recently departed) Cam Atkinson did. But he does have enough similarities in his game to make him a player to watch. Fifth round picks don't typically stick in the NHL, but keep an eye on the Quebec Remparts of QMJHL this season, where Malatesta will play this season. If he can work on the details of his game (namely, shot selection and defense), Malatesta has a chance to be a diamond in the rough.
Round 6, Pick #165: Ben Boyd (C)
Fun fact: Since 2010, three players selected at #165 have played NHL games. All three were drafted by the Boston Bruins, and none of them scored a goal. Scott Timmons, drafted in 2009, is the last player to score a goal drafted in that spot. The last player selected at #165 to score multiple NHL goals? More than a quarter-century ago, when the Hartford Whalers took Byron Ritchie in the 1995 NHL Draft.
None of this is to say that Ben Boyd won't work out, of course. FCHockey.com has Boyd, who is 6'3" and 205lbs as a 17-year-old, as a potential sleeper.
“He’s a player who is enthusiastic about the forecheck and loves laying the body and creating turnovers," said Shaun Richardson, a scout with the site who has seen Boyd in action. "(He) plays with anger and seems to take players battling him as a personal offense. He’s a momentum-shifter when his team can’t get going,”
But, history isn't on his side. Here's to hoping?
Round 7, Pick #197: Martin Rysavy (LW)
According to The Elite Prospects draft guard, Rysavy is "physical, hard to knock off of the puck, and plays a responsible two-way game that every coach can appreciate." While his chance of making it to the NHL is an obvious longshot, the winger has had his plans to play in North America delayed by COVID-19. Things could get back on track for the Czech native, as he's set to play the upcoming season with the Moose Jaw Warriors of the WHL in Canada, whose season begins October 1st.