So, where are they now?
It has been about seven months since seven young prospects were selected by the Blue Jackets during last year’s entry draft. The class represents three different nations and its players skate at five different positions.
Unlike the NBA and NFL, NHL draft picks rarely see ice time at the highest level the season after they are drafted. Players often go back to their junior or college teams, while a lucky few make their respective organization’s AHL and NHL roster. With this group, none of the seven prospects have registered time with Columbus’s AHL affiliate in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Nevertheless, they are all still playing hockey and we are gathered here today to check up on Columbus’s newest batch of prospects.
Sonny Milano (Rd. 1, pick 16)
The smooth-handed winger made a splash with the U.S Hockey National Team Development Program prior to last year’s draft and has continued to do so, tallying four points in five games during last year’s World Junior Championship.
Milano had originally committed to play at Boston College, he even reaffirmed his commitment after the draft, but he opted to sign a contract with the OHL’s Plymouth Whalers just before classes began. By the numbers, Milano made the correct choice.
He has registered 13 goals and 30 assists in 30 games this season, leading the team in points despite missing 17 games. However, Milano is one of only three players with at least 30 points on the season and the Whalers stand as the second-to-worst team in the league.
Ryan Collins (Rd 2, pick 47)
Collins is also a product of the USNTDP, but the defenseman opted to go to college instead of heading to the juniors. At Minnesota, Collins has played in 17 of 24 games for the 19th ranked Golden Gophers.
In those 17 games, Collins has registered five goals and 18 blocked shots. The team’s group of defensemen is a young one, so look for the freshman to continue to get decent playing time.
Side note: Collins’s teammate Mike Reilly, another Columbus prospect, leads the team with 26 points.
#CBJ pick Ryan Collins, on the other hand, not so sparkling. Already the 7th dman, been beaten twice and taken a dumb penalty so far.
— Jeremy (@307x) December 26, 2014
Elvis Merzlikins (Rd. 3, pick 76)
The big Latvian goaltender stayed with HC Lugano this season, a Swiss professional team, an organization of which he has been a part since 2009. In 17 games, Merzlikins has posted a 2.56 goals against average, up from 2.13 last season, and a .916 save percentage, down from .924.
He played in only two games for Latvia during the Word Junior Championship, allowing almost five goals per game.
Blake Siebenaler (Rd. 3, pick 77)
Siebenaler also stayed with his club this season and has accumulated 26 points in 46 games with the OHL’s Niagara IceDogs. He has 20 games to reach 31 points, which would be a single-season record in points at any level.
Julien Pelletier (Rd. 4, pick 107)
Pelletier began the season with the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, where he registered 14 points in 26 games, but he has since switched sweaters. Cape Breton traded Pelletier to Rouyn-Noranda in exchange for goaltender Alexandre Bélanger and a third-round pick. The winger has picked up six points in nine games with his new club.
Tyler Bird (Rd. 5, pick 137)
Bird has had a quiet transition to the college hockey scene after an illustrious prep career, playing in only 17 games and picking up two assists for Brown University, the 54th-ranked team in the country.
Olivier Leblanc (Rd. 7, pick 197)
Leblanc was also part of a QMJHL trade, winding up with Cape Breton after two and a half seasons with the Saint John Sea Dogs. Between his two clubs, the defenseman has accumulated 21 assists in 42 games and was named a QMJHL All-Star.