The Columbus Blue Jackets need a strong infusion of new talent coming into their prospect pool. Holding the fifth-overall pick is a good start towards potentially getting back on the right road after a rough 2020-21 season. After making the postseason in four consecutive seasons, it seems the time is now to start transitioning to a new core.
Related: 2021 NHL Draft Guide
Because of the way the first four picks went, the Blue Jackets had a tough decision to make. A pair of defensemen were available in Brandt Clarke and Simon Edvinsson. Center Mason McTavish was available. But to my surprise, so was another top prospect. It was thought he would have been long gone by the time the fifth pick came. At this point, you take the best available player regardless of their position.
So with the fifth pick in the 2021 The Hockey Writers’ Mock Draft, the Blue Jackets do select William Eklund.
What Eklund Brings to the Blue Jackets
Whenever a player can outperform previous top-seven overall picks, you take notice. Eklund was better this season in the SHL than both Alexander Holtz and Lucas Raymond.
Eklund brings a top-level skill set that would in most years make him the consensus number-one pick. Where he shines most is just how much he understands the game at both ends at such a young age. The Blue Jackets and GM Jarmo Kekalainen covet 200-foot players. There is no better 200-foot player in this draft than Eklund.
Eklund can also play center although he played mostly at wing. He will bring much needed flexibility to the Blue Jackets top-six. He is also willing to play the game in the dirty areas. In fact, he thrives there.
The more and more I see Eklund on tape, the more and more I see a prototypical Blue Jacket. But what separates him is the impact he will have on a game. While he’s not “flashy”, he’s exactly where he’s supposed to be with and without the puck. He has the upside of being a top-line center. That fits what the Blue Jackets are looking for.
The Blue Jackets would have to wait at least one season before Eklund comes over as he’s already said he will remain in Europe for the 2021-22 season. But if the Blue Jackets are looking at a rebuild, he is the perfect fit as the best forward/center available at this part of the draft.
While adding Eklund would be a major victory for the Blue Jackets, they still have a long way to go. They have two other picks at 24th and 31st to build off of. But at least in the early going, they have to be considered one of the winners of our mock draft given the upside many think he has.
I am a fully credentialed writer who covers the Columbus Blue Jackets, Cleveland Monsters and Erie Otters as well as the Ontario Hockey League and NHL Draft. The 2021-22 season will mark eight seasons with the Hockey Writers. I am also the site’s Credentials Manager.