Blue Jackets May Be Facing Most Important Draft in Franchise History

The Columbus Blue Jackets had a tremendous offseason in 2021, and they enter the summer of 2022 in a very similar position. They possess two lottery draft picks, which will be sixth and 12th overall. Later in the draft, they have a pick in a majority of the rounds, only lacking a fifth and sixth round selection. During last year’s NHL Entry Draft, they selected fifth and 12th, adding two immediate impact players in Kent Johnson and Cole Sillinger, respectively.

Blue Jackets Looking Toward the Future

With their recent draft and transactional success, the Blue Jackets find themselves with a strong, young core for the future. Players like the aforementioned Sillinger and Johnson, as well as Yegor Chinakhov, are just scratching the surface of their NHL careers, while they also have quite a few prospects who appear destined to reach the top level of hockey over the next couple years. The biggest example of this will be star Russian prospect Kirill Marchenko, who is slated to make his North American debut in the upcoming 2022-23 season.

Kirill Marchenko Columbus Blue Jackets
Kirill Marchenko, Columbus Blue Jackets (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

This season, they have pieces in place, and they simply need to add players who can compliment their existing talent to build a team for the future. Team president John Davidson has always said that a team is built “brick-by-brick,” and they’ve certainly stuck to that mantra over the years. Adding a player like Juraj Slafkovsky would’ve been a perfect brick to supplement Patrik Laine going forward, however, there’s essentially no chance he’ll fall to the Blue Jackets’ sixth selection, making it impossible for him to end up in Columbus without a major trade. There will be quite a few options available when the Blue Jackets are on the clock though, which my colleague Mark Scheig has covered extensively in the past few days.

Defense is likely going to be a major focal point for the Blue Jackets when they take the stage in Montreal next month. There is certainly quite a bit of organizational depth in that department, but outside of Zach Werenski they lack top talent on the blue line, which is going to be difficult to overcome going forward. If they can add a high-end defensive focused defenseman, it can expedite the rebuild.

2022 NHL Draft Holds Key to Future

Teams don’t get too many chances to have two top-15 draft picks, yet the Blue Jackets have found them in that exact situation two years in a row. General manager Jarmo Kekalainen and his scouting team certainly appear to have taken advantage of it with their first opportunity, and they’ll need a repeat performance to take the team to the next level. It’s certainly not everyday that they’ll be able to get a player who makes the jump to the NHL at 12th overall, so that shouldn’t be the expectation however if they can get a prospect with a similar talent level to Sillinger at that spot, even if he won’t immediately be ready to make the transition, it’ll be a success.

Related: 12 Options at 12th Overall

Meanwhile with the sixth overall pick, there’s definitely an opportunity to add a player with very high potential. If they can get an NHL-ready defenseman at this pick it would be an ideal scenario, however, with the limited defensive options near the top of the board, it’s far from guaranteed.

The 2022 NHL Draft will be a defining factor for the new era of Blue Jackets hockey. If it’s successful, then it can propel the next generation in Columbus to a level it has never seen, along with the current assets already in the organization. If it’s a failure, then it can put the team back years in their rebuild, similar to what had happened early in the franchise’s history under Doug MacLean. It’ll be years before we know the outcome, but either way it’ll be a memorable night in Blue Jackets history.

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