Looking at General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen's First-round Picks and Seeing if There Are Any Trends Heading into the 2022 NHL Draft

By Coby Maeir on June 28, 2022 at 10:15 am
Gary Bettman
Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports
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The NHL Draft is just nine days away, and it will be Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen's 10th with the club.

The Jackets are scheduled to have two first-round selections in this year's draft, sixth and 12th overall. Will the Jackets select a forward or defenseman? Does the organization prefer taking players from college, juniors, or overseas? We will have to wait until next Thursday to find out. Also, I'm going to stay away from seeing if Kekalainen selected based on positional need or took the best player available because I don't have access to his draft boards therefore it's impossible for me to assess that. 


14th: Alexander Wennberg, C, Djurgardens IF Stockholm [Swe-1]

Wennberg was the first pick of the Kekalainen era, and the first of three forwards he would select in the 2013 first round. In 36 games playing in Sweden's second-tier, Wennberg scored 14 goals and 32 points in his draft year.

19th: Kerby Rychel, LW, Windsor Spitfires [OHL]

Rychel was the first player Kekalainen selected from a Canadian major junior league, and in 68 regular-season games in his draft year, Rychel scored 40 goals and 87 points. 

27th: Marko Dano, C, Bratislava Slovan [KHL]

Dano played his draft year in Russia's top league and scored three goals and seven points in 37 regular-season games and played four playoff games without registering a point. He was the first player Kekailanen selected from the KHL.


16th: Sonny Milano, LW, U.S. National Under-18 Team [USHL]

Kekalainen's only pick in the 2014 first-round marked the first time he selected a player from the U.S. National Team Development Program (USNTDP). In his draft year, Milano played for two different teams in the program. In 25 games with the USNTDP Juniors of the USHL, he scored 14 goals and 39 points, and in 58 games with the U.S. National Under-18 Team of the USDP, he scored 29 goals in 86 points. 


8th: Zach Werenski, D, U. of Michigan [Big-10]

This pick marked three firsts for Kekalainen. It was his first top 10 pick, and Werenski was both the first collegiate player and defenseman Kekalainen selected in the first round. In Werenski's draft year, he scored 9 goals and 25 points in 35 games. 

29th: Gabriel Carlsson, D, Linkoping HC Jr. [Swe-Jr] & Linkopings HC [Swe-HL]

The selection of Carlsson marked the first draft that Kekalainen drafted multiple defensemen in the first round. In 39 games with Linkoping HC Jr., he registered seven assists and added two assists in seven regular-season games and one assist in 10 playoff games with Linkopings HC. 


3rd: Pierre-Luc Dubois, C, Cape Breton Screaming Eagles [QMJHL]

To this day, this was the highest Kekalainen has ever selected in the draft and marked the first time he selected a player from the QMJHL in the first round. In 62 regular-season games in his draft year, Dubois scored 42 goals and 99 points, in addition to seven goals and 12 points in 12 playoff games.


18th: Liam Foudy, C, London Knights [OHL]

Foudy was the first player Columbus drafted from the London Knights in the first round since Rick Nash in 2002. In his draft year, Foudy scored 24 goals and 40 points in 65 regular-season games in addition to one goal and two points in four playoff games.


21st: Yegor Chinakov, RW, Omsk Jrs. (Russia)

Like Milano, Chinakov played for two different teams during his draft year. In two regular-season games for Izhstal Izhevsk of the VHL, Russia's second-tier, he scored two goals and three points. In 56 regular-season games for Omskie Yastreby of the MHL, Russia's junior league, he registered 27 goals and 69 points while adding a goal in four playoff games. 


5th: Kent Johnson, C, U. of Michigan [Big-10]

Johnson is the first collegiate forward Kekalainen selected in the first round, and the second Michigan Wolverine. In his draft year, Johnson registered nine goals and 27 points in 26 regular-season games. 

12th: Cole Sillinger, C, Sioux Falls Stampede [USHL]

Sillinger is the first non-USNTDP player from the USHL that Kekalainen selected in the first round, and last year's draft marked both the second time he had multiple first-round picks and selected multiple centers in the same first round. In his draft year, Sillinger scored 24 goals and 46 points in 31 regular-season games. 

25th: Corson Ceulemans, D, Brooks Bandits [AJHL]

Ceulemans played for the same junior team, the Brooks Bandits, as Cale Makar. This selection marked the first time Kekalainen selected a player from a Canadian Junior A league in the first round. In eight regular-season games in his draft year, Ceulemans scored four goals and 11 points. 

Now that all 11 of Kekalainen's first-round selections have been listed, here are some stats.

  • Nationality*: Six Canadians, two Americans, one Russian, one Slovakian, and two Swedes.
  • Position: Six centers, three wingers, and three defensemen.
  • Draft Year League: Three from Canadian Major Junior leagues, two from the U.S. junior first-tier, two from U.S. colleges, one from Canadian Junior A, one from Russian junior hockey, one from the first-tier of Swedish hockey, one from the second-tier of Swedish hockey, and one from the first-tier of Russian hockey.
  • Draft Year Stats: Seven players scored over a point per game. Five players scored less than a point per game.

*Based on what national team the player played for, not where they were born.

If you took the largest group from each category and used that to predict this year's selection, it would be a Canadian center that scored over a point per game in a Canadian Major Junior league in his draft year. There are four players in the top 10 of the NHL's Central Scouting rankings of North American skaters that fit that criterion: Shane Wright, Matthew Savoie, Conor Geekie, and Luca Del Bel Belluz

These are just stats, and nobody knows what's going to happen a week from Thursday, but it will be interesting to see how Kekalainen's selections compare with the ones listed above. 

Next Thursday should be fun. 

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