It has been nearly a week since the Columbus Blue Jackets received the unfortunate news that was the result of the NHL Draft Lottery. President of Hockey Operations John Davidson and General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen wore their emotions about as well as you would expect for two men who have gotten used to getting bad news.
But after a few days of doom and gloom, Davidson, Kekalainen, and much of the fanbase have come around to the idea that, while Connor Bedard will not be donning a Blue Jackets uniform, the club will be adding what will be their current top prospect and what could arguably be the best prospect they've ever had.
Davidson, in a radio hit with Beau Bishop on 97.1 The Fan, responded directly when asked about the organization needing to address the center position in the draft.
President of Hockey Operations, John Davidson, joined @BeauBishop on @971thefan today to discuss the #cbj offseason and upcoming NHL Draft. pic.twitter.com/8TBY6SZHfH— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) May 12, 2023
"We will get a center. I'm telling you that right now, we will get a center. Now, which center it's going to be is still to be determined."
This is notable for several reasons. The first is that Davidson, and front offices in general, don't typically say things this forthcoming in public addresses. More often are canned responses about 'best player available' and 'examining all possible options'. Here, Davidson says the quiet thing out loud.
Secondly, if we're to take Davidson at his word, this all but eliminates the possibility of taking Matvei Michkov, an incredibly talented but equally complicated prospect. The Russian winger is signed through 2025-26 with SKA St. Petersburg, one of the wealthiest and most powerful franchises in the KHL. Between the contract status and the obvious socioeconomic/political dynamics at play, there's already quite a bit of hesitancy to take a player like that with the number three overall pick. The fact that he's a winger may be the final straw, so to speak.
Davidson's comments effectively narrow the field down to three players. Bedard will be gone, full stop. But Leo Carlsson and Adam Fantilli are currently competing for Sweden and Canada, respectively, at the IIHF World Championships. There is a universe where Carlsson passes Fantilli, though that would be a bit of a surprise at this point in the calendar. Finally, there's USNTDP star Will Smith, who was recently named MVP of the U18 World Championships. That's obviously not the same level of play as the senior version, and it would have been nice to see him play from an 'apples-to-apples' standpoint.
"We have an idea right now where we're gonna go, but I can't say it publicly, it's not the right thing. But... It's gonna be a very good player."