Three first round draft pick two big trades has the Columbus Blue Jackets a better organization

Retool, rebuild, reshaping, those words have been used a lot recently in describing the immediate future of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Whichever “re” you prefer the Columbus Blue Jackets have sped up the process with a huge night at the 2021 NHL Draft. Blue jackets General Manager, Jarmo Kekalainen was aggressive with trades and his draft picks. The Blue Jackets are trending in the right direction.

COLUMBUS, OH – MARCH 18: An general exterior view of the Nationwide Arena, site of the first round games of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament on March 18, 2004 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Before the draft even started the Columbus Blue Jackets traded defensive standout Seth Jones to the Chicago Blackhawks. The Blue Jackets got the massive return they were looking for.

For Jones, the Blue Jackets received defenseman  Adam Boqvist, the Blackhawks first round draft pick at #12, a 2021 second round draft pick, and the Blackhawks 2022 first round draft pick. The trade felt like a big reach for Chicago as Jones numbers have been in decline the past couple seasons. The Blue Jackets won this trade in a big way.

Next the Columbus Blue Jackets traded the second round draft pick the received for Jones to the Carolina Hurricanes for defenseman Jake Bean. Bean who was a rookie this past season for the Hurricanes is a solid player and one who will gain more ice time in Columbus. Another big win for Kekalainen and company.

Now the first round draft pick, three in all. This is where the Blue Jackets stole the show and won day one of the draft. In desperate need of a front line center, Kekalainen drafted two and walked away with outstanding talent.

First at #5 overall the Columbus Blue Jackets selected from the University of Michigan, center Kent Johnson. Johnson who had an absolutely tremendous, highlight generating freshman season at Michigan. Johnson is a playmaker. This is the kind of center the Blue Jackets have needed. Viewed as the best center in the draft the Blue Jackets were quick and just in selecting Johnson.

Next with the #12 (from Chicago) the Blue Jackets drafted Cole Sillinger, center. Sillinger who’s dad played for the Blue Jackets was a solid pick. Sillinger  has a terrific shot and plays a very aggressive brand of offensive hockey, this past season the young center tallied 46 points in 31 games.

With two draft picks the Blue Jackets took two centers. Clearly the focus was squarely on offense. Thus seemingly closing the door on the John Tortorella defense first era of Columbus Blue Jackets hockey.

With the teams last first round draft pick the team selected a defensive player. Corson Ceulemans, for a defensive player to fall all the way to #25 is unprecedented. The Blue Jackets and general manager Jarmo Kekalainen were right to pounce on Ceulemans.

Corson Ceulemans, is strong in the defensive end and a very a strong skater and does not shy away from for shooting the puck. He will head to the University of Wisconsin for development. The Blue Jackets were very fortunate to be able to draft Ceulemans.

SECAUCUS, NEW JERSEY – JULY 23: With the 12th pick in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, the Columbus Blue Jackets select Cole Sillinger during the first round of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft at the NHL Network studios on July 23, 2021 in Secaucus, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

After day one of the NHL Draft, the Columbus Blue Jackets had perhaps the best day in the franchises history.

With the Stanley Cup Champion crowned, the Columbus Blue Jackets offseason officially begins

First a congratulations go out to the Tampa Bay Lightning for winning back-to back Stanley Cups. With that, the Columbus Blue Jackets offseason now begins with some questions and some clues as to how President of Hockey Operations John Davidson and General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen will navigate in the coming days, weeks and months.

PITTSBURGH, PA – DECEMBER 12: Columbus Blue Jackets Defenseman Andrew Peeke (2) passes the puck during the third period in the NHL game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Columbus Blue Jackets on December 12, 2019, at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, PA. (Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

One nice thing that the Columbus Blue Jackets have done is fill out newly named head coach Brad Larsen’s coaching staff. Sylvain Lefebvre and Pascal Vincent have been named assistants. Filling out the staff allowed for more time to plot for the 2021 NHL Draft including who they will protect and expose in the expansion draft for the Seattle Kraken to choose from.

As for Davidson and Kekalainen, they must and most likely are doing their part in going over trade packages for defensive standout Seth Jones who informed the team that he would like to test the free agent market which is absolutely his right. The Blue Jackets can receive a big haul for Jones but it must be a haul that fills a need. Either another top defensive player or a top line center should be the targets.

One very good thing the Columbus Blue Jackets have going for them is salary cap space. No matter retool or rebuild the Blue Jackets can speed it up with three first round draft picks and cap space. In what is only a guess on my end, this is what the Blue Jackets will do. Sign players, trade players to reshape the roster.

