Skip to main content
The Official Site of the Columbus Blue Jackets

There was no big move, but Blue Jackets like their newest crop of picks

Columbus added two forwards and a defenseman on day two of the NHL Draft

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

Because of decisions made months ago or even years ago, the Columbus Blue Jackets entered the 2019 NHL Draft with just two draft picks. 

By the time they completed the draft, they had taken just three players. 

There's no way around it -- it was difficult for general manager Jarmo Kekalainen and his scouting staff to watch more than 200 players go off the board and have the chance to utter only three names. 

Video: Kekalainen comments on Draft, free agency

"It still sucks," Kekalainen said. "But what are you going to do?" 

The general manager at least kept his sense of humor about him, though, after Columbus chose Swedish defenseman Eric Hjorth, Russian forward Dmitri Voronkov and Canadian forward Tyler Angle on Saturday. 

"We added 50 percent for picks," he said with a smile. "We went from two to three. That's a good result." 

DRAFT CENTRAL: Follow the Blue Jackets in the 2019 NHL Draft

So it goes, as the Jackets entered with just a third-rounder and a seventh-rounder, then flipped the earlier pick to Florida for a pair of fourth-round choices. Those turned out to be Hjorth (No. 104 overall) and Voronkov (No. 114), while Angle was chosen with the 212nd pick overall.

Tweet from @OHLHockey: WATCH THIS: Third-year @SpitsHockey forward @Angle89Tyler doubled his goal output in 2018-19, drawing the attention of the @BlueJacketsNHL. #NHLDraft pic.twitter.com/qVdyw0mfCS  

The paucity of selections stretches back to the summer of 2017 and was the result of a number of trades, capped off by the flurry at the February trade deadline that saw the team deal its first-, fourth- and original seventh-round picks as part of an effort to get immediate help in the push for a Stanley Cup. 

It resulted in the first playoff series win in franchise history as Columbus upset Presidents' Cup-winning Tampa Bay, then fell short in six games in the second round vs. a Boston team that came within a victory of hoisting the Stanley Cup. 

It was a calculated gamble and a gamble nonetheless, one Kekalainen has repeatedly said he'd do again, but the end result was a relatively quiet weekend for Blue Jackets brass at Rogers Arena in Vancouver. While the Blue Jackets worked the phones trying to make other moves, it was not to be.

Hjorth started his career in the Frolunda system in Sweden before moving to Linkoping. He played just four regular-season games and six playoff games last year because of a knee injury, splitting his time with U-18 and U-20 teams in Sweden's club hierarchy. He showed the ability to score at the U-18 level, with a 3-3-6 line in three regular-season games and three more points in six playoff games.  

"He had a lot of injuries this year, so he didn't play that many games, but I saw him at the end and he's an exciting player," said Ville Siren, the team's director of amateur scouting. "I saw him I think four or five times at the end and I thought he excited me. He showed me very nice potential." 

Voronkov was a big scorer at the junior level in Russia but spent most of the past season at age 18 playing against men at the pro level. He played in three KHL games and one playoff game with Ak Bars Kazan and didn't have a point, as he spent most of his season with the Kazan team in the VHL -- Russian's second-highest level -- and had a 7-7-14 line in 50 games. He also impressed during play this year with Russia's junior national teams.  

He was rated the No. 50 European skater by the NHL's Central Scouting Bureau while some prospects watchers had him higher. The Athletic's Corey Pronman had him No. 45 overall among draft-eligible players on his list, calling him "a player on a steep upward trajectory." 

"Mostly he played in the VHL, which is like the American (Hockey) League in Russia, and he played a couple of games in the KHL, and I also saw him at the end with the Under-19 national team," Siren said. "He was a captain, a big guy, a two-way guy. When I saw him in April, it was kind of like, 'OK, he could be a good player.' He moves well for being 6-4. He played in all situations when I saw him." 

The Blue Jackets hope Angle becomes their latest late-round steal after a breakout season with Windsor of the Ontario Hockey League. The center from Thorold, Ontario, stands just 5-foot-9 but has a competitive streak in him, one reason he was able to post a 20-24-44 line in 58 games in his third year with the Spitfires. He added three goals in four OHL playoff games. 

"I saw him a lot the last two years," assistant director of amateur scouting Chris Morehouse said. "He just kept popping out at me every time I went to see him play. He's a guy that he has skill, but he plays anywhere you want in the lineup. Every game I went to watch him play, you just saw the progression. He's one of those guys that at that point in the draft you have to make a decision on. He has skill but he has that compete and the willingness to battle and engage. Those are things I like." 

Video: Amateur Scouting team talks Draft

A couple of the newest Blue Jackets are expected to take part in the team's development camp, with players arriving Monday before the first on-ice session Tuesday. The event will conclude with the annual Stinger Cup 3-on-3 tournament, which is accompanied by a CBJ block party Friday evening.  

View More