The Columbus Blue Jackets decided to hit the reset and begin a rebuild, moving on from names like Nick Foligno, Seth Jones, and David Savard. In return, they added several 2021 first-round picks that have replenished a depleted prospect pool.
The core of the roster is built around Patrick Laine, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Boone Jenner, and Zach Werenski. The roster also boasts several key young future pieces in Jake Bean, Adam Boqvist, and Alexander Texier. The building blocks are in place, but the team will likely return to the draft podium in Montreal in the top ten at the 2022 Draft in Montreal.
- Kent Johnson, C – University of Michigan (NCAA)
Drafted: 2021 round one, fifth overall by Columbus Blue Jackets
With the addition of one of the Michigan big three in Johnson, the Blue Jackets acquire a true superstar, a potential game-breaking, offensively dynamic center. His freshman and draft season with the Wolverines saw the B.C. native post nine goals and 27 points in 26 games. Despite his upside, he was a Team Canada WJC omission. Perhaps a political casualty for not playing in the CHL where the Everett Silvertips own his rights.
Johnson has tremendous hands and puck skills – he can curl and drag with the best of them. He has excellent offensive instincts and playmaking skills, as well as a dangerous and accurate shot. He is creative and bold, attempting moves that raise fans out of their seats such as a between the legs shot or a Michigan goal. Johnson will return to Michigan where he can work on his strength and hit the weight room while he helps the Wolverine towards a Frozen Four Championship run.
- Cole Sillinger, C – Columbus Blue Jackets (NHL)
Drafted: 2021 round one 12th overall by Columbus Blue Jackets
The son of former NHL journeyman Mike Sillinger, whose career span 18 seasons and 12 different teams including 155 games with the Blue Jackets. Cole was born in Columbus while his dad was a player there. He had a monster rookie season in the WHL with 22 goals and 53 points in 48 games with the Medicine Hat Tigers. His draft year was spent in the USHL due to the pandemic and had 24 goals and 46 points in 31 games with the Sioux Falls Stampede.
It is an unconventional path, but these are strange times. Even more unpredictable is Sillinger finds himself on the Blue Jackets roster as an 18-year-old rookie in his D+1 season.
One of the top snipers from his draft class, Sillinger is a high-volume shooter that plays a solid defensive game. His skating is not a liability, and his all-around game is adequate or better. Sillinger may not play beyond the nine-game threshold this season. If he is sent down for more playing time and a shot at a WJC roster, it will be to the WHL where he would absolutely dominate.
- Liam Foudy, C/RW – Cleveland Monsters (AHL)
Drafted: 2018 round one, 18th overall by Columbus Blue Jackets
Foudy is on the cusp of graduating after having played in 24 NHL regular-season games during the pandemic. The speed demon has also appeared in 16 AHL games where he has over a point per game offense with 18 points. Foudy has also gained experience on the international stage with Canada winning Gold in both the WJC and WC.
Foudy is beginning this season back in the AHL where he will try to develop his offensive game a little more. He has produced well at every level but the NHL. His ability to produce at that level will determine his long-term upside. Either as a bottom-six penalty-killing specialist or a middle-six speedster that provides secondary offensive support.
Foudy has elite-level skating ability with eyebrow-raising acceleration and a seemingly effortless top speed that is unmatched. His skating ability should be enough to earn him an NHL roster spot, the only question will be if his hands can keep up with his feet.
- Yegor Chinakhov, RW – Cleveland Monsters (AHL)
Drafted: 2020 round one, 21st overall by Columbus Blue Jackets
One of the most memorable draft moments in recent history was watching everyone scramble to answer, “Who the heck is that?” when Columbus drafted Chinakhov out of nowhere in the first round. Experts from the scouting community (like myself) who were doubters, or even laughing at the selection are not laughing anymore.
Chinakhov had a dominant draft season in the MHL with well over a point per game offense. In his D+1 season, he graduated to the KHL playing big minutes with the Avangard Omsk producing 17 points in 32 regular-season games and winning the rookie of the year. He went on to produce another five goals and seven points in 21 playoff games and winning a Gagarian Cup as league Champions.
Following his incredibly successful season, he quickly signed his NHL ELC and is making his North American Debut. After scoring his first goal in his first AHL game, he was quickly recalled to the NHL where he is still looking for his first point through three games. While he may see the bulk of games this season in the AHL developing as a 20-year-old in his first season in North America, it looks like the Blue Jackets knew what they were doing all along and have themselves a first-round talent that is on the fast track to a top-six NHL role.
