Looking At The Blue Jackets' Success Rate at the Top of the Draft

By Coby Maeir on June 7, 2022 at 10:15 am
Kent Johnson
Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports
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We are just one month away from the NHL Draft.

The Blue Jackets have two top-12 selections for the second consecutive year. Those picks can be huge factors accelerating the rebuild or they could not have any impact at all. With that being said, let's take a look at the Jackets' history of drafting in the lottery.

Doug MacLean Era (2000-2006 Drafts)

With the first pick in the franchise's history, the Jackets selected defenseman Rostislav Klesla fourth overall in 2000. Klesla was a solid NHL player, suiting up for 515 games across 10 seasons for Columbus, scoring 41 goals and 92 assists, and was named to the all-rookie team in the 2001-02 season. Klesla never received a vote for the Norris Trophy, which is disappointing considering where he was drafted. However, you can't exactly call him a bust either, because six out of the following players selected did not play 200 NHL games. You could make the argument they should have selected Raffi Torres or Scott Hartnell who went fifth and sixth overall, respectively, but given that the 2000 first-round featured 13 players that played less than 200 NHL games, drafting a player who played over 500 for the franchise is solid. 

2001 was a tough first round for the Blue Jackets. They selected goaltender Pascal Leclaire eighth, one pick ahead of Tuomo Ruutu. Leclaire appeared in 125 games in goal across five seasons with the Jackets, starting 120 of them, and posted a 2.82 goals-against average and a .907 SV%. Meanwhile, Ruutu played in 735 games, scoring 148 goals and 346 points. This is not as an egregious of a bust as some other examples, but to only get 120 starts from a goalie selected in the top-10 is a tough pill to swallow, especially when the player drafted directly after him had a solid NHL career. However, he was traded for Antoine Vermette, who played in 241 games over four seasons for Columbus, scoring 61 goals and 152 points.

In 2002, Columbus knocked its first-ever first overall pick out of the park, selecting center Rick Nash. In 674 games as a Jacket, Nash scored 289 goals and 547 points. For the Jackets, Nash was a two-time 40-goal scorer, including in his second season where he won the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy as the top goal scorer in the NHL (he shared it with Ilya Kovalchuk and Jarome Iginla) and scored less than 30 goals in a season in just two out of the nine seasons he played in Columbus. He is far and away the greatest player in franchise history and his number 61 was raised into the Nationwide Arena rafters earlier this year. 

The 2003 NHL Draft is regarded by many as the greatest in NHL history. Unfortunately for the Blue Jackets, they selected forward Nikolai Zherdev fourth overall. Zherdev played in 283 games over four seasons in Columbus, scoring 76 goals and 181 points. The next five players selected were Thomas Vanek, Milan Michalek, Ryan Suter, Braydon Coburn, and Dion Phaneuf. Safe to say Columbus missed when it selected Zherdev, who was traded for Fedor Tyutin, who played in 553 games over eight seasons for Columbus.

If you think leaving the 2003 first-round without a long-time NHL player was bad for the Blue Jackets, 2004 may have been worse. They selected Alexandre Picard, a winger, eighth overall. Picard played in just 67 games across five seasons for the Jackets and recorded two assists. The next pick was Ladislav Smid, who played 583 NHL games on defense.

In 2005, the Blue Jackets selected Gilbert Brule, a center, sixth overall. Brule played in 146 games over three seasons in Columbus and registered 12 goals and 32 points. The 11th overall pick in that draft was multi-time Selke Trophy winner Anze Kopitar. Brule was later traded for the aforementioned Raffi Torres, who played 111 games across two seasons for the Jackets.

In 2006, Columbus selected center Derick Brassard, who played 309 games across six seasons for the franchise, scoring 58 goals and 169 points. This was MacLean's last draft as the GM and other than Nash, this was his best pick.

Scott Howson Era (2007-2012 Drafts)

Howson's first pick as GM was a good one. The team selected forward Jakub Voracek seventh overall. In 320 games across four seasons over two stints as a Jacket, Voracek has scored 45 goals and 151 points. Logan Couture was two picks later and you could argue they should have selected him but given the team's history of drafting high, Voracek was a good pick.

In 2008, the Jackets selected forward Nikita Filatov sixth overall. He played in 44 games across three seasons for Columbus and scored six goals and 13 points. The three players drafted directly after him were Colin Wilson, Mikkel Boedker, and Josh Bailey.

In 2010, Columbus selected center Ryan Johansen fourth overall. In 309 games with the Jackets, he scored 79 goals and 193 points. Additionally, he scored two goals and six points in six playoff games. Johansen was later traded for Seth Jones who was traded last summer for Adam Boqvist, a 2021 first-round pick, a 2021 second-round pick, and a 2022 first-round pick. 

In Howson's last draft as GM, the Jackets selected defenseman Ryan Murray second overall in 2012. Murray played in 347 games as a Jacket and has had a better career than the two players drafted directly after him, Alex Galchenyuk and Griffin Reinhart. However, Morgan Rielly was selected fifth overall.

Jarmo Kekalainen Era (2013-Present Drafts)

With the 14th pick in the 2013 draft, the Jackets selected center Alexander Wennberg, who played 415 games over six seasons for Columbus, scoring 40 goals and 201 points. Wennberg had a solid career in Columbus. 

The 2015 draft, like the 2003 draft was loaded with talent. Unlike the 2003 draft, the Blue Jackets came away from the 2015 first round with a star. They selected defenseman Zach Werenski eighth overall. Werenski has played 403 games, recording 76 goals and 237 points. In 29 playoff games, he's scored 4 goals and 13 points.

In 2016, Columbus selected forward Pierre-Luc Dubois third overall. Dubois played in 239 games over four seasons in Columbus, scoring 66 goals and 159 points, adding eight goals and 19 points in 26 playoff games before being traded for Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic in January 2021. 

In 2021, the Blue Jackets selected two players in the top-12 of the draft, and the early returns are promising. They selected forward Kent Johnson fifth overall and forward Cole Sillinger 12th overall. In nine NHL games, Johnson has posted three assists and showed flashes of what made him such a highly-touted prospect. As for Sillinger, he played in 79 games this past season, scoring 16 goals and 31 points. 

If Kekalainen continues to have success drafting in the lottery, the Blue Jackets may not be selecting in the lottery for much longer.


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