A look at the defensemen at the Columbus Blue Jackets Prospect pool

With the NHL draft and free agency starting in the rear-view window, the Columbus Blue Jackets organization is almost a finished product in the 2022-23 season.

It is a good time to assess the organizational depth of a potential group, both from a top-down (NHL-AHL) perspective and from a positioning point of view (attackers versus defenders versus goalkeepers). Today is the second of a three-part installment where we’ll be examining the state of the franchise stable for young players. Next, the defense men.

First, a little housekeeping. Any player who is over the age of 23 (eg, Nick Blankenburg, 24), or has already established himself as a full-time player in the NHL (eg Jake Bean) will be disqualified. Finally, this is not a rating, but a comprehensive view of the pool as a whole.

From 2017 to 2021, the Blue Jackets did not use a single first- or second-round pick on the Defenders. In those five years, they relied on a steady dose of current NHLers to keep their roster alive. But with mainstays from last year like Seth Jones, David Savard, Ryan Murray and so on, the Blue Jackets realized that it was only a matter of time before they needed to flip the blue line.

As was true with futures contracts, the trades changed the future of the franchise. The club acquired Adam Bockvist (directly) and Ben (indirectly) in the Jones trade, then used the first-round pick they had in the Nick Foligno trade to gain Corson Seulimans. Ceulemans, 19, should be among the best defenders in the NCAA this year as a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin. The right-hand man was undoubtedly the best defensive prospect in the system up until a month ago, but then the Blue Jackets nimbled in the 2022 NHL Draft, drafting two defenders with their first two picks, sixth and twelfth overall.

became the two options David Jericheka physically gifted athlete with a rare combination of size, figure skating and hockey intelligence, and Denton MatichokHe is arguably the best defender in CHL. All three are among the best defensive prospects in the game, though all will follow different paths — Ceulemans in the NCAA, Jiricek in the Czech League or North American Pros, and Mateychuk in the WHL — to make it to the NHL.

Jacob ChristiansenThe 22-year-old led the AHL Cleveland Monsters last season, winning 13-32-45 in 62 games. He played in eight games with the Blue Jackets last season and could find himself in the NHL again this year.

in Samuel Kanasco And the Stanislav SvozelBlue Jackets boasts two 19-year-old WHL imports (Knazko-Slovakia; Svoizil-Czechia) that are seen as strong prospects. Knazko was captain of Slovakia in his age group and played in three IIHF World Junior Championships. Svozil will join Jiricek (as well as potential attacking player Martin Rysavy) at WJC next week in Edmonton.

Aidan Hrishuk, 19 years old, the payer was in the Max Domi trade. He was a former third-round pick, and was doing well in his freshman season at Boston College. The American has some upsides and could be an under-the-radar player now that the Blue Jackets have knocked the top end of their potential pool.

Ole Julian Bjorjevik Holm He played 16 games with Monsters during the canceled 2020-21 season at OHL but played in Mississauga last season. The 20-year-old is expected to start the year at Cleveland. Bernie team, 22, you played the full 2021-22 season at Cleveland and should be a contributor again this season.

Richard clouds, 19, is a strong contributor to Providence College (NCAA). He achieved 3-11-14 in 36 games he played as a freshman and should be a starting player next season.

Eric Horth He wasted a difficult time in his year due to injury, but the Blue Jackets were traded to pick the 6’3 man to defend. After colliding in the past few years, the 21-year-old is set to play for HC Vita Hästen in Sweden’s second-tier Pro League, HockeyAllsvenskan.

Samuel JohanssonThe 21-year-old already has three full seasons of SHL under his belt. It’s not normal for him to have a future in the NHL but it can be a deep organizational piece. Perhaps the same can be said about Nikolai Makarov. The 19 year old is 6’4″ Draft and 234 lbs. He has played seven career games in the KHL but is listed as an MHL/VHL player for all EliteProspects, which means he has some grades to climb.

The Blue Jackets have made huge strides organizationally in overhauling their defensive pipeline over the past several drafts. While adding players like Knazko, Svozil, Richard and Makarov in the 2021 NHL Draft, the most significant change came from the premium picks used to take Ceulemans, Jiricek and Mateychuk, with three first-round picks.

If there’s a downside, it’s that the current Blue Jackets defense team has a lot of unlikely but flawed young players (for various reasons), like Bean, Boqvist and Nick Blankenburg. Columbus finished 28th in the National Hockey League in goals against 2021-22 and brings back essentially the same cast of characters (with the addition of Eric Godbranson). Sure, we can expect some inward growth, but by the time the Blue Jackets team anticipates competing at the highest level, that’s probably because some of the players mentioned earlier in this article have made big strides.

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