- Kirill Marchenko, LW/RW – SKA St. Petersburg (KHL)
Drafted: 2018 round two, 49th overall by Columbus Blue Jackets
Marchenko is a prospect on a steady development curve and playing his way up the depth chart. He not only established himself as a regular KHL player last season, but he also became a top player on a competitive roster in SKA. Marchenko produced 15 goals and 28 points in 41 regular-season games and is off to a torrid pace with eight goals and 13 points through the first 20 games.
The big Russian skates well, has a quick and accurate shot but his best asset is the way he reads the play. His anticipation and read-and-react create time and space allows him to control the pace of play. His KHL contract is set to expire at the conclusion of this season and look for Columbus to quickly sign him to his ELC and burn a year off to allow him a cup of coffee in North America before making his full-time debut the following season.
- Corson Ceulmans, D – University of Wisconsin (NCAA)
Drafted: 2021 round one, 25th overall by Columbus Blue Jackets
The third of three 2021 first-round picks, the Jackets acquired a promising defenseman with an attractive balance of skills and attributes. Ceulmans has good size, is a right-shot defender who has very good mobility. His best asset is his shot. Coming out of what may be a lower level in his draft year in the AJHL with Brooks Bandits, he produced 46 points through 57 career games.
A better and more impressive indication of his ability came at the WJC U-18 where he played a key role with Canada and scored eight points in six games winning the Gold. Ceulmans will play his D+1 season as an 18-year-old freshman with the Wisconsin Badgers and should spend the next few years developing at the NCAA level before turning pro.
The Blue Jackets will exercise patience in the development with Ceulmans who has a toolbox that will see him in the NHL as either a solid two-way bottom-six pairing or top pairing that can run a power-play. Either way, he is the organizations’ top defensive prospect.
- Tyler Angle, C/LW – Cleveland Monsters (AHL)
Drafted: 2019 round seven, 212th overall by Columbus Blue Jackets
While Angle has shown steady development during his OHL career with the Windsor Spitfires seeing his point production increase from four points to 17 points, to 44, then 67 in his fourth season. His breakout season occurred last year as a rookie in the AHL.
Angle produced over a point per game with 11 goals and 24 points in 23 games to lead the team in scoring. As a seventh-round selection, he may lack some draft capital, but producing at the clip he did as a rookie in the AHL has vaulted him up the Blue Jackets depth chart and into a top ten ranking.
Angle lacks any single elite-level skill but has no glaring weakness, a jack of all trades and a master of none type prospect. Angle will look to follow up his breakout performance in his sophomore season in the AHL. If he can repeat his production should be in line for an NHL recall to see what he can do with the big club.
- Dmitri Voronkov, LW/C – AK Bars Kazan (KHL)
Drafted: 2019 round four, 114th overall by Columbus Blue Jackets
The big Russian enjoyed a breakout season in the KHL posting 19 points in 53 regular-season games. More impressive was his six goals and ten points in 15 playoff games. Voronkov also played well for Russia at the WC posting another two goals and six points through eight games.
At 6-4, he owns a big reach and has a motor and high compete level that makes him an effective defender. Voronkov uses his size to play a strong physical game and is an agitating player that can get the other team off their game at times. His offensive upside began to flourish late last season but is not likely to translate to the NHL. His skating is going to need some improvement to land him in the NHL. If he can improve his stride and speed, he could be a valuable bottom-six in two years when his KHL contract expires.
- Stanislav Svozil, D – Regina Pats (WHL)
Drafted: 2021 round three, 69th overall by Columbus Blue Jackets
Svozil has played the past two seasons leading into his draft playing against men in the Czech Republic with HC Kometa Brno. The Czech defender also played internationally seeing games with the Czech Republic in the U18, and the WJC.
Svozil is a defensive defenseman that has excellent positioning, reads, and plays a physical game. He will make his North American debut in the WHL with the Pats, who are a strong offensive team. He will look to develop an offensive side to his game playing back at the junior level, but his meal ticket to the NHL will be as a shutdown defender. Svozil has several years of development ahead of him in the CHL and the AHL before he will be ready to compete for a spot on the big club.
- Daniil Tarasov, G – Cleveland Monsters (AHL)
Drafted: 2017 round three, 86th overall by Columbus Blue Jackets
The teams’ top goaltending prospect has had an up and down development. He bounced from leagues like the MHL, and VHL in Russia, to the Liiga in 2019-20 and back to Russia for a breakout season in the KHL. Tarasov was loaned to Salavat Yulaev Ufa in the KHL, where he produced an 11-3-2 record with a 2.07 GAA and .925 SV%.
That raised his status in the organization, and he was brought over to North America at the conclusion of the KHL season. His AHL debut was less impressive with a 3.16 GAA and a .896 SV% despite a solid 4-2-0 record. Tarasov will look to play the starting role in the AHL in his first full season as a 22-year-old rookie.