5-7-3-4. These are the numbers that will go down in Columbus Blue Jackets history.
After the Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets won the first two drawings, the combination 5-7-3-4 came from the machine and gave the Blue Jackets something to celebrate. For the first time in club history, the Blue Jackets move up in the draft thanks to the lottery.
Actual order drawn in the lottery wins:
Toronto wins with 6-8-5-13. Winnipeg wins with 5-10-7-14. Columbus wins with 5-7-3-4.
— Jonas Siegel (@jonassiegel) May 1, 2016
After suffering through a rough 2015-16 season which saw the Blue Jackets lose their first eight games, then their coach, Saturday night helped ease some of the pain. They are now guaranteed to land a player who is ready to step into the lineup next year.
Even though the Blue Jackets moved up one spot, it is significant for a few reasons. We will break that down for you. We will also tell you what you can expect moving forward short and long-term for the Blue Jackets.
What Can We Expect?
If things go as planned and Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine go first and second, the Blue Jackets are in position to draft right-wing Jesse Puljujarvi third. If that’s the direction they go (which I fully expect), it fills an immediate need in their top-six.
You can view the Elite Prospects scouting report on Puljujarvi here. There’s a lot to like about this top prospect. He has size at 6-foot-3 and over 200 pounds. He’s known as more of a play maker than sniper, but can choose the right moments to unleash his shot.
What stands out about Puljujarvi is his hockey IQ. He is excellent both on the puck and away from the puck. He can play both ends of the ice with solid proficiency. There aren’t many weaknesses in his overall game. He’ll make an immediate impact on the Blue Jackets.
If Puljujarvi is the pick, the top-six in Columbus looks quite nice. They’ll have Puljujarvi and Cam Atkinson on right side. They already have Brandon Saad, Scott Hartnell, and Nick Foligno on the left side. You have Brandon Dubinsky, Boone Jenner, and Alexander Wennberg down the middle. There’s still much work to do, but Puljujarvi’s presence is a welcome addition.
Might We See A Trade?
Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen admitted on Saturday that teams will call him to ask about trading up to the third pick. That shouldn’t surprise anyone. You gotta see what the going rate is. But it’s for that reason that I don’t expect Columbus to trade the pick. Kekalainen will listen to offers, but will demand a haul in return if he is to move down. I believe they like their position, and thus, I expect the Blue Jackets to select Puljujarvi.
Now where we might see some trades is with current roster players. There is now some overflow on the Blue Jackets roster if you include Puljujarvi. Does this open the door for a winger to move? I expect the team to discuss all possibilities. That doesn’t mean a trade will happen, but the likelihood of a trade happening is better now than before the lottery.
There’s More To Do
Saturday night in Toronto is just step one. President of Hockey Operations John Davidson told John Shannon of Sportsnet that the biggest need on the team is down the middle. He cited the loss of Ryan Johansen as the reason. Drafting Puljujarvi is nice, but there’s still a lack of a top-line center. Will Wennberg or Jenner fill that role? Will a bigger trade happen to acquire a center?
A new door has opened for Columbus. How will they proceed? This summer just got a lot more interesting thanks to a lucky bounce of a few ping-pong balls. For now, let’s celebrate that the hockey gods have smiled on Columbus on draft lottery night. Maybe, just maybe this franchise will finally break through years of misery. If so, this Saturday night will go down as the night that 5-7-3-4 changed the fortunes of the Blue Jackets forever. A favorable bounce never felt so good.