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Feeling a draft: Looking at how the Blue Jackets were built

It took almost two decades for Columbus to assemble its 2018-19 team

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

Welcome to summer, or as it is known in NHL circles, roster-building season. 

With only two teams left playing -- and those two soon to be whittled down to one champion -- teams are getting together in their war rooms to start making the decisions that will go into creating their 2019-20 rosters. 

With that in mind, it seemed this would be a good time to look at how the Blue Jackets got to become the Blue Jackets this past season -- how Jarmo Kekalainen, and his predecessors as it turns out, created the roster that got the Blue Jackets to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time. 

It turns out, most of it was done through the draft. Of the 34 players to play a game this year and be on the squad at the end of the season -- which means no Anthony Duclair (traded at midseason), nor Keith Kinkaid or Elvis Merzlikins (neither played in a game), but everyone else to wear Union Blue this season -- exactly half of them were originally drafted by the Blue Jackets. 

That goes all the way back to 2008, when general manager Scott Howson and his staff used a sixth-round pick to take a talented but diminutive forward headed to Boston College named Cam Atkinson. Over the next 10 drafts, Columbus chosen an average of 1.7 players per draft who would end up in the capital city, a number that will likely go up as players from the past couple of drafts mature and reach the next level. 

That goes to show just how home-grown this Blue Jackets team is, and also is a recognition of just how well the franchise has drafted over the past decade. Seven of those drafted Blue Jackets go back to the Howson era -- Atkinson, David Savard, Boone Jenner, Lukas Sedlak, Ryan Murray, Joonas Korpisalo and Josh Anderson -- showing how long-term success is built through the draft. 

The Kekalainen era has had some fantastic drafts as well, led by the 2015 bonanza in which Columbus had nine picks and already has seen five of them play for the Blue Jackets. Zach Werenski and Markus Nutivaara have become regulars, Vladislav Gavrikov seems ticketed to become one next season, and Gabriel Carlsson and Kevin Stenlund each have potential to be parts of next year's club as well. 

The Blue Jackets have also done a good job of finding value throughout the draft. Six of the 17 CBJ draftees were first-round picks, but a homegrown pick from every round but the fifth suited up for the Jackets this past season. 

It's also striking how little of this team was built through free agent signings. Eight Blue Jackets from the previous team were picked up on the free agent market, but two of those -- 2018 summer signee Riley Nash and veteran Mark Letestu, who played two games -- were established NHLers before being picked up by the Jackets.  

That's largely because that, while Kekalainen has espoused a patient plan of building from within rather than spending huge sums of cash on the free agent market, the rest of the squad had been built through trades over the years.  

Such key names as Nick Foligno, Seth Jones, Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky were all trade acquisitions, and the Jackets also brought in Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel among others at the deadline this year as the final pieces Kekalainen hoped would push the team to postseason success.  

In fact, the longest roster thread still associated with the team belongs to Bobrovsky, who was acquired from Philadelphia at the 2012 draft. His acquisition can be traced all the way back to the Blue Jackets choice of Pascal Leclaire in the 2001 draft; Leclaire eventually was dealt to Ottawa in a package for Antoine Vermette, who was later dealt to Phoenix, and Columbus used one of the picks from that deal to obtain Bobrovsky's services.  

In other words, decisions made at one point can end up having about a 20-year shelf life when it comes to impacting how a team is constructed. That's daunting, of course, and coming up later this week, we'll use what we've learned from this exercise to talk about where the Blue Jackets go from here.  

Until then, here's the list of how the Jackets were built for the 2018-19 season. Players are broken up into sections -- drafted, signed/claimed on waivers, or acquired via trade -- and sorted into chronological order of acquisition. 

DRAFTED (17) 

Cam Atkinson: 2008 sixth-round pick, 157th overall  

David Savard: 2009 fourth-round pick, 94th overall; Pick acquired with a first-round pick (Luca Sbisa), which was eventually traded to Philadelphia in R.J. Umberger acquisition in June 2008, from Colorado for Adam Foote in trade Feb. 26, 2008; Foote signed with team Aug. 2, 2005

Boone Jenner: 2011 second-round pick, 37th overall  

Lukas Sedlak: 2011 sixth-round pick, 158th overall  

Ryan Murray: 2012 first-round pick, 2nd overall  

Joonas Korpisalo: 2012 third-round pick, 62nd overall  

Josh Anderson: 2012 fourth-round pick, 95th overall; Pick acquired along with another fourth-round pick from Vancouver in trade that sent Sami Pahlsson to Canucks; Pahlsson originally signed July 1, 2009

Alexander Wennberg: 2013 first-round pick, 14th overall  

Oliver Bjorkstrand: 2013 third-round pick, 89th overall; Pick acquired from