The Columbus Blue Jackets are going to make news at the 2022 NHL Draft. With two top-12 picks at their disposal, they could find themselves in a position to add significant pieces for their future.
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That starts with the sixth overall pick, the one acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks as part of the Seth Jones deal. Because the pick didn’t become a top-two pick, the Blue Jackets had this pick transferred to them. As it’s turning out, that pick is looking more and more like it will be a very good player.
In the first part of our Blue Jackets’ offseason series, we are going to look at six prospects that could potentially hear their name called sixth overall in Montreal. Then stay tuned later as we will have 12 prospects that could go 12th overall as well as a look at who could go early in the second round when the Blue Jackets pick 44th overall. We’ll then look at the rest of the offseason and how free agency could play out.
If you are a Blue Jackets’ fan, you have every right to be excited about this draft. Landing any of these six prospects would be a very good thing. Each bring something significant to the table that should help the franchise for several years. Who are these prospects? These are listed in order based on my personal preference. We are going to assume Shane Wright, Logan Cooley and Juraj Slafkovsky are gone before the Blue Jackets pick.
6 Options For Sixth Overall
The two top defensemen in this draft are both very much in play for the Blue Jackets. While it’s possible both are gone in the top-five, it’s just as possible for one or both to be available based on what the Seattle Kraken and Philadelphia Flyers do. I give a very slight edge to Jiricek overall based on him being a better two-way defender. He has NHL size at 6-foot-3 and is more than willing to play a physical game. He is the kind of defenseman the Blue Jackets would love to add. He is right-handed and projects on the top pair moving forward. He could ultimately become the long-term replacement for Seth Jones.
Nemec too is a very solid defenseman and has a slight leg up offensively over Jiricek. He is also right-handed and has NHL size at 6-foot-3. Where you’ll notice Nemec on film is with the puck on his stick. His transition play is outstanding and can be electric at times. If one of these top defensemen is available sixth, I don’t think the Blue Jackets could race to the podium quick enough. If they get their choice of both, I’d take Jiricek. But Nemec is right there and many folks in the scouting world prefer Nemec. You can’t go wrong either way.
If the defensemen are gone, as of this writing, I believe this is who the Blue Jackets would target with the sixth pick. What was interesting to me talking with Gauthier at the Combine was the number of teams who asked him (this does include the Blue Jackets per Gauthier himself) about playing center. He’s spent most of his time on the wing but teams clearly think he could play center. And why not? He’s a power forward who can drive the play and is a great skater. Some scouts believe his upside is limited but power forwards aren’t easy to come by anymore. The Blue Jackets need to get stronger and more physical. That’s why Gauthier comes in ahead of this next prospect.
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Outside of the top-three, Savoie is the most skilled player available. Many folks, myself included, mocked him to the Blue Jackets earlier in the offseason. He is explosive with the puck and with his skating. Despite his 5-foot-9 size, the word I see most often associated with Savoie is lethal. The question of course becomes can he be a top-line NHL center? Teams that miss on the top-three will likely turn to Savoie for an offensive boost. There’s been a lot of chatter about the Flyers being interested in him. Therefore he could be gone before the Blue Jackets pick. Based on skill, Savoie should be the pick but Gauthier brings that rare combination of size and skill that gives him an edge in my mind.
Here’s a name you might be surprised to see on the list. Kasper was the one prospect that I felt got a boost from the Combine. He tested well and plays a position (center) that is in high demand. He’s also a great leader and well thought of from a character standpoint, which the Blue Jackets would greatly appreciate. It’s very possible Kasper is available at 12 but there is a chance he’s gone in the top-10. He feels like the ultimate Steve Yzerman pick, stealth, low-key but highly effective. This is a case where the Blue Jackets would need to take Kasper sixth if they want him as he could be gone by 12 based on his perceived rise.
We’ve mentioned five names and we now get to perhaps the best sniper in the group in Kemell. Kemell confirmed at the Combine he spoke to the Blue Jackets. His recent performances show why he’s a top prospect. He scored six goals at the U18’s for Finland helping them to a bronze medal. He scored a league-high 15 goals as a rookie in Liiga. While he has things to work on in his game such as his skating, the fact he was able to score 15 in a top professional league is nothing short of impressive. If anyone would have a handle on the upside of this Finn, it’s Jarmo Kekalainen.
Related: 2022 NHL Draft Guide
As you can see, these six prospects all offer something good to the Blue Jackets. They can sit back and let the draft come to them and they’ll still land a top prospect.
Stay tuned for part two of our series and we’ll see who could be in play for the Blue Jackets with the 12th overall pick. Spoiler: that prospect could be just as good as any of the six mentioned above.
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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 2022-23 season will mark nine seasons with the Hockey Writers. I am also the site’s Credentials Manager. Please take note of the updated Twitter handle: @mark_scheig.