Your Guide To The Defensemen The Blue Jackets Might Target In Next Week's NHL Draft

By Will Chase on July 1, 2022 at 1:45 pm
Columbus Blue Jackets 2022 NHL Draft

Will the Columbus Blue Jackets trade up in this year's NHL Draft? Is defense the spot they're looking to bolster with their first pick?

All options are currently on the table with the NHL Draft occurring next week in Montreal. With defense being the spot on the team that needs to be bolstered, let's take a look at those prospects that could be had by the Blue Jackets in the first round of the upcoming draft.

In our 'Names To Know' series, we checked out some of the first-round defensive talents on display that could interest Columbus in the first round or later. The six outlined below are all projected to be at least top-four defensemen in the NHL.

Lian Bichsel is a defenseman that is currently slotted to go in the latter stages of the first round. Still, as our Dan Greene pointed out, the Blue Jackets could decide to make him their guy later in the draft if Bichsel is who they strongly identify with and he happens to be available. Bichsel is physically imposing at six-foot-five, 225 pounds, and even brings offensive talents as Corey Pronman of The Athletic points out. He scored seven points (three goals, four assists) in 11 games for Leksands IF J20 and three points (one goal, two assists) in 29 games for Leksands IF of the SHL. Pronman listed Bichsel 15th in his latest prospect rankings (The Athletic's Scott Wheeler, 51st) with the NHL comparable for Bichsel listed as K'Andre Miller. In The Athletic's latest mock draft, Bichsel is taken with the 17th pick.

Denton Mateychuk is a defenseman that brings loads of offensive skill, and we know how much the Blue Jackets have loved defensemen with offensive traits. In 65 games for the WHL's Moose Jaw Warriors, Mateychuk scored 64 points (13 goals, 51 assists). He scored 10 points in the playoffs (one goal, nine assists). Projected to go in the middle-to-later stages of the opening round, Mateychuk is 14th on the current mock draft model over at My NHL Draft and 25th in Pronman's mock draft. Ranked as the 13th top prospect by both Wheeler and Pronman, Pronman lists Shayne Gostisbehere as Mateychuk's NHL comp.

Pavel Mintyukov is one of those players that projects to be right where the Blue Jackets are slated to draft with their first-round picks. On the My NHL Draft board mock, he was selected 12th by the Blue Jackets. Mintyukov is the type of defenseman that also came just inside and outside the top 10 per in May. At six-foot-one, 197 pounds, he features an exciting offensive IQ, having led his OHL team, the Saginaw Spirit, with 62 points and 45 assists to go with 17 goals. Pronman ranked Mintyukov as his 18th overall top prospect (Wheeler, 25th) and Pronman lists Brandon Montour as the NHL comp for Mintyukov. In Pronman's mock, Mintyukov is off the board at No. 14.

Kevin Korchinski looks to be a top 10 talent in the draft and he is coming off an offensive behemoth of a season after scoring 65 points (four goals, 61 assists) in 67 games with the WHL's Seattle Thunderbirds. Leading the team in assists, he continued his offensive force with 19 points (six goals, 13 assists) in 25 playoff games. Pronman lists Justin Schultz as Korchinski's NHL comp and has him 16th on the prospect rankings (Wheeler, 17th). In May, there seemed to be a concern about Korchinski being overly aggressive offensively and mediocre defensively. Pronman has him off the board at No. 10 in his latest mock draft.

David Jiricek, projected as a top-pair defenseman, is among the very best defenseman available in the draft and is likely to go pretty early. He's right inside where the Blue Jackets are primed to select, and they could miss him still as some mock drafts have him as a top-five pick, and fourth in Pronman's rankings (Wheeler, 6th) and second in The Athletic's most recent mock draft. Pronman tabbed Alex Pietrangelo as the NHL comp for Jiricek.

Aaron Portzline of The Athletic recently wrote about Jiricek, who looks to be a shutdown defenseman in the NHL. In that article, an Eastern Conference amateur scout had really positive things to say about the prospect.

"(Simon) Nemec is probably going to be more of a point-producer, offensive player in the NHL, but Jiricek is a guy who will give you some pop and play for a long time in the league.

“You look at him and just know that’s a big-minute guy, the type of guy coaches really come to rely upon.”

Jiricek scored 11 points (five goals, six assists) in 29 games for HC Plzen in the Czechia league. During the World Championship, he had two points (one goal, one assist) in five games. In addition to Pietrangelo as a comp for Jiricek, the other names listed range from Aaron Ekblad to Shea Weber.

Simon Nemec is the other top defenseman that would be a huge get for the Blue Jackets and projects as a top-pair defenseman. Pronman ranked him as his fifth prospect (Wheeler, 2nd). Comparing Nemec to MacKenzie Weegar, Pronman has Columbus grabbing Nemec with the sixth pick in the latest mock draft. Nemec spent part of his time in 2021-22 with HK Nitra in Slovakia scoring 26 points (one goal, 25 assists) in 39 games, and in the playoffs, put up 17 points (five goals, with his 12 assists leading the playoffs) in 19 games. He scored six points (one goal, five assists) in the World Championship.

Honorable mentions of other defensemen that could be selected in the first or second round include:

  • Owen Pickering played for the Swift Current Broncos (WHL) where he scored 33 points (nine goals, 24 assists) in 62 games. Pronman has Pickering going 24th in the mock draft, comparing him to Travis Sanheim.
  • Ryan Chesley is committed to playing for the University of Minnesota in 2022-23. He spent 2021-22 playing for the U.S. National U18 Team (USDP) where he had 29 points (12 goals, 17 assists) in 59 games, USNTDP Juniors (USHL) scoring 15 points (five goals, 10 assists) in 26 games, and he was an alternate captain for USA U18 (WJC-18) with five points (two goals, three assists) in six games. Chesley goes 23 in the mock draft and Ryan Lindgren is his NHL comp.
  • Sam Rinzel is committed to playing for the University of Minnesota in 2022-23. In 2021-22, he spent time playing in high school in Minnesota and also playing for the Waterloo Black Hawks with 10 points (two goals, eight assists) in 21 games.