COLUMBUS, OH – APRIL 27: The cannon fires before the start of a NHL game between the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Detroit Red Wings at Nationwide Arena on April 27, 2021 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***

If the Blue Jackets use all three first round draft picks that to me spells rebuild. If they trade one or two of the picks that to me spells retool. Not much separates a retool from a rebuild other than in a retool a team is adding players to an already existing roster. A rebuild is a sell off on most of the current roster and starting basically from scratch which takes a bit longer.

It is an exciting time to be a fan of the Columbus Blue Jackets. This will be a very interesting offseason.

Columbus Blue Jackets: pros and cons of bringing Nick Foligno back

At the end of the 20014-15 HL season Nick Foligno was named captain of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Foligno would remain as captain until he was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs for a first round draft pick this past NHL regular season. A fixture both on the ice and in the community in Columbus made Nick Foligno a popular figure. As his contract will expire when the Stanley Cup Champion is crowned there has been some chatter the former captain could sign with the Blue Jackets.

VANCOUVER, BC – MARCH 8: Nick Foligno #71 of the Columbus Blue Jackets skates up ice during their NHL game against the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena March 8, 2020 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)”n

Recently Columbus Blue Jackets, General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen and President of Hockey Operations, John Davidson both said that todays NHL is a “young mans league.” So the question is would the Blue Jackets really choose to bring back a 33 year old  Foligno?

There have been players who have served as captain longer than Foligno did for the Blue Jackets. One thing to remember is that being captain of a team is hard work. Players need to constantly reinvent there approach to leadership. In other words they can not allow their voice to become stale.

At 32 years old Cam Atkinson can be a veteran leader as can 31 year old Gustav Nyquist. Being a young mans league two players 30ish years old is probably the max a team should carry in order to allow younger players the ice time they need.

Nick Foligno and his family have said they love Columbus, Ohio. He also said after he was traded to Toronto he would strongly consider signing with the Blue Jackets after the season.

WINNIPEG, MB – APRIL 22: Nick Foligno #71 of the Toronto Maple Leafs keeps an eye on the play during second period action against the Winnipeg Jets at the Bell MTS Place on April 22, 2021 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Darcy Finley/NHLI via Getty Images)

It is my opinion for a franchise on the cusp of a rebuild, that a new voice and new leader is needed. Nick Foligno will always have a special place in the hearts of Blue Jackets fans. He will surely be cheered whenever he comes back in town with the team he plays for.

Again it is my opinion that a new captain is needed as a new dawn of Columbus Blue Jackets hockey is set to embark.

With a top line center, Columbus Blue Jackets LW, Patrik Laine should rebound in a big way

It was an uncharacteristically underachieving season for Columbus Blue Jackets Left Wing (LW) Patrik Laine. Laine who’s production has never been an issue until he was traded to the Blue Jackets found himself in a rut that he simply could not get out of. Be it the trade, the pandemic, new teammates or whatever was the root cause, Laine himself said he has to be better and vowed to be better next season.

COLUMBUS, OH – FEBRUARY 7: Patrick Laine #29 of the Columbus Blue Jackets controls the puck during the game against the Carolina Hurricanes at Nationwide Arena on February 7, 2021 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)

Sure the Columbus Blue Jackets were rumored to be trading Patrik Laine. I do not believe that is the case now. I say that because Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen, and new head coach Brad Larsen have both said recently they want to put better talent around him. That does not sound like there is an intention to trade.

Not to mention why would the Columbus Blue Jackets trade the young Finnish LW? Since coming into the NHL in 2016 Laine’s goals are 36, 44, 30, 20, 12. I understand it is the 12 (between Winnipeg and Columbus) that jumps off the screen. Stop it! Patrik Laine is a pure goal scorer. A sniper in the truest since of the word.

One reason I am able to envision a turnaround for Laine is the Columbus Blue Jackets need, no make that really need a top line center. By all accounts Kekalainen has made that one of the biggest goals this offseason.

That name more than any other that has been attached to the Blue Jackets is disgruntled Buffalo Sabers center Sam Reinhart. Reinhart would be a great fit for the Blue Jackets as top center. Reinhart scores 20+ goals with regularity and his playmaking ability would push the Blue Jackets top line into a very solid group.

A top line of Laine-Reinhart- Bjokstarnd would give the Blue Jackets serious firepower (pun and no pun intended) from the top line. Oliver Bjorkstand is just scratching the surface of what he is capable of, scoring a career high 18 goals last season, yet the right wing (RW) can give even more.

