While the Columbus Blue Jackets are fully entrenched with free agency, the hockey world is still in shock by their first-round selection. Forward Yegor Chinakhov was a pick that was way off the board for many, and considered as poor asset management by some.
Recently, though, when talking about Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen, the consensus has changed slightly among the experts and pundits.
This from Elliotte Friedman's 31 Thoughts column for Sportsnet:
29. Futa and draft guru Sam Cosentino were floored by Columbus’s selection of Yegor Chinakhov, which is hard to do. Those two are on top of everything. But Futa added the Blue Jackets don’t guess on European prospects. GM Jarmo Kekalainen and director of amateur scouting Ville Siren know that world as well as anyone.
“They obviously have a great feel on the player,” Futa said. “Jarmo’s a legend in Europe. They’re going to have a homework book (on Chinakhov), know he’s coming over, know everything about him.”
Futa continued by saying there’s nothing worse for a team’s draft guru that when there’s a surprise first-rounder, and your GM turns to you and asks, “Why wasn’t this player anywhere near our radar?” You better have a good explanation.
Former Los Angeles Kings assistant general manager Mike Futa isn't wrong here. It seems that whenever the Blue Jackets do go off the board, it is for someone that they feel is ready to step in and contribute. The homework on these players is generally impeccable and the track record is better than most.
The Blue Jackets have, in the Kekalainen era, invested heavily in scouting resources abroad. They have a Finnish head scout in Ville Siren as well as scouting managers/directors in other corners of the globe. They spend a lot of time watching a lot of players, and it's not like they're picking a player in the first round because they think he's not any good. Columbus clearly believes in Chinakhov, and we may see him in North America sooner than later.
It has been shown repeatedly that Kekalainen isn't afraid to take risks and show the league that he is willing to think outside the box. Those risks may come with rewards but can also put a target on your back. Drafting an over-age player in the first round is bold, but if Chinakhov continues his pace in the KHL, Kekalainen will have earned all of those plaudits.
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