Blue Jackets Top Five: Examining The Overall Top Five Draft Picks Through The Years

By Will Chase on May 12, 2023 at 1:45 pm
Columbus Blue Jackets' Kent Johnson skates with the puck during the second period against the Ottawa Senators at Nationwide Arena.
Jason Mowry-USA TODAY Sports
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The Columbus Blue Jackets have never struck it lucky during the NHL draft lottery but they have had their share of top-five picks.

How many of those picks turned out the way they hoped?

We take a look at each of the top-five overall draft picks in Blue Jackets' history through the years.

Rostislav Klesla

4th Overall Pick, 2000

Columbus' first top-five pick goes back to the inaugural 2000 season when they selected Rostislav Klesla with the fourth overall pick.

And Klesla was one of the more successful early Blue Jackets.

The defenseman from Czechoslovakia had a 13-year career, spanning 659 games, with 10 years in Columbus, and four years with the Arizona Coyotes.

In Columbus, Klesla had 133 points (41 goals, 92 assists).

He made the NHL All-Rookie Team in 2001-02 and placed seventh in the Calder voting when he had 16 points (eight goals, eight assists) in 75 games. He was two points off the pace for rookie defensemen. Klesla's 133 points rank sixth among Blue Jackets' defensemen. He's eighth in assists and tied for third with David Savard in goals.

Columbus Blue Jackets Games
Points Goals Assists
Rostislav Klesla 515 133 41 92
Hockey Reference        

Rick Nash

1st Overall Pick, 2002
Former Columbus Blue Jackets' Rick Nash drops the ceremonial puck with Columbus Blue Jackets' Boone Jenner and Boston Bruins' Nick Foligno before the start of the first period at Nationwide Arena.
Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

The Blue Jackets have only had the No. 1 pick once in 23 years of existence. And they traded up to get that pick when they acquired it from the Florida Panthers in 2002.

Of course, that No. 1 pick in 2002 turned out to be Rick Nash, and that prize lived up to everything the Blue Jackets could have hoped for. After all, his No. 61 is the only number of any Blue Jacket all-time to be retired and hung in the Nationwide Arena rafters today.

These days, Nash is working in the team’s front office as the director of player development. From his days as a player with the Blue Jackets from 2002-12, he’s all over the franchise record books, ranking first in games played, goals, assists, even-strength goals, power-play goals, shots, and goals-per-game.

Rick Nash Games Played Points Goals Assists Even-Strength Goals Power Play Goals Game-Winning Goals Shots Goals-Per-Game
Franchise Ranks: No. 1 674 547 289 258 192 83 44 2,278 0.43
Hockey Reference                  

Nash took home a share of the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy when he scored 41 goals in 2003-04, tied with Jarome Iginla and Ilya Kovalchuk, and he was captain of the Blue Jackets from 2008-12.

Short of winning the Stanley Cup, what more could you have hoped for from the Nash era?

Nikolai Zherdev

4th Overall Pick, 2003

Nikolai Zherdev was taken with the fourth overall pick in 2003. He only played six seasons in the NHL, four with the Blue Jackets, and a season each with the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers.

His tenure in Columbus wasn't bad on the ice.

He placed ninth in the Calder voting in 2003 with 34 points (13 goals, 21 assists) in 57 games. He followed that up in 2005-06 with a 54-point season (27 goals, 27 assists) in 73 games. In 2007-08, Zherdev had his best season when he recorded 61 points (26 goals, 35 assists).

But there was drama.

Ken Hitchcock took over as head coach in 2006-07 and things weren't always rosy between coach, player, and management. For instance, former general manager Doug MacLean explained the time he hired a private investigator to follow Zherdev around for a week one year.

There was also contentious contract drama prior to the 2006-07 season to sort through before Zherdev and the Blue Jackets finally agreed to a three-year deal in late September after Zherdev threatened to play in Russia that year if he and the Jackets couldn’t agree to a new deal.

In 2008, Zherdev was part of the trade that sent Dan Fritsche to the Rangers, bringing back defensemen Fedor Tyutin and Christian Backman.