COLUMBUS, OH – MARCH 11: Patrik Laine #29 of the Columbus Blue Jackets skates against the Florida Panthers at Nationwide Arena on March 11, 2021 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

To recap, the Columbus Blue Jackets need Patrik Laine. He is simply to good to simply trade away. With the right center his numbers will return. Does Columbus want him to do it with another team? I do not think so.

 

What kind of prospect do the Columbus Blue Jackets have in Samuel Knazko

This past Wednesday the Columbus Blue Jackets announced that they had signed 2020 third round draft pick Samuel Knazko to a three year entry level contract (ELC.) The 18 year old defenseman is from Slovakia and promises to bolster the Blue Jackets blueline soon. What kind of player is Samuel Knazko? A closer look shows he can be an impact player.

EDMONTON, AB – JANUARY 02: Brett Berard #21 of the United States skates against Samuel Knazko #20 of Slovakia during the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship quarterfinals at Rogers Place on January 2, 2021 in Edmonton, Canada. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

There is a lot to like in  Samuel Knazko game. Knazko’s skating is very good, he has great hands and a very good shot that makes him a natural for the Columbus Blue Jackets. The young defenseman has excellent eyes and his passes are on point. Knazko is not afraid to make back-handed passes which sets him apart from most defensive players.

Samuel Knazko was the captain of the Slovakian team at this years World Juniors Turney. While a short and I do mean short start to his U.S. hockey career is likely to start in Cleveland with the Monsters. Columbus Blue Jackets fans can expect to see Knazko in Columbus very soon.

LAS VEGAS, NV – JUNE 23: Columbus Blue Jackets General Manager Jarmo Kekalainen meets with the media following the NHL General managers Meetings at the Bellagio Las Vegas on June 23, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The Columbus Blue Jackets under general manager Jarmo Kekalainen’s time with the organization has drafted defensive players that can move the puck up ice with some offensive ability as well as be able to quarterback the power play. Samuel Knazko fits that bill.

With the Blue Jackets rumored to be trading Seth Jones, Knazko becomes an important figure the future of the defensive unit. He has the ability to be a top 6 player for Columbus.

In review, young Samuel Knazko is a defensive player with a lot of up-side. He should fit seamlessly in the Blue Jackets blueline once the team feels he is ready for NHL competition. Again, that should be sooner than later. Columbus Blue Jackets fans will like the young Knazko’s all around game.

The Columbus Blue Jackets hire Brad Larsen as head coach

Thursday long time Columbus Blue Jacket assistant coach Brad Larsen was named head coach. Blue Jackets fans greeted the news with a mixture of mostly negativity with a bit of optimism. So what does this mean for the organization moving forward? That is a big question right now.

COLUMBUS, OH – SEPTEMBER 18: Brad Larsen of the Columbus Blue Jackets poses for his official headshot for the 2014-2015 season on September 18, 2014 at the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

One factor that could have been in play for the Columbus Blue Jackets hiring, is that Brad Larsen knows the organization. He also knows the current roster. So that has some consistency and does not rock the boat to much as far as bringing in a coach from outside the organization.

Brad Larsen has been in Columbus for 11 years. During his time as an assistant coach the Blue Jackets record is 269-208 with 59 ties. So Larsen has been part of the winning in Columbus.

After the season concluded, and is was announced that former Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella would not be returning, Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen met with players and asked what they would like in the next head coach. The players were united and said they wanted a “players coach.”

Larsen fits that bill. The term “players coach” does not mean pushover, not at all. It means a coach who is willing to listen to players and give them a chance to prove what they ask for, while being able to scrap that and change to what the head coach wants to do as the situation dictates.

While it is true the Blue Jackets power play struggled mightily under what many fans believe to be Larsen’s watch a deeper look tells a slightly different story. John Tortorella coached teams have a history of weak power plays.

DETROIT, MI – NOVEMBER 26: Assistant coach Brad Larsen of the Columbus Blue Jackets watches the action from the bench against the Detroit Red Wings during an NHL game at Little Caesars Arena on November 26, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. The Blue Jackets defeated the Wings 7-5. (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

While Brad Larsen may not have been the sexy name as far as head coaching candidates. Jarmo Kekalainen is banking on it being the right one for his hockey team. Time will tell. But for now Blue Jackets fans should back away from the ledge and see how this plays out.

What could a Columbus Blue Jackets rebuild look like?

As the days have pressed on since Columbus Blue Jackets defensemen Seth Jones announced he would not re-sign with the team, many fans and media outlets have wondered and pondered if the Blue Jackets were about to embark on a full-blown rebuild. If they do, what would that look like? I offer some thoughts, mind you this is before any trades are made, if any at all.

