Armed with thee first-round draft choices, the Jackets are in an enviable position. Scouts and experts are saying that this is the deepest draft since the legendary 2003 event, meaning should they keep all three of their top picks; they ...
Armed with thee first-round draft choices, the Jackets are in an enviable position. Scouts and experts are saying that this is the deepest draft since the legendary 2003 event, meaning should they keep all three of their top picks; they have a very good chance of coming away with a trio of excellent prospects.
There are a handful of options available to the Jackets this offseason, let's take a look at some.
Keeping the Picks
In some combination or another, Nathan MacKinnon, Seth Jones, Jonathan Drouin, Aleksander Barkov and Valeri Nichushkin should be the top five players chosen. The next group of selections are likely to see Elias Lindholm, Darnell Nurse, Hunter Shinkaruk, Ryan Pulock, Sean Monahan, Nikita Zadorov and Rasmus Ristolainen be selected. Those twelve players represent a rough consensus of the top dozen players available. If any are still on the board when Columbus picks at 14th, serious consideration would be given to handing them a Columbus sweater. Any of the top five would be terrific selections, while of the next tier Lindholm, Pulock, Zadorov and Ristolainen are the best fits. That said, three of those players are blueliners- the deepest position in the organization.
Once you get to the next grouping of players-who fall right in the Jackets' wheelhouse with their 14th and 19th overall picks-things get very interesting. Players like Bo Horvat, Max Domi, Valentin Zykov, Anthony Mantha, Alexander Wennberg, Frederik Gauthier, Mirco Mueller, Shea Thedore, Kerby Rychel, Ryan Hartman and Curtis Lazar will still be around. Assuming that my top 12 are taken with the first dozen picks, the Jackets could see a situation where they have their choice of high-end scorer with the 14th pick (Horvat, Domi, Zykov, Mantha, Wennberg), or a future shutdown center (Gauthier), a shutdown defenseman (Mueller), offensive defenseman (Theodore), or physical forward with offense (Rychel, Hartman, Lazar).
Given the lack of offensive punch in the organization they should go with the scorer at 14, and Domi or Zykov would look fantastic in union blue. With the 19th pick, the team can more or less scoop up the leftovers. Do they choose a physical player with a dose of offense? If so, my vote is for Hartman. The kid was great at the World Juniors, and got everybody out of their seats with some big hits at the Top Prospect Game. Maybe they add to the defensive depth-Mueller's been Ryan Murray's defense partner, but I'm tempted by the offense that Theodore can provide.
The 27th pick in most years would be a throw-away pick, but not this year. Like every team, the Jackets will have their list, and will be in a position to choose the best player available on their board. Every year there are surprise picks, and players fall for seemingly no reason, like Boone Jenner in 2011. If one of the players I listed above is still there-ideally one of the physical forwards-the Jackets would pounce all over that selection. There's a chance that Hartman or Lazar could still be available.
A first round that nets the Jackets a high end scorer like Domi or Zykov, another stud defenseman in Theodore, and a physical forward who can provide secondary scoring in Hartman would be very successful.
Trading Picks to Move Up
Another option the Jackets have is to put their eggs in one basket and trade up in the draft order. This could mean offering all three first rounders in a trade with a top-5 team, perhaps coupling together the 19th and 27th overall picks for a pick in the low teens, etc. There are a handful of options.
If the Columbus scouts, GM Jarmo Kekalainen and President John Davidson are absolutely smitten with one of the top five prospects, maybe they pull off a deal to move up. Apparently Nashville may be willing to deal out of the fourth spot. Though it's an option, I don't think it's a good one for the Jackets.
Something that would be more likely, and I could stand behind, would be to package the 27th overall and the second round pick to see if