Columbus Blue Jackets - Top 20 Prospects

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  1. Ohio Jones

    Ohio Jones Game on...

    Feb 28, 2002
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    Here is the March 2007 update of Columbus' organizational depth and Top 20 prospects. The trade deadline could still impact this list, and Columbus currently has two first-round selections heading into this summer's entry draft. (EDIT: Now 3 first-round selections in 2007).

    (Revised 04/07/2007)

    Organizational strengths
    Defensive defencemen
    Two-way forwards

    Organizational weaknesses
    Offensive defencemen
    Top-line forwards
    Size at the center position (EDIT: potentially addressed by addition of Brian Boyle)

    Top 20 at a glance
    1. G Leland Irving
    2. C/D Brian Boyle
    3. C Ryan Potulny
    4. LW Nikolai Kulemin
    5. D Alexei Emelin
    6. RW Igor Grigorenko
    7. LW Konstantin Pushkarev
    8. D Mike Sauer
    9. RW Jeremy Colliton
    10. C Nate Davis
    11. C Morten Madsen
    12. D Joe Ryan
    13. D Eric Gryba
    14. LW Blake Geoffrion
    15. D Aaron Rome
    16. D Filip Novak
    17. G Martin Houle
    18. C Marty Sertich
    19. G Ryan Daniels
    20. D Kevin Montgomery

    Honourable mentions
    RW Darren Reid
    C Teemu Nurmi
    RW Robin Figren
    RW Constantin Braun
    D Nathan Saunders
    C Jan-Mikael Juutilainen

    Overagers (25+)
    G Tuomas Tarkki
    D Dan Jancevski
    RW Bjorn Melin
    C Grant Potulny
    RW Darren Haydar
    RW Alexander Drozdetsky

    RW Steve Bernier
    LW Dustin Penner
    G Peter Budaj
    G Mike Smith

    Columbus Top 20 Profiles – March 2007

    1. G Leland Irving – 8.0C
    Acquired: Trade 2007
    Acquired at the All-Star break for veteran Slava Kozlov, Irving premieres at the top of the Jackets’ prospect ranking. The WHL’s top goaltender sported a gaudy.929 save percentage, 1.86 gaa and 11 shutouts along with 34 wins behind a strong Everett Silvertips lineup. Competitive, calm and collected, Irving has very good positioning and is difficult to rattle. He needs to continue to develop his puck-handling, but he hasa good glove hand and excellent rebound control. After being Canada’s backup at the 2007 U20’s, Irivng should take centre stage this December. With Budaj and Smith just graduated from the Jackets’ prospects list, Irving will have plenty of time to develop. Ranked 15th overall among top prospects and 1st among Calgary Flames prospects by The Hockey News.
    Style comparison: Ed Belfour
    Projects as: Starting goaltender

    2. C Ryan Potulny – 7.0B
    Acquired: 5th round, 2003 (137th overall)
    The former University of Minnesota captain and Hobey Baker candidate led the NCAA in scoring as a Junior before turning pro last spring. He didn’t look out of place in a pair of games with the NHL Flyers at the close of the regular season, and had the opportunity to train with the team during their playoff run. This past season he split time between the big club (28-5-4-9-22) and the AHL Phantoms (27-12-12-24-34). Blessed with speed and agility, good hands and vision, poise and defensive awareness, Potulny is a consummate team player who leads by example. Younger brother of Jackets’ prospect (and former Minnesota Captain) Grant, Ryan has a knack for clutch scoring that the Jackets must hope will translate to the HFNHL.
    Style comparison: Chris Drury
    Projects as: Second-line sniper

    3. LW Nikolai Kulemin – 7.0B
    Acquired: 2nd round, 2006 (55th overall)
    A bit of a late bloomer for his hometown Magnitogorsk club, thought to have been a passenger of then-linemate Evgeni Malkin, he proved this year that he deserves respect on his own merits, potting 27 goals and 39 points in 54 RSL games. Kulemin has the hands and skating of classic Russian wingers, but combines it with a solid body, relentless work ethic, banging style and a commitment to playing in all zones that makes him a coach’s dream. He is very well suited to the North American game, and his development curve suggests he could be earning regular NHL minutes as soon as the Federation strikes a deal with the NHL. Ranked 3rd among Toronto Maple Leafs prospects by The Hockey News.
    Style comparison: Ruslan Fedotenko
    Projects as: Two-way grinder with second-line upside

