It's a little bit of a slow week for Blue Jackets prospects news, so I decided to do something a little different this week.
The Blue Jackets have started to stack good drafts on top of one another, so with that in mind, I'm gonna do a little in-season breakdown of how the last few drafts have gone. The drafts from 2015-19 are the ones that truly have players in the group we can still consider key prospects, so this will be a fun exercise to see how things have gone on draft day over the past few years and look at the prospect depth still in the organization.
Have played in the NHL for CBJ: D Zach Werenski (first round), D Gabriel Carlsson (first round), C Kevin Stenlund (second round), D Vladislav Gavrikov (sixth round), D Markus Nutivaara (seventh round)
Still with organization: W Paul Bittner, AHL Cleveland (second round)
No longer in organization: F Keegan Kolesar, D Sam Ruopp, D Veeti Vainio
Comments: This was a year Columbus needed to hit on picks and did just that. The Blue Jackets had nine choices in the 2015 draft, including three in the first five rounds, and much of the team's defensive depth has been built from this draft. Stenlund also appears to be coming into his own with the Jackets, while Kolesar, a third-round pick, debuted earlier this year with Vegas. Anytime you can get five NHL players out of a draft, you've done something right, and the Blue Jackets did just that in 2015.
Have played in the NHL for CBJ: C Pierre-Luc Dubois (first round), D Andrew Peeke (second round)
Still with organization: G Peter Thome, University of North Dakota (sixth round), W Calvin Thurkauf, AHL Cleveland (seventh round)
No longer in organization: F Vitali Abramov (third round)
Comments: Columbus had just five picks this year but hit a home run with Dubois, who is one of the top 21-and-under scorers in the NHL and looks like an elite center to build around for the next 10 years. The Blue Jackets took a lot of heat for the pick considering most NHL observers had Jesse Puljujarvi as the obvious pick at No. 3 overall, but general manager Jarmo Kekalainen nailed this pick. Peeke also looks to be someone to build around as he's having a successful debut season, while Thome is red-hot right now at North Dakota and is part of a tremendous goaltending pipeline in the CBJ organization. Thurkauf is also having a solid year in the AHL, while Abramov was in the Matt Duchene deal a year ago and has played in three NHL games.
Have played in the NHL for CBJ: C/W Alexander Texier (second round), W Emil Bemstrom (fourth round)
Still with organization: G Daniil Tarasov, Ässät, Finland (third round), F Kale Howarth, University of Connecticut (fifth round), F Carson Meyer, Ohio State University (sixth round), D Robbie Stucker, University of Minnesota (seventh round)
No longer in organization: F Jonathan Davidsson (sixth round)
Comments: Texier and Bemstrom have both spent the season with Columbus at 20 years old and are considered key building blocks for the Blue Jackets. They haven't had huge offensive seasons and have each dealt with injury, but they look like players who will be solid NHL scorers as they mature. Tarasov is having a really solid year at age 20 in Finland and might be the top goaltending prospect in the organization, while all three college players are developing at that level.
Have played in the NHL for CBJ: C/W Liam Foudy (first round)
Still with organization: F Kirill Marchenko, SKA St. Petersburg, Russia (second round), W Marcus Karlberg, Leksands, Sweden (third round), D Tim Berni, ZSC Lions, Switzerland (sixth round), G Veini Vehvilainen, AHL Cleveland (sixth round), F Trey Fix-Wolansky, AHL Cleveland (seventh round)
Comments: It's still really early, but this could turn out to be a darn good draft. Foudy made his NHL debut this past week and looked the part, with the Blue Jackets wishing they could pull him right out of London of the OHL right now. Marchenko recently re-signed with SKA through 2022 but is turning heads while playing with the big club right now and played at the World Juniors this year with the steady Berni. Meanwhile, Vehvilainen has been pressed into major action with the Monsters and been impressive, while Fix-Wolansky overcame an early-season injury to post a 6-5-11 line in a recent 12-game stretch. There's a lot of career left for all of these players, but early returns are good.
Still with organization: D Eric Hjorth, Sarnia, OHL (fourth round), F Dmitri Voronkov, Ak Bars Kazan, Russia (fourth round), F Tyler Angle, Windsor, OHL (seventh round)
Comments: A number of moves left Columbus with just three picks in this draft, but the Blue Jackets made the most of them it appears. Hjorth is a high-upside defenseman who has slid seamlessly into the OHL this year after moving over from Sweden, while Voronkov has established himself as a KHL player this year at age 19 and was impressive at this past World Juniors. Angle, meanwhile, is having a career year in the OHL with 60 points in 52 games. The Blue Jackets appeared to make the most of a tough situation this past summer in Vancouver.
Monsters have up-and-down week: Cleveland played four games in a six-day span this past week and finished with a 1-2-1 record, leaving the team still in last place in the AHL North Division but just six points out of a playoff spot still.
The Monsters started on a high note Tuesday, completing a season-long nine-game homestand with a 6-2 drubbing of visiting Grand Rapids. Cleveland built a 4-0 lead, increased it to 6-1 by the end of the season and cruised home from there. Jakob Lilja had a goal and an assist, Adam Clendening and Ryan MacInnis each had two helpers, and the team also got goals from Gabriel Carlsson, Stefan Matteau, Paul Bittner, Trey Fix-Wolansky and Maxime Fortier. Brad Thiessen got the nod in net and stopped 37 shots.
Grand Rapids didn't take the loss lying down, though, returning the favor Friday night in Michigan with a 4-2 victory over Cleveland. The Griffins got the winning goal past Veini Vehvilainen, who finished with 29 saves, with 1:23 to go, snapping a 2-2 tie. Cleveland got tallies from Calvin Thurkauf and Kole Sherwood, while Markus Hannikainen had an assist as he works his way back into the lineup from injury.
From there, Cleveland hit the road to Illinois, losing a 4-1 game against Rockford on Saturday night. The IceHogs built a 2-0 lead in the first and then carried it from there, with Colin Delia making 27 saves. Thiessen stopped 22 shots in the Cleveland net, while Fortier got his second goal of the year for the lone Monsters tally.
The weekend ended with a Sunday matinee in Chicago, where the homestanding Wolves took a 3-2 overtime win. Cleveland built a 2-0 lead through one period behind goals from Thurkauf and new signee Brandon Troock, who had a goal and an assist in just his second game with the team. Vehvilainen finished with 32 saves.