By many accounts the Columbus Blue Jackets were going to entice Seth Jones to sign a long-term contract by offer him a max deal. 8 years at $9-$9.5 million per-season as well as offer him the teams captaincy. In my opinion the Blue Jackets should now offer that same deal to defensemen Zach Werenski.

Werenski was the captain of the Michigan Wolverines hockey team and by all indications the 24 year old has the respect in the Blue Jackets locker room needed to be named captain. If the Blue Jackets do make the offer and lock up Werenski they would be doing so before he enters his prime years. This would be key.

COLUMBUS, OH – FEBRUARY 2: Patrik Laine #29 of the Columbus Blue Jackets skates during the second period of a game against the Dallas Stars on February 2, 2021 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

At just 23 years old and despite coming off his worst pro season the Columbus Blue Jackets should also offer a massive deal to Patrik Laine. A player of Laine’s prowess does not come along everyday. Not to mention Laine like Werenski is not in the prime of his career yet.

Next players that are on the current roster suggest this could be a shorter rebuild. Max Domi, Gustav Nyquist, Eric Robinson, Jack Roslovic, Vladislav Gavrikov and a couple others give hope that shorter rebuild is on the horizon.

Armed with 3 first round draft picks (the first pick is #5 overall) gives the Blue Jackets something to work with. They could use all three first round picks or trade one or two to upgrade the roster to ice a competitive team next season.

CALGARY, AB – MARCH 04: Vladislav Gavrikov #44 of the Columbus Blue Jackets in action against the Calgary Flames during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on March 4, 2020 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)

Columbus Blue Jackets general manager, Jarmo Kekalainen is said to be bent on fixing the teams center position which is in desperate need of an upgrade. There is little doubt that the GM will indeed fix the position.

While the Blue Jackets have a lot of salary cap space, they need to be wise how they use it. One thing I believe the organization should do is build around defensemen Zach Werenski and the offensive skills of Patrik Laine. This would be the smart thing to do.

Columbus Blue Jackets center Max Domi has shoulder surgery, what it means for the roster

Columbus Blue Jackets center Max Domi underwent successful shoulder surgery Thursday to repair a labral tear. According to Blue Jackets general manager, Jarmo Kekalainen, Domi had been having trouble with the shoulder for some time. That may have contributed to an underwhelming season for the usually reliable Domi. With the Columbus Blue Jackets already in need of center help, does the Domi news force the Blue Jackets to trade for a center?

COLUMBUS, OH – FEBRUARY 2: Max Domi #16 of the Columbus Blue Jackets skates against the Dallas Stars on February 2, 2021 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

In recent days the Columbus Blue Jackets have been linked to Buffalo Sabers center Sam Reinhart. The Sabers are in desperate need of a goalie. The Columbus Blue Jackets have two goalies as well as very good depth in the organization. So trading either Elvis Merzlikins or Joonas Korpisalo for Reinhart would work for both teams.

Max Domi is expected to miss 5-6 months which means he will miss the start of the regular season as he is looking for a November return. Domi struggled this season with 9 goals, 15 assists, 24 points, 75 penalty minutes in 54 games in 2020-21.

As stated it is unknown at this time what role the shoulder injury played in Max Domi’s season. Domi did begin to play better as the season moved along but never reached the level of past seasons. At just 26 years old Domi is far from a declining player.

RALEIGH, NC – MAY 1: Max Domi #16 of the Columbus Blue Jackets celebrates after scoring a goal against the Carolina Hurricanes during an NHL game on May 1, 2021 at PNC Arena in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Columbus Blue Jackets are in dire straits at center. The team needs a top line center in the worst way. Now with Domi being shelved for the start of the 2021-22 NHL season the Blue Jackets need a second line center as well. A position that a player like Sam Reinhart could fill.

In what has already shaped up to be a busy offseason for the Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen and President of Hockey Operations, John Davidson, The Max Domi injury may have added to the busyness.

The Columbus Blue Jackets will pick #5 in the first round of the 2021 NHL Draft

For a team that finished a playoff streak of four years, yet had a disappointing season, the Columbus Blue Jackets still have pieces in place to retool or rebuild the roster. Yesterday the NHL held their annual Draft Lottery. When the ping-pong ball came up with the Blue Jackets logo on it, the team won a top five pick.

