After trying to trade up, and then trying to trade back – perhaps trying to trade his ham sandwich for a turkey on pumpernickel – yet finding no takers for anything other than a draft pick swap with Pittsburgh, the Columbus Blue Jackets apparently were forced by 29 other NHL teams to stand pat and use their draft picks. So they did, and the Blue Jackets added three forwards to the long-term depth chart with their trio of first round draft picks in today’s NHL draft.
At 14th overall, the CBJ tabbed center Alexander Wennberg from Djurgarden in Sweden’s second-tier league. At 6’1″ and 174 lbs, Wennberg would be the second-lightest forward on the roster (two pounds ahead of 5’7″ Cam Atkinson). This is a big boy’s game, and I’m guessing that he’ll need to bulk up to avoid getting hurt out there.
At 18 years, 9 months, one would think that Wennberg would be stuck in Ryan Johansen Prospect Limbo (Remember how the CBJ had to keep him on the roster because they weren’t allowed to send him to the minor leagues yet didn’t want to send him back to juniors?) due to the NHL-Canadian (Major Junior) Hockey League deal that bars kids under the age of 20 from playing in the American Hockey League. However, the twist in this NHL-CHL deal is that a European kid who is playing for a European team when drafted by the NHL (as in, never affiliated with the CHL) can play wherever he and the NHL team wants: major junior, college, AHL or NHL. Thus, Wennberg could theoretically go to Springfield at any time for additional seasoning (although it appears that the CBJ will be happy seeing him develop for another season in Sweden). That Jarmo Kekalainen, he’s a crafty one.
Stats-wise, Wennberg played in 46 games last year in Djurgarden, racking up 14 goals and 18 assists. As for his playing style, here’s a highlight video for Wennberg, which will mean even more to you if you’re fluent in French:
Drafted 19th overall, Rychel was a left winger for the Ontario Hockey League’s Windsor Spitfires. (CBJ trivia note: The Spits are owned and managed by former CBJ assistant Bob Boughner.) He’s 6’1″ and 205 lbs., hefty enough in my opinion to hold his own in the NHL…especially if he’s in the business of accumulating penalty minutes. Like he appears to be here.
With their final first-round pick, 27th overall, the CBJ selected a 5’11″, 183 lb. Austrian-born, Slovakia-residing center in Marko Dano. He’s 18 years, 7 months old, but that doesn’t matter because he has only played in Europe. In fact, he played Kontinental Hockey League (the same league that allegedly has been wooing Sergei Bobrovsky to the tune of $10 million per year) for HC Slovan Bratislava. The KHL isn’t the NHL, but it might be considered comparable to the American Hockey League and is populated by players who are old enough to play top-tier hockey. At 17-18 years old, Marko Dano was playing against some pretty big boys.
Dano put up three goals and four assists over 37 games for Bratislava, but I have an inkling that it was his World Junior Championship run with Team Slovakia that pushed him so high up the CBJ draft board. In six games against kids his own age, Dano notched four goals and five assists. That’s enough to turn my head, as is this World Juniors highlight video:
There you go, the Blue Jackets’ three first round selections in a nutshell. The Blue Jackets selected five more players today, and I’m sure we’ll hear more about all of them as development camp is just around the corner. Quite a day for the Blue Jackets – not necessarily the one they appear to have wanted, but one they’ll gladly take as a down payment on the team’s future.