Columbus Blue Jackets Games
Points Goals Assists
Nikolai Zherdev 283 181 76 105
Hockey Reference        

Ryan Johansen

4th Overall Pick, 2010

Ryan Johansen was becoming a star for the Blue Jackets, but he had his own contentious contract negotiations.

In a Blue Jackets sweater for five seasons, Johansen amassed 193 points (79 goals, 114 assists) over 309 games. He played all 82 games in 2013-14 and had a 63-point season (33 goals, 30 assists). Then Johansen followed that up the very next year with 71 points (26 goals, 45 assists) in 82 games.

It was that 2014-15 season that Columbus hosted the All-Star Game and Johansen knew how to play up to the crowd. He was All-Star Game MVP with four points (two goals, two assists). 

Off-season contract drama took up a portion of the summer heading into the 2014-15 season before a three-year deal was agreed to by both sides. He was traded during the 2015-16 season to the Nashville Predators for Seth Jones after John Tortorella became the head coach following an 0-7-0 start.

Columbus Blue Jackets Games
Points Goals Assists
Ryan Johansen 309 193 79 114
Hockey Reference        

Ryan Murray

2nd Overall Pick, 2012
Columbus Blue Jackets' Ryan Murray shoots a wrist shot against the Ottawa Senators during the second period at Nationwide Arena.
Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan Murray was selected second overall in 2012. Unfortunately, injuries took their toll.

After playing in 66 games in 2013-14, his rookie season, which saw him put up 21 points (four goals, 17 assists), Murray only played in 12 games the next season due to season-ending shoulder surgery. He was able to rebound and play in all 82 games in 2015-16 but since then, has only played in 285 NHL games.

Murray got his name on the Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche last season and has another shot to do so with the Edmonton Oilers this year.

Columbus Blue Jackets Games
Points Goals Assists
Ryan Murray 347 110 15 95
Hockey Reference        

Pierre-Luc Dubois

3rd Overall Pick, 2016
Columbus Blue Jackets' Pierre-Luc Dubois reacts after being named second star of the game against the Los Angeles Kings at Nationwide Arena.
Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

The Pierre-Luc Dubois era is one of the more confounding situations between player and team to sour the way it did. Perhaps the best two-way player the team has had, Dubois was taken with the third overall pick in 2016.

In four years as a Blue Jacket, he had 159 points (66 goals, 93 assists). Dubois is one of three Blue Jackets rookies to have at least 40 points in a season when he had 48 (20 goals, 28 assists) in 2017-18, joining Zach Werenski (47–11-36) in 2016-17, and Kent Johnson (16 goals, 24 assists) this past season.

Dubois played in all 82 games in each of his first two seasons and put up 61 points (27 goals, 34 assists) in his sophomore year of 2018-19.

Coming into the shortened season of 2020-21, lengthy contract talks finally ended with a two-year extension on New Year's Eve 2020, before a sudden trade request not long after jolted the hockey world.

When Dubois dogged it during a first-period shift that January and was subsequently benched, the club was forced to move on, and in January 2021, he was traded to the Winnipeg Jets for Patrik Laine and Jack Roslovic.

Columbus Blue Jackets Games
Points Goals Assists
Pierre-Luc Dubois 239 159 66 93
Hockey Reference        

Kent Johnson

5th Overall Pick, 2021
Columbus Blue Jackets' Kent Johnson celebrates a goal during overtime against the Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Place.
Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Johnson, a 2021, fifth-overall pick, is the only top-five pick drafted by the Blue Jackets to still be a part of the team.

And he's rounding into form.

Among the new youthful core, the franchise is looking to players like Johnson to return the team to its next contention window. He's one of three Blue Jackets players to record at least 40 points in his rookie season and he finished fifth among all rookies in points, sixth in goals, and eighth in assists in 2022-23.

Columbus Blue Jackets Games
Points Goals Assists
Kent Johnson 79 40 16 24
Hockey Reference        

3rd Overall Pick


Who will it be?

Leo Carlsson, Will Smith, Matvei Michkov. . . Adam Fantilli?

One of hockey's best prospects will be joining the Blue Jackets' new exciting core. We'll find out who it will be on Wednesday, June, 28 from Nashville, and history will come to show how they stack up with the other top-five draft picks.

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