Blue Jackets Blasts: Draft Lottery, World Championships & More

The Columbus Blue Jackets have officially entered offseason mode. Management will soon get together to plan their offseason strategy. Another interesting offseason awaits them.

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This week on Blue Jackets Blasts, we start to look ahead to some upcoming activities and the offseason. We’ll first talk the impact of the draft lottery results. We’ll then talk what to watch for at the World Championships from a Blue Jackets’ perspective. And then we’ll take an initial look at the offseason and what it might look like.

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Blue Jackets Get Two Lottery Picks

Although there was a chance of a miracle where the Blue Jackets would land both the second and the third picks of the 2022 NHL Draft, it wasn’t meant to be. As the odds suggested, they didn’t win either lottery. Because no teams below the Blackhawks won a lottery, they are slotted in the sixth and 12th slots for the draft. Our William Espy did a nice job summarizing that and some history on those picks.

Related: Columbus Blue Jackets Stand Pat at NHL Draft Lottery

The question now turns to what’s next? With two lottery picks in hand, the Blue Jackets have a bevy of options available to them. They can make both picks if a player on their list is available. They could trade one or both picks in order to get talent. They could even look to trade up in the draft.

Management will sit down and create their list when they convene after the NHL Combine in early June. No matter how the top-five transpires, the Blue Jackets are primed to add two really good players to an already deep prospect pool. Should they elect to make both picks, they can address both center and defense, something the organization really needs.

Let’s give you a few names to consider in the early going. Shane Wright, Logan Cooley and Juraj Slafkovsky are likely gone in the top-five. The Blue Jackets would need to trade up in order to land one of these talents.

Beyond them it gets interesting. The consensus top-two picks on defense are Simon Nemec and David Jiricek. Many mocks have them going in the top-five. But should one of these players fall to six, expect the Blue Jackets to race to the podium to announce their pick.

Then at 12, watch out for centers. A pair of Winnipeg Ice centers are interesting to watch, each offering different components. First there’s Matthew Savoie. He’s undersized at 5-foot-9 but does he bring the offensive skill. He was able to play part of his 15-year old season in the WHL when he first entered the league. When you draw comparisons to Johnny Gaudreau and Patrick Kane, that’s saying something.

Jarmo Kekalainen Columbus Blue Jackets
Jarmo Kekäläinen and staff will have plenty of options with two first rounders available to them. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The other player to watch is Savoie’s teammate Conor Geekie. Size is not an issue for Geekie as he checks in at 6-foot-4 and over 200 pounds. While not as dynamic offensively as Savoie, Geekie still finished over a point per game this season in Winnipeg.

There are other options that will be available should they choose a different direction. Check out our draft guide which highlights potential players that could go in the top-15.

The number of available options for the Blue Jackets make them one of the most interesting day one storylines in Montreal. They have assets. They also have needs to address. That’s a combination worthy of potential fireworks.

World Championships Storylines

There is no shortage of storylines for the upcoming World Championships. By my count, eight players and one member of management appear to be involved in the tournament from the Blue Jackets.

  • Canada: Cole Sillinger, Kent Johnson, Rick Nash.
  • United States: Andrew Peeke, Nick Blankenburg.
  • Sweden: Emil Bemstrom.
  • France: Alexandre Texier.
  • Switzerland: Dean Kukan.
  • Latvia: Elvis Merzlikins.

In addition, management including Kekalainen is expected to take in the tournament as well. Not only will they watch their players, they’ll watch some draft eligible players as well as potential free agent targets.

The 17-day tournament starts on Friday May 13 and runs through until Sunday May 29. The tournament is taking place in both Tampere and Helsinki, Finland.

To see the bevy of young Blue Jackets on the world stage is a good sign for them. This tournament will give you an opportunity to see how they fare against this level of competition. You also get the chance to watch the next wave of talent coming soon to the NHL.

Once this tournament ends, it will be NHL Combine week. Then the offseason will start to get into full swing.

Interesting Offseason Awaits

We talked earlier about the potential of the draft. But what about the rest of the offseason? The Blue Jackets have plenty of business to attend to.

Patrik Laine’s contract sits at the top. Both sides are interested in making it work. The question will be money and term. Will Laine accept a max eight-year deal? Will the Blue Jackets go to eight years? Will they make him the highest paid player in team history? It might take that for a deal to be found. Once this is settled, the rest of the offseason will fall into place.

In addition to Laine, the Blue Jackets have other notable RFA’s they need to find an agreement with. Those are Jack Roslovic, Emil Bemstrom, Carson Meyer, Adam Boqvist and Gabriel Carlsson. Nick Blankenburg is a 10.2c player since he hasn’t accrued enough seasons to be in the group two RFA boat. But he cannot receive any kind of offer sheet as a result.

Roslovic had a tough start to his season before finding his game and playing number-one center at the end of the season. He also won the team’s Community MVP award. He’s embraced the Blue Jackets and it seems they will find a new contract. There were legitimate questions early on. But those have seemed to subside for now.

I do not foresee any major issues with getting Boqvist or Blankenburg done. Boqvist needs to hit the gym hard this summer and get stronger. But his offensive upside is hard to ignore. Meyer should be back too, although he might be in Cleveland to start the new season.

Where it gets interesting is with Bemstrom and Carlsson. Each has had ample opportunity to separate themselves but haven’t. How many chances will they get? Will the Blue Jackets qualify them? Given the logjam on the roster, it’s a fair question to ask. They have to decide if there’s a role for them moving forward.

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On the UFA front, the Blue Jackets will decide if they bring Joonas Korpisalo back. Earlier on many thought he would be traded. But given some questions about injuries and depth, he still might have a place in Columbus. Daniil Tarasov presumably would be the backup to Elvis Merzlikins. But Tarasov is also an RFA and needs a new contract. He’s also recovering from injury. Will he be ready by camp?

And if you listened to the end of season press conference, you heard both Kekalainen and coach Brad Larsen say they must limit goals against. That’s a sure sign they will look to address that area this offseason. The draft won’t provide immediate help. But trades and free agents could solve some of those issues.

All things considered, the Blue Jackets have several questions to answer. It starts with Laine. Then it trickles down throughout the rest of the team. Do not be surprised if they pull off something big here.

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