Draft Wrap-Up: A Pick By Pick Synopsis On The Blue Jackets 2024 NHL Draft

By Will Chase on July 1, 2024 at 1:45 pm
Cayden Lindstrom is selected with the 4th overall pick in the first round of the 2024 NHL Draft by the Columbus Blue Jackets at The Sphere.
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The Don Waddell era is officially underway following his first draft as the new man in charge of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Blue Jackets came away with six players in the draft, including one forward, one goaltender, and four defensemen.

The Athletic's Corey Pronman gave Columbus a B for their draft, and now that it's all in the books, here's a quick rundown of each player.

1. Cayden Lindstrom, Center

Columbus got their guy with the fourth overall pick.

Cayden Lindstrom, an 18-year-old center from Chetwynd, Canada, stands 6-foot-3, 214 lbs, and played his second full season for the WHL's Medicine Hat in 2023, scoring 46 points (27 goals, 19 assists) in 32 games.

Dan Dukart profiled Lindstrom, a left-handed shot, in our Names To Know segment.

If hype matches potential and everything comes to fruition, imagine the Blue Jackets down the middle in a few seasons from now with Adam Fantilli, Lindstrom, Cole Sillinger, and Dmitri Voronkov.

Lindstrom had a herniated disc that might have cautioned teams. Still, Columbus was clearly happy he was on the board at No. 4. For the second consecutive year, the Anaheim Ducks surprised many with their first selection.

Last year, they left Fantilli on the board at No. 3 for Columbus as Anaheim took Leo Carlsson. This year, the Ducks took Beckett Sennecke, whose stunned reaction at his name being announced said it all.

Pronman's player comparable for Lindstrom is Chris Kreider.

Analysis: Lindstrom came out of the gates this season flying for the first few months. He then was hurt for most of the second half though between a hand and back injury. When healthy, he’s an elite athlete. He has the quick twitch feet of a smaller forward, and can get by opposing defenders. He’s a big, powerful center with a ton of physicality in his game. Lindstrom has good offensive skills, and can score goals. His playmaking is something I’ve questioned at times although he’s shown good instances this season. He has the potential to be a true No. 1 center if he hits although I don’t see a lot of NHL centers who play the way he does and I could see him get pushed to the wing.

2. Charlie Elick, Defenseman

On day two of the draft, the Blue Jackets selected 18-year-old defenseman Charlie Elick from Villach, Austria 36th overall with their second pick. Elick, a right-handed shot, has played two full seasons for the WHL's Brandon Wheat Kings, scoring 27 points (four goals, 23 assists) in 65 games. He's 6-foot-4, 203 lbs.

Pronman's player comparable for Lindstrom is Braden Schneider.

Analysis: Elick is a very intriguing pro prospect. He is one of the best skaters in the draft, with a smooth and powerful skating stride. When those feet are combined with his 6-3 frame, strong compete and a little mean streak, he has the potential to be a legit shutdown defenseman in the NHL. Elick isn’t a natural puck-mover and can make some questionable puck decisions. He will need to clean that up, but he has good hands and isn’t a negative with the puck on his stick. In a role where he just needs to defend well and make a basic outlet, he could potentially have an NHL career.

3. Evan Gardner, Goalie

Columbus made a trade on Saturday, receiving the 60th overall pick from the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for No. 69 and No. 133. With the 60th pick, Columbus selected goaltender Evan Gardner from the WHL's Saskatoon Blades.

In his first season with Saskatoon, the 18-year-old was 21-5-0 in 30 games with a 1.91 goals-against average, which led all CHL rookie goalies and a .927 save percentage. He was 10-1-3, 2.33, .910 in 15 playoff games. Gardner catches left-handed and is 6-foot-1, 174 lbs.

Analysis: Gardner was excellent for Saskatoon as a WHL rookie coming out of midget hockey. He put up big numbers albeit not in a legit starting role. Gardner is a super smart goaltender. He is very efficient, calm and squares up a ton of pucks. He anticipates the opponents’ moves and passes very well. He has good enough quickness to make tough saves, although he doesn’t have the quick-twitch lower half you’d like to see in a smaller goalie.

