The Columbus Blue Jackets shocked the hockey world by finally reaching the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time in their team’s history. Unfortunately, they did not last long, as the defending Stanley Cup Champion Detroit Red Wings earned the sweep.
Nonetheless, the Jackets are clearly on the right track. With many young, promising, and proven rookies, such as goaltender Steve Mason, and forwards Maksim Mayorov, Jakub Voracek, Derick Brassard and Nikita Filatov, Columbus has some of the pieces in place to become an annual playoff contender.
So what does Columbus General Manager Scott Howson do when the 2009 NHL Entry Draft comes around?
Picking at 16th in the first round, Howson is smack in the middle of the talent, but picking at a point at which there is much confusion over who the best prospects are.
Picking in the top five would be easy, as there are the bonafide top three to five prospects every year, the “can’t miss” prospects. Picking in the mid-to-late first round however, you have to be sure that you are picking both the best talent available and a player that fills a team need.
At forward, the Blue Jackets may be set for a long time. With captain and superstar Rick Nash leading the team for at least another 10 years, Columbus has a great cornerstone in the organization.
Derick Brassard was a surprise this season, and was en route to a possible Calder Trophy-winning season, although an injury ended his season just as he started to catch fire.
Nikita Filatov is one of the best prospects in the world and has shown his abilities both in the NHL and in the AHL.
Maksim Mayorov was also a stretch pick when the Blue Jackets took him in the draft, but he looks to be NHL-ready and is another great young catch.
Jakub Voracek also had a great rookie season and looks to be a great contributor for years to come.
Between the pipes Steve Mason, the Rookie of the Year, is just 21 years old, but he is also one of the best goalies in the league. With Wade Dubielewicz as a backup (and a possible backup next season), the Blue Jackets are also set in net.
When you get back to Columbus’ defense, the problems start to come out of the woodwork.
Kris Russell, 22, is the only true prospect on the back end that the Jackets have, although one could also argue that Ole-Kristen Tollefson is a fair prospect as well.
However, the blue line carries struggles for the youngest NHL franchise, as they lack the talent to compete with the best teams, as was clearly evident in the first round this postseason.
Midway through the first round, USHL defenseman John Moore may still be available. Moore is the highest ranked USHL player by NHL Central Scouting for the 2009 Draft.
He is an unbelievable skater, arguably the best in the first round. Because of that, he is able to create open ice for himself and his teammates. He uses his uncanny passing ability and wonderful hockey sense in order to use that space to his advantage.
Moore’s weakness is his defensive play, which is always a problem when you’re a defenseman. He needs to learn to read defensive rushes better and make better decisions in the defensive zone.
“John is a true leader that approaches the game as a player that needs to get better everyday,” Chicago Steel coach Steven Poapst says. “His skills combined with his skating ability are what set him apart from the rest. He continues to grow and mature as a player and leader and continues to improve his overall game each day he comes to the rink.”
Therefore, don’t be surprised if you hear these words on draft day: “With the 16th selection in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, the Columbus Blue Jackets select from Chicago of the USHL, defenseman John Moore.”