PHILADELPHIA -- The first priority for Columbus Blue Jackets General Manager Scott Howson is determining how best to handle his roster heading into the Feb. 27 trade deadline.
After that, he said he'll turn his focus toward the 2012 NHL Draft.
"It's certainly started already," Howson told NHL.com prior to watching Saturday's Flyers-Rangers game in person at Wells Fargo Center. "We're getting multiple views (of top draft prospects). I think that will pick up in intensity as we get through the deadline and get into March. But our amateur scouts are all over, they're in Europe some of them. For the guys in the Ontario league, the Western league, the Quebec league, we'll have lots and lots of opportunities to see them over the next month, two months."
Howson said he's done some scouting already, and said he'll start doing even more once the trade deadline passes.
"I think I'll see a little bit more," he said. "(Senior Advisor) Craig Patrick is going to see a little bit. The scouts are the ones who are going to see these guys 10, 20 times this year."
Howson said Director of Amateur Scouting Tyler Wright and Director of Amateur Scouting and Development Coach Paul Castron will have the final decision on the team's selection.
"We'll let them make the decision (but) it's good for us to have a little bit of familiarity with the players," said Howson.
Howson wouldn't reveal much as far as personal favorites or which way the staff is leaning, but added he feels like many others that the strength of this year's draft lies in its deep pool of talent on defense.
"Throughout the first round there will be a lot of defensemen picked," he said. "Looks like we're going to be picking fairly early, so there's other things that will come into play with that. I think with this draft it's correct to say it's very strong in defense."
Contact Adam Kimelman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK