With the 2015 NHL Draft on the horizon, the excitement over who the Blue Jackets will select with their first pick -- eighth overall -- is palpable. While quality players have been selected in the second, third, fourth, etc. rounds, it’s no secret that many elite players in the NHL have been some of the first to have their names called at the podium.
In anticipation of the Blue Jackets No. 8 pick on Friday, let’s take a look at some of the players – including Sonny Milano, Alexander Wennberg, Marko Dano and Ryan Johansen – selected by the Blue Jackets in the first round over the past few years.
Most recently, the Blue Jackets used their No. 16 overall pick to select Milano out of the United States National Team Development Program. A native of Massapequa, New York, Milano spent the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons with the USNTDP in Ann Arbor, Mich. During the 2013-14 season, he netted 29 goals and dished out 56 assists for 85 points in 58 games to finish second on the team in scoring.
The 19-year-old won gold with Team USA at the 2014 IIHF U18 Championships, recording 3-7-10 in seven tournament appearances. He also helped the Americans capture bronze at the 2013 World U17 Hockey Challenge at which he registered 4-6-10 in six games. Milano signed a three-year, entry-level contract with the Blue Jackets in September.
With the No. 14 overall selection in 2013, the Blue Jackets selected Alexander Wennberg from Djurgarden (Sweden). Wennberg, a native of Stockholm, made the leap to the NHL at the start of the 2014-15 season with many experts ranking him first among the organization’s deep pool of prospects. The 20-year-old forward netted four goals and notched 16 assists for a total of 20 points in 68 total games with the Blue Jackets this season.
Wennberg had his ups and downs this season, but improved drastically throughout his rookie NHL campaign -- and there’s no reason to think that he won’t come back from his first NHL offseason with an even better opportunity to make an impact during the upcoming 2015-16 season.
The Blue Jackets made Kerby Rychel of the Windsor Spitfires their second pick in that 2013 first round at No. 19 overall. He led the Spitfires in goal-scoring for two straight years, scoring 40 goals in 2012-13 and totaling 87 points, which was good for eighth in the entire Ontario Hockey League. In the 2013-14 season, he netted 16 goals and tallied 23 assists in 27 games with the Spitfires for a total of 39 points before being traded to the Guelph Storm. Rychel played 31 games with the Storm and scored 18 goals and notched 33 assists for a total of 51 points. He also represented his home country, Canada, in the World Junior tournament.
Rychel made his NHL debut against the Nashville Predators in November 2014. During the 2014-15 season, Rychel played a total of five games with the Blue Jackets and tallied three assists for a total of three points.
The Blue Jackets’ third first-round pick (No. 27), Marko Dano spent the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons with the KHL’s HC Sloven. He registered 12 points and 67 penalty minutes in 78 games with the club, including 3-2-5 and 41 penalty minutes in 41 games in 2013-14. He also represented Slovakia at the 2013 World Championships and 2013 and 2014 World Junior Championships.
The Eisenstadt, Austria native has also posted 10-8-18 and 26 penalty minutes in 37 games with the Blue Jackets then-AHL affiliate, Springfield, in 2014-15. He collected 12-12-24 with 30 penalty minutes in 47 career AHL games and added 0-2-2 in five career Calder Cup playoff games.
This season, Dano recorded eight goals and 13 assists for 21 points with 14 penalty minutes and a +12 plus/minus rating while averaging 13:15 of ice time in 35 games with the Blue Jackets. He posted 4-10-14 with three multi-point efforts in his last 15 games, often teaming up with Wennberg and veteran Scott Hartnell to form a threatening secondary scoring line.
Dano scored his first NHL goal and assist on opening night, Oct. 11, vs. the New York Rangers.
Ryan Murray was the club’s first pick, second overall, in the 2013 NHL Draft. The White City, Sask. native registered 22-99-121 with 121 penalty minutes and a cumulative +51 plus/minus rating in 191 career games with the Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey League from 2009-12. A member of Canada’s bronze medal-winning team at the 2012 World Junior, he also played in the 2012 World Championship, becoming the second-youngest player ever to represent Canada in the tournament. Murray made the jump to the NHL in 2013-14, scoring four goals and 17 assists for a total of 21 points in 66 games, all the while proving he was up to the task as a youngster playing defense at the highest level.
It was a difficult and injury-filled 2014-15, no doubt, as Murray played 12 games with the Blue Jackets and scored one goal and notched two assists for a total of three points. Kekalainen has stated that one of his offseason goals is to bolster the defense – part of that is getting a healthy Ryan Murray back next season – and help the Jackets transition the puck better out of their own end.
Without a first-round pick for the first time in team history, Blue Jackets used their first pick (a second-rounder) at No. 37 overall to select Boone Jenner, who, at that time, was considered by many draft experts to be as high as a mid-first round pick.
In the last two seasons with the Blue Jackets, the 22-year-old forward scored 25 goals and tallied 21 for a total of 46 points in 103 games.
Five years ago, the Jackets selected center Ryan Johansen (heard of him?) with the fourth overall pick. The 22-year-old has been a permanent staple on the Blue Jackets’ roster for the past few seasons and has started to grab a hold of the No. 1 center position after back-to-back stellar offensive seasons. The Port Moody, B.C. native has scored a total of 73 goals and tallied 94 assists for a total of 167 points in 271 NHL games played with the Blue Jackets.
And during the 2013-14 playoffs, he scored two goals and added four assists for a total of six points in six playoff games.