    4. LD Alexei Emelin – 7.0B
    Acquired: Trade 2007
    Emelin (a.k.a. Yemelin) has cemented his place as one of Russia’s top stay-at-home defencemen through his strong positional play, superb skating (he skates as well backwards as some players do forwards) and his physical edge. He will never be an offensive force – he went 42/2/5/7/72 with Lada of the RSL this season – but his defensive play earned him two appearances with the national team in tournaments this year. Emelin is a high-impact hitter, although at 6-1/195 he has a little trouble with the larger forwards. He plays an abrasive game, especially in the corners, which has caused some controversy in the RSL over the past year. Due to make his appearance in North America next season. Ranked 10th among Montreal Canadiens prospects by The Hockey News.
    Style comparison: Darius Kasparaitis
    Projects as: Top-4 defensive defenceman

    5. RW Igor Grigorenko – 7.0C
    Acquired: Trade 2007
    The former highly-touted forward has been up and down since his return from a serious car accident. Grigorenko decided to stay one more year in Russia, but it’s expected he’ll come to NHL training camp this fall. In his fifth RSL season, Grigorenko is an offensive leader for his hometown team of Lada, with 14 goals and 12 assists in 47 games. He skates hard and plays the body with gusto, so his downside is as a high-energy checker, but his offensive abilities – still not quite on track after his injury – tease us with the possibility of significant upside. Ranked 7th among Detroit Red Wings prospects by The Hockey News.
    Style comparison: Darcy Tucker
    Projects as: Gritty third-liner with significant upside

    6. L/RW Konstantin Pushkarev - 7.0C
    Acquired: 3rd round, 2003 (80th overall)
    Appearing in a number of games for Los Angeles before being traded to Dallas at the deadline with Mattias Norstrom, Pushkarev is a classic Russian forward - a great skater with superb acceleration and an extra gear, and the gifted hands to stickhandle at all speeds, including wild dekes in the offensive zone that have left more than one defender looking for his jockstrap. More effective in open ice than down low, and he occasionally shows a tendency to commit to the offensive game a little early. He is well liked by teammates and coaches, however, and shows every indication that with a little added strength and coaching he will be able to contribute at both ends. His primary role, however, will always be as a creative offensive catalyst and sniper. Ranked 7th among Los Angeles Kings prospects by The Hockey News.
    Style comparison: Martin Erat
    Projects as: Top-6 scoring winger

    7. LD Michael Sauer - 7.0C
    Acquired: Trade 2007
    Acquired last month for checking centre Steve Begin, Sauer is the younger brother of former Blue Jacket defenceman Kurt Sauer. Between Portland and Medicine Hat of the WHL, he scored just 5 goals and 18 assists for 23 points in 65 games this year, but he won’t be expected to earn his NHL keep on the strength of his scoring. Sauer has inherited the family athleticism: extremely strong for his size, he could easily pack on another inch and 20 pounds by the time he hits the NHL, which would put him at a powerful 6-4/220. He uses his strength and reach to control the defensive zone, eliminating opposing forwards on the boards. Very protective of his goalie’s crease, which he clears with authority. Sauer has good mobility and agility for a big man, and he’s proven to be unflappable under pressure. Although not a gifted distributor, he’s very reliable at making the safe play out of the zone. He should turn pro this spring.
    Style comparison: Jason Smith
    Projects as: Top-4 defensive defenceman

    8. C/RW Jeremy Colliton – 6.5B
    Acquired: 2nd round, 2003 (61st overall)
    Colliton appears to have taken a step back from his strong AHL rookie showing with a significant downturn in production, but that is due to being asked to play a different role on Bridgeport as a shut-down center lined up against the opponent’s best skaters. An ugly +/- suggests that he still has some developing to do in that regard, but the Jackets are hoping this is just growing pains that will sort themselves out, because his ability to play responsibly in his own end will be key to Colliton’s NHL and HFNHL future. Colliton has good hands and speed along with a solid frame, and is very solid in the face-off circle. He will also initiate physically, picking his spots with care. His strongest assets are his head and his heart – he’s considered future HFNHL captain material. Ranked 9th among New York Islanders prospects by The Hockey News.
    Style comparison: Steve Konowalchuk
    Projects as: Versatile two-way third-liner and leader

