Blue Jackets’ News & Rumors: Kekalainen, Chychrun, Predictions & More

We have made it to the day we are all waiting for. The 2022 Upper Deck NHL Draft is finally here. As expected from a Columbus Blue Jackets’ perspective, there are no shortage of storylines as the offseason officially kicks into high gear.

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We will get you set for everything that is about to unfold. GM Jarmo Kekalainen held his pre-draft availability on Wednesday. What did he have to say? Then we’ll look at the rumors surrounding Arizona Coyotes’ defenseman Jakob Chychrun. Is there something there? Then we’ll end with some predictions sure to go wrong. Let’s dive right in.

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Kekalainen Speaks

As is the usual custom, Kekalainen spoke to the media on draft day eve. He had some interesting things to say about the draft and the current makeup of his team.

Many folks think the draft is going to be unpredictable. Count Kekalainen in the unpredictable camp. If he says it, it means something.

“It could go the way we have it on our list and we’ll be taking the 12th pick with the 12th player on our list,” Kekalainen said. “But I doubt it will go that way. I think it’ll go the other way where there’s gonna be some oohs and aahs and surprises in the top 10.” 

Columbus Blue Jackets Jarmo Kekalainen
Jarmo Kekalainen is expecting the unexpected at the NHL Draft. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Gary Wiepert)

It’s been long speculated that the top-10 could provide some surprises. Since number-one isn’t even a consensus, how can anything else be? Prepare for the unexpected.

Kekalainen also addressed the situation in Russia and how they’ll handle their master list. He said they will go off of hockey ability and won’t divert from what they normally do. If a Russian is the top player on their list, they’ll go with that player.

Kekalainen also spoke about keeping their options open. With two top-12 picks in hand, they can go in any number of ways. He said they may wait until the fifth pick before deciding what to do with six. Likewise, they may wait until 11 before deciding what to do with 12.

“You never know. We’re going to keep our options open.”

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Those options also include a second-round pick at 44. When asked if they could use that pick to acquire a young player, Kekalainen said they are happy where they are holding picks 6, 12 and 44. But if the right opportunity comes about, they could use a pick in a trade. He also said there are some discussions happening they are considering.

One of those discussions could center around this next player.

Chychrun Rumors Redux

Here we go again. Recall the Blue Jackets were involved in Chychrun rumors leading up to the trade deadline. Nothing ever materialized although they made a trip to New Jersey to watch the Coyotes play the Devils. It’s believed that Chychrun was the reason.

Brian Hedger of the Columbus Dispatch first reported on Tuesday that the Blue Jackets and Coyotes were talking about Chychrun. Then TSN’s Darren Dreger tweeted it was something to watch.

Then on Wednesday, Hedger tweeted that talks had cooled between the teams and perhaps nothing would happen on this front. The issue at hand in my sight is the price to acquire Chychrun.

It was believed up to four premium pieces were required before in order to acquire Chychrun. Maybe the price has gone down some. But does it make sense for the Blue Jackets to pay a high price like that when they’re guaranteed the player for three years?

If there was assurance Chychrun would sign long-term, then it’s a different discussion. The Blue Jackets are still building their core. I really can only see this move if the price was reasonable. But given the perceived prices from before, I have a hard time believing this would be cheap for the Blue Jackets. They have options in trade and free agency that should be less costly for them.

Things can pick up again in one phone call. But I’m not putting too much stock into this one right now. The Blue Jackets would love Chychrun no question. But the price has to come down for it to make sense.

Blue Jackets’ Draft Predictions

Time to put it on the line and offer some predictions for what happens with the Blue Jackets at the draft. More so than in past years, this is much harder to gauge. With Montreal not leaking anything about their plans up top, the teams behind them are waiting for them to make their move.

Related: Canadiens’ Draft Decision Could Open Trade Market

With that said, I will share my predictions for sixth overall, 12th overall and 44th overall. The one thing I do believe is that they’ll make all three picks. I think they’ll land three guys within their top-32.

  • 6th overall: David Jiricek
  • 12th overall: Conor Geekie
  • 44th overall: Filip Bystedt

Explanation: While I do think the two defensemen Jiricek and Simon Nemec go in the top-five, I think we’re going to get a surprise somewhere. I think Shane Wright goes first, Juraj Slafkovsky goes second, Logan Cooley goes third and Nemec goes fourth to Seattle. The Flyers to me are a wildcard and I think could surprise by looking at Cutter Gauthier or Matthew Savoie. That leaves Jiricek for the Blue Jackets in what would be the perfect run.

David Jiricek Team Czechia
David Jiricek would make a perfect Columbus Blue Jacket. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

At 12th, they grab their big center with skill in Geekie. This combination to me feels like the biggest win for the Blue Jackets should it break this way. So I say they do it.

At 44th, might as well roll a 20-sided die and hope. The Blue Jackets would like center depth and size. Bystedt has that and did well on the international stage. He fits the mold of what they’d look for.

Chaos and unpredictability await all of us as the NHL Draft is about to get underway. Enjoy what’s going to unfold. Don’t be surprised if the biggest memory of the night is the oohs and ahhs that Kekalainen said could happen. He’s not alone in that thinking.