With the 25th overall pick in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft, the Columbus Blue Jackets have selected Corson Ceulemans from the Brooks Bandits of the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL)
About Corson Ceulemans
Regina, Saskatchewan-native Corson Ceulemans has found great success in the AJHL. With his outstanding puck-handling capabilities and excellent vision, he has no problem controlling the game and making excellent plays. He is an elite offensive-defenceman who can make clean passes, and with that skill set, it is not surprising to see him drafted here in the first round.
THW Prospect Profile Exceprt
“The Canadian Junior A hockey leagues, which include the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) and Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL), are often overlooked when it comes to the NHL draft. Whereas many players from the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) can transition successfully to the professional ranks, Junior A players often go to college first before turning pro, since they would be ineligible to go to the NCAA if they played for a CHL team. It’s painted the league as weaker developmentally and the players as being underdeveloped, which has resulted in few players becoming first-round NHL picks.
Related: 2021 NHL Draft Guide
“But that doesn’t mean there aren’t talented prospects playing there. In 2017, the Colorado Avalanche spent their fourth-overall pick on Cale Makar, who was playing with the AJHL’s Brooks Bandits. He helped his team claim the league championship, then went on to play for the University of Massachusetts Amherst for two seasons where he won the Hobey Baker Trophy as the NCAA’s top player, as well as a U20 gold medal with Team Canada. When he broke into the NHL in 2019-20, he won the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie, scoring 50 points in 57 games.
“Makar’s success turned more eyes towards the AJHL, and this season another player has caught the attention of scouts due to the similarities between him and the Avalanche’s defender. That would be Corson Ceulemans, who also plays defense for the Bandits. In 2019-20, his first full season with the team, he was second among the defense with 35 points in 43 games. This season, despite the severely shortened schedule, he stepped up his production, leading the defense with four goals and 11 points in just eight games.
“It’s hard not to see the similarities between the two players. Both Ceulemans and Makar play a fast, offense-first style that emphasizes puck handling and out-thinking their opponents. Ceulemans also helped the Bandits claim their fifth league title in 2018-19, scoring two goals in the playoffs and adding an assist in the Junior A Doyle Cup Tournament. He’s now committed to going to the University of Wisconsin, where former AJHL star and 2019 first-round pick Dylan Holloway played for the last two seasons before inking his entry-level deal with the Edmonton Oilers this spring.
“However, fans should hesitate before they label Ceulemans as the next-coming of Makar, who was a generational talent that the AJHL had never seen before and won’t see again for some time. Ceulemans isn’t as sound defensively as his counterpart, and his struggles have been magnified by the fact that the AJHL is not known as a great development league, further deepening the divide between the two. He also can be too aggressive on the offense, and though his vision is top-notch, his decision-making isn’t always the best, and it can create turnovers.
“But that doesn’t mean that Ceulemans isn’t talented. Although his defensive game isn’t strong, his offensive awareness is excellent. He is the best when he is carrying the puck, able to drive the play and deliver quick, crisp passes in order to create scoring opportunities. That skillset makes him a top power-play quarterback. He also has a physical side to his game and can provide pressure on opponents to force them off the puck. So, while he likely won’t be the next Makar, Ceulemans is without a doubt a top talent at the 2021 NHL Draft.”
How This Affects the Teams’ Plans
The Blue Jackets continue to stay busy today and add an elite offensive-defenceman to their prospect pipeline. Ceulemans has great potential and could be a legitimate NHL top-four defenceman. He is an offensive force with fantastic puck-handling abilities, making him a pure threat on the ice at all times. Further development will only allow him to grow and and iron out those defensive weakness’s.
With the departure of Seth Jones, to acquiring Jake Bean, the Blue Jackets add another young defender who could make his way into the lineup in the next few seasons. While he is developing, he will likely be mentored by fellow Blue Jackets defenceman and former first-round pick, Zach Werenski.
Born and raised in Kamloops B.C. and a die-hard fan of the Kamloops Blazers, hockey has always been a part of his life. Now, Colton is exploring the sports media world and looking to make it a career. He currently covers the Winnipeg Jets, as well as contributes to World Juniors, and draft-related content. He is co-host of the WesternCentric Podcast, which revolves around the WHL.