    9. C Nate Davis – 7.0C
    Acquired: 6th round, 2005 (173rd overall)
    A late-round selection, this USHL product has quietly risen to lead his Miami squad for the past two seasons, taking his team into the NCAA playoffs and earning early consideration for the Hobey Baker award. Highly skilled, and capable of playing major minutes on both special teams, Davis leads by example, doing whatever is asked of him. Strong on draws, blessed with speed, good hands and vision, he should have a long and successful pro career. Recently named the CCHA's top defensive forward.
    Style comparison: Mike Sillinger
    Projects as: Two-way third line pivot with upside

    10. RD Joey Ryan – 7.0C
    Acquired: 2nd round, 2006 (47th overall)
    The Jackets’ first selection in the 2006 entry draft, Joey Ryan is a tough-as-nails competitor. While only average-sized, Ryan is very strong on his skates and plays with intensity, consistently playing the body and forcing the opposition to keep their heads up. His defensive commitment, hockey sense and positional play are definite strengths. His play with the puck is average, but is not a particular liability, as he makes good decisions, passes the puck crisply and smoothly, and has a good low, hard shot from the point. He may not be asked to quarterback a team’s powerplay at the pro level, but he’ll definitely contribute.
    Style comparison: Ruslan Salei
    Projects as: Top-4 defensive defenceman

    11. RD Eric Gryba – 6.5C
    Acquired: 2nd round, 2006 (56th overall)
    Gryba played his Freshman year with Boston University and did not disappoint, earning a steady +4 and adding 76 pims, along with a goal and three assists in 38 games. At 6-3/215, he’s a big, strong defenceman with decent mobility and a stay-at-home mentality. He has three more seasons with the Terriers in which to add confidence in his offensive game; boasts a tremendous slapshot that he will hopefully harness, but he will make his career on the defensive side of the puck. Ranked 9th among Ottawa Senators prospects by The Hockey News.
    Style comparison: Hal Gill
    Projects as: #4-5 stay-at-home defenceman

    12. LW Blake Geoffrion – 6.5C
    Acquired: 3rd round, 2006 (78th overall)
    Expectations were high for Geoffrion as a fourth-generation NHLer (to be), and being selected in the NHL by his home state Nashville Predators, but his Freshman season at Wisconsin was a little disappointing, amounting to only 6 points in 36 games after a very strong season with the US NDTP the year previous. The team as a whole struggled, though, so with luck both team and player will find their stride next year. Geoffrion plays an all-out crash game, using his solid body and strong skating to bull his way through the opposition – with or without the puck. Has a good shooting arsenal but needs work on his passing and is not especially creative. Fortunately, he has three more years of college in which to develop. Ranked 6th among Nashville Predators prospects (1st among forwards) by The Hockey News.
    Style comparison: Ethan Moreau
    Projects as: Third-line grinder

    13. LD Aaron Rome – 6.0B
    Acquired: Trade
    An AHL veteran at 23, Rome has reached a crux in his career; he’s been unable to penetrate the NHL Ducks’ roster and may have to find a new home this summer.
    His 6 goals and 22 assists in 66 games this season with Portland were second among Pirates defenders, and his 122 penalty minutes were second overall. Rome is used in all game situations due to his steady and versatile if unspectacular game; he is solid in most categories but unexceptional at any one thing, and that lack of stand-out ability may prevent him from taking the next step, at least with Anaheim. May have to survive a career path similar to another Jackets defender named Aaron before he finds a home in the top league.
    Style comparison: Aaron Ward
    Projects as: #5/6 Physical two-way blueliner

    14. LD Filip Novak – 6.0C
    Acquired: Trade
    Once a highly-touted prospect in the NY Rangers organization before being shipped to Florida for Pavel Bure, Novak lost a season due to injury, and has had a tough time reestablishing his game. He finally broke through last season with Binghampton before getting picked up as a free agent by Columbus (NHL). Novak is a slick skater, has good vision and a deft passing touch. He can run a powerplay, and knows how to use his skating and passing to open up the ice and create opportunities for his teammates. Will rush the puck on occasion, but is more useful distributing from the point than he is in close. Plays with an edge, and is a potent open-ice hitter in the mold of Anton Volchenkov despite being somewhat under-sized. He will never be mistaken for a stay-at-home guy, but he has the smarts to improve his defensive coverage with the right instruction. He will challenge for a spot in the NHL Jackets’ top 6 in 2007-08.
    Style comparison: Francois Beauchemin
    Projects as: PP specialist