4. Luca Marrelli, Defenseman

Luca Marrelli, 18 years old and out of Toronto, is 6-foot-2, 185 lbs, and has played the previous three seasons for the OHL's Oshawa Generals. Last season, he scored 57 points (six goals, 51 assists) in 67 games, with his 51 assists second on the team. Marrelli added 13 points (two goals, 11 assists) in 21 playoff games.

Analysis: Marrelli was an important player for Oshawa this season, playing in all situations. He’s a strong-skating defenseman who can close on pucks defensively well and can attack with speed. Offensively he won’t be a dominant pro, but he has skill and creative playmaking in his game. Marrelli can activate off the blue line, create off the rush, has a good point shot and shows instincts to hit seams as well. He competes fine but isn’t overly physical and is average-sized. He lacks a clearly defined role in the NHL, even if he has a lot of positives. He has a real chance to play games.

5. Tanner Henricks, Defenseman

Tanner Henricks, 17 years old, is from Mission Viejo, California, and just finished up his first season with the USHL's Lincoln Stars, scoring nine assists in 59 games. A right-shot defenseman, he's 6-foot-4, 205 lbs, and is committed to playing for St. Cloud University in 2025-26.

Analysis: Henricks is a 6-3 defenseman who skates well and, on his best shifts, can look like an NHL defenseman. Those best shifts are quite rare, though, as neither his puck game nor his defensive play stand out at the USHL level. He’s a long-term work in progress.

6. Luke Ashton, Defenseman

Luke Ashton, 19 years old, is 6-foot-7, 231 lbs from North Vancouver, British Columbia. A left-shot defenseman, he's played in the BCHL for the last three years, including for the Langley Rivermen last season, scoring 36 points (18 goals, 18 assists) in 53 games. Ashton is committed to playing for Minnesota State University this season.

Analysis: Ashton was one of the top defensemen in the BCHL during his second draft-eligible season. The athletic tools in his game are intriguing, especially for a defenseman who touched 20 goals this season. He’s quite mobile for 6-foot-6. His first step or two aren’t amazing, but he has NHL footspeed, which at his size is quite impressive. His puck play is OK. He can make the odd tough pass but he doesn’t see the ice well and is basic with the puck outside a hard point shot.

The tale of the tape points to one other characteristic of this draft: size. As The Athletic's Aaron Portzline referenced, it's the first time since 2015 that Columbus didn't draft a player under 6-foot tall.

"Somebody just texted me that we drafted a basketball team, nobody under 6-foot-2," Waddell said. "We always talk about size, but I didn’t realize it was that much."

It's also the first time the Blue Jackets had a draft in which every player is North American as five of the prospects are from Canada and one is from the United States. Elick was born in Austria but moved to Calgary at six years old with his family.

Free Agency

It's July 1, which means NHL free agency opened up at noon ET today.

An assortment of players are already on the move, including Future Hall of Famer Steven Stamkos and former Conn Smythe winner Jonathan Marchessault signing with the Nashville Predators.

Sean Monahan, who spent nine seasons with Johnny Gaudreau in Calgary, was signed to a five-year, $27.5 million deal by Columbus.

In Waddell's press conference a few weeks ago, he mentioned what type of player the Blue Jackets might target.

"I don't think there's any game-changers," Waddell said. "Maybe some spots we want to address. Bottom-six forwards, maybe, and defensemen. I don't look at it being that we're going to get a major game-changer during free agency but there's some things we'd like to add for sure."

Ed Francis wrote about some potential candidates on the open market and has been all over it regarding the Blue Jackets' own restricted free agents, as the team opted not to tender contracts to Jake Bean and Alex Nylander, making each of them UFAs. Alexander Boqvist was bought out, and the team let Tyler Angle and Marcus Bjork walk.