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA – JUNE 22: Jarmo Kekäläinen of the Columbus Blue Jackets works the 2019 NHL Draft at Rogers Arena on June 22, 2019 in Vancouver, Canada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Columbus Blue Jackets General Manager, Jarmo Kekalainen spoke to the media shortly after the Blue Jackets found out their draft fate.  Kekalainen said a few things of interest. First he said there is very good talent in the first seven picks. NHL experts agree. Kekalainen also hinted the team could very well trade one of their three first round picks in order to strengthen the roster.

While it seems likely the Columbus Blue Jackets will trade defensemen Seth Jones this summer, the return will be huge. The Blue Jackets need scoring. In the worst way. Before I dive into a couple of players I think Columbus would be wise in taking at #5, let me get this out of the way. The Blue Jackets should re-sign Patrik Laine to a max-deal. He is simply too good to trade away. The Blue Jackets should build they’re offense around him.

Teams at the top of the draft are desperate for defense. So the top defensive players will be off the board before pick #5. The Blue Jackets have a solid defensive crop so they do not need to address that early on. So who could come in and have a chance to impact the Blue Jackets offense as early as this season? Let’s take a look.

William Eklund, Center, Eklund is one of if not the top Swedish prospects. A very good dual threat center with natural offensive instincts, Eklund was one of the top scoring 18 year old forwards in SHL history and earned the league’s Rookie of the Year award.

Eklund is NHL ready and the Blue Jackets need help at the center position. In time Eklund should grow into a top line center. But, coming to a new league it is likely he will bounce from the second and third lines if he is the Blue Jackets selection.

KELOWNA, BC – NOVEMBER 26: Dylan Guenther #11 of the Edmonton Oil Kings celebrates a shoot out goal against the Kelowna Rockets at Prospera Place on November 26, 2019 in Kelowna, Canada. (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)

Next is a player who I believe the Columbus Blue Jackets should draft. Dylan Guenther, Right Wing (RW), Where to start with this phenomenally elite prospect?

First off no matter where he is on the ice Dylan Guenther is a threat to score. A forward with soft hands and sharp hand eye coordination, Guenther is a sniper when shooting the puck and deadly with his passes. In the defensive end this two-way player is also elite. Guenther projects as an NHL star.

So with the 2021 NHL Draft coming next month, the Blue Jackets are doing their homework. But the two players I identified William Eklund and Dylan Guenther are both NHL ready prospects who can help immediately.

 

Opnion: If the Columbus Blue Jackets want to change the narrative then a big name coach needs to be brought in

In a scene all too familiar another big name Columbus Blue Jackets player wants out of Columbus. We have heard Blue Jacket players say they love the city of Columbus. They very well might. But the bigger name players say it and then leave. Be it by trade or they leave as a free agent. It is difficult at times to be a fan of a team that begins to look good only to lose a star player. It is time for the organization to buck that trend.

LAS VEGAS, NV – JUNE 20: Head coach Gerard Gallant of the Vegas Golden Knights speaks during the 2018 NHL Awards presented by Hulu at The Joint inside the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on June 20, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

In order for big name players to both stay in Columbus and want to play for the Blue Jackets a big name coach needs to be brought in. With all do respect to Brad Larson (long time Blue Jackets assistant coach) he is not a name that exactly entices players to stay or come.

John Tortorella was a fine coach. He was also a coach that chased a lot of big names out of Columbus due to his over-the-top brash coaching style. Yes, Tortorella won a lot of games, but the Blue Jackets could have won more if he had backed down a bit.

The Columbus Blue Jackets, President of Hockey Operations, John Davidson and general manager Jarmo Kekalainen have options as far as big name coach’s and assistants who are ready to be head coach’s.

Marco Strom, 3 year assistant coach with the Los Angeles Kings, Igor Larionov, Russian National Team and 2 time Stanley Cup champion with the Detroit Red Wings, While Rick Tocchet, Bruce Boudreau, Todd Nelson and  Gerard Gallant have all been successful NHL head coach’s.

In order for the Blue Jackets to take the next step and be a serious playoff contending team, then a big name head coach is needed. Players like having someone who has been there and done that. A coach who can relate to them as well as allow them the comfort of knowing the organization is in good hands.

COLUMBUS, OH – FEBRUARY 2: Patrik Laine #29 of the Columbus Blue Jackets warms up prior to a game against the Dallas Stars on February 2, 2021 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

A big name head coach should be the top priority this summer in Columbus. This will help players who are restricted free agents decide if they want to sign a long-term deal with the team. Players like Patrik Laine, Alexander Texier, and others.

Having a proven head coach would ease a lot of the issues that have come about in recent years.