    15. G Martin Houle 6.0C
    Acquired: Trade
    Martin Houle’s nightmare season is nearly over. The Philly Phantoms seemed to struggle just as much as their parent club this season, and they took their starting goalie along for the ride. After four consecutive seasons in the QMJHL, ECHL and AHL of +.910 save% play, Houle got hammered to the tune of .888 save% and an unsightly 3.54 gaa, a full goal per game higher than his previous season. The Jackets look on this as a learning experience, however, and will look for Houle to bounce back to form next year. A classic “Q” butterfly goalie, Houle might be a bit undersized for the “new” NHL, but he has the skills and mental fortitude to carve out a niche for himself as a capable backup. First, however he needs to prove he can rise above this dreadful season and be dominant in the AHL. Fortunately, there’s no rush in Philly with Biron and Nittymaki ahead of him, and Budaj and Smith in the HFNHL.
    Style comparison: José Théodore
    Projects as: Backup goaltender

    16. C Marty Sertich – 6.0C
    Acquired: Free agent 2006
    The 2005 Hobey Baker award winner had a solid rookie pro season for the Iowa Stars (44-13-20-33). A superb playmaker and faceoff specialist, Sertich relies on his speed and awareness to make up for being significantly undersized at only 5-8/165. He had some injury trouble this season, and should put in a full season in the A next year before competing for a spot in Dallas.
    Style comparison: Yanic Perreault
    Projects as: Two-way third-line pivot and penalty killer.

    17. G Ryan Daniels – 6.0 C
    Acquired: 7th round, 2006 (209th overall)
    The third-last player selected in the HFNHL 2006 Entry Draft, Daniels is looking so far like a good candidate for best value pick that year. He took over the starting reins in Saginaw this season, appearing in a whopping 60 games and posting 1 .907 save%. A hybrid goalie with a good glove hand and sound positioning, he just needs experience to smooth out the rough parts of his game. Eligible for one more year of Junior.
    Style comparison: Chris Osgoode
    Projects as: NHL Backup

    18. D Kevin Montgomery – 6.0 C
    Acquired: 3rd round, 2007 (77th overall)
    Graduate of the US NDTP program, he played for part of the season for Ohio State before jumping ship to the OHL. He had 5 points in 17 games as a Buckeye Freshman, then added 17 points in 31 games for the London Knights. His 50 penalty minutes with London speak to a lack of discipline which will hopefully work itself out over time. Primarily a puck mover, Montgomery needs work on his physical conditioning and defensive awareness. He will probably see one more year of Junior before turning pro, but must be considered a long-term project.
    Style comparison: Andrei Zyuzin
    Projects as: Third-pairing offensive defenceman

    19. RW Darren Reid – 5.5A
    Acquired: Free agent 2004
    This hard-working winger found himself in the sad-sack Philadelphia organization this season following a trade from Tampa, but the trade helped restore his career, which after a strong showing for Medicine Hat in the WHL had gone a bit south. Reid managed 16 goals and 29 points in 37 games for the Phantoms, earning a call-up to the big team where he was held pointless in limited minutes over 14 games. Reid has always been a feisty customer, but has redefined himself as a checking forward after being a scorer in Junior. He has a non-stop engine and is willing to give up the body to make a hit, block a shot or take a punch. He is a good skater but has trouble handling the puck at the speed of the NHL game, so he’ll never be a significant offensive contributor.
    Style comparison: Tyson Nash
    Projects as: Fourth-line agitator

    20. C Teemu Nurmi – 5.5C
    Acquired: 5th round, 2003 (135th overall)
    Another of the Jackets’ bumper draft crop from 2003, Nurmi was a disappointment from the outset when he went undrafted in the NHL. A contributor to the Finnish national teams as an underager, his development stalled and he was looking like a bust. That is, until this season, when he finally turned things around with Tappara of the SM-Liiga, scoring 17 goals and adding 15 assists in 56 games. Not numbers to write home about, but a major improvement on where he had been, so there’s hope that he may turn out to be a late bloomer. Nurmi’s a typical Finnish forward, playing both ends of the ice with a touch of grit and decent awareness. He’s a fine skater, but he lacks top-end skills and athleticism so he’ll have to ramp up his work ethic in order to make enough of a splash for an NHL team to sign him to a tryout in North America.
    Style comparison: Niklas Hagman
    Projects as: Checking cente
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2007
  2. Ohio Jones

    Ohio Jones Game on...

    Feb 28, 2002
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    Less than 24 hours after issuing its analysis of the Columbus Blue Jackets' Top 20 prospects, the Columbus Discoverer learned of a trade that shakes up the list a bit. Coming to the Jackets is C Morten Madsen. The Danish prospect has excelled in the QMJHL this year, leading a middling Victoriaville squad with 100 points in 62 games.

    Madsen enters the Jackets rankings in the #10 spot with a 7.0C rating, dropping Teemu Nurmi off the bottom. Given the Jackets system's various weaknesses, it's a bit of a surprise that they would acquire another playmaking center so similar to current prospects Ryan Potulny and Nate Davis. However, said one team scout, "you can never have too many quality prospects, no matter what position."

    The Detroit Red Wings' recent prospect listing had Madsen 6th overall among a deep pool of prospects. Here is their analysis:

    6. (14) C Morten Madsen
    Acquired: 2005 draft, 4th round (113th overall)
    The 2005 draft continues to look like one of the best ones in the Wings history as another potential steal emerges by the name of Morten Madsen.
    After a 2005/06 season in Sweden where the Danish forward played a few games in the SEL, Madsen made the jump to North America and is finishing out his QMJHL rookie season where he has recorded 96pts in 60 games.
    Madsen had been labeled an underachiever by some in his draft year that had resulted in his stock dropping. Madsen has a good size-skill ratio however and after some strong showings on the international stage.
    Madsen will need to add some weight and strength to his frame for his likely AHL debut next season.​

    The Hockey News shows Madsen 6th overall among Minnesota Wild prospects,
  3. Ohio Jones

    Ohio Jones Game on...

    Feb 28, 2002
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    Another deadline addition to the Jackets' prospect rankings is towering C/D Brian Boyle, who reappears on the list all the way up at #2. Boyle was reacquired from Dallas today in exchange for D Mattias Norstrom, and the high price paid suggests the Jackets think highly of the young collegian's potential.

    2. C/D Brian Boyle – 8.0C
    Acquired: Trade (reacquired; previously drafted 2nd round, 2003 - 57th overall)
    A titan at 6-7/230, Boyle is the leader of the Boston College Eagles both emotionally and on the scoresheet. His point-per-game production didn't climb as much as expecte din his senior year, but his defensive play picked up tremendously so that he presents a much more rounded game. He even made the conversion to the blueline in the NCAA playoffs in order to cover for injuries and, far from looking out of place, proved to be a dominant presence both in his own end and at the point.
    Style comparison: Jason Arnott / Zdeno Chara
    Projects as: Scoring line power-pivot or possible top-pairing defender
  4. Ohio Jones

    Ohio Jones Game on...

    Feb 28, 2002
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    Boyle named All-Tournament, All-American

    Brian Boyle, acquired at the trade deadline for Mattias Norstrom, eld his Boston College Eagles to their second consecutive NCAA Championship game this weekend with a 6-4 victory over North Dakota, but once again the Eagles were unable to claim the nation's highest hockey honour, losing 3-1 to the Michigan State Spartans.

    Boyle, playing on the blueline for the playoffs instead of his usual center position, opened the scoring with a power play marker 6 minutes into the second period to put BC up. The Spartans got the equalizer - again on teh power play - at the opening of the third period.

    From there the game went down to the wire. With under a minute left in regulation, Michigan State's Justin Abdelkader intercepted a wayward pass and set up a give-and-go with Tim Kennedy, who returned it to Abdelkader for a one-timer that beat Cory Schneider and secured the National title for Michigan State. They would add an empty-netter at 19:58 of the third.

    Boyle was understandably subdued afterwards, along with the rest of his team. "It's a special place, Boston College is. I'm really disappointed tonight because it has given me a lot and I had the opportunity to bring home some hardware and a trophy for the team". As a senior, it was especially tough for Boyle who now must move on to the pro ranks without anothe rchance at the NCAA title.

    For his standout performance at both ends of the ice, Boyle was named to the All-Tournament roster. He was also named an NCAA Men's Division I All-American on the East's First Team.

    He would gladly trade these individual honours for the NCAA championship. Now he'll have to turn his mind to pursuing a different championship as a pro.

    (with files from Hockey's Future)

    Milo Minderbinder
    Columbus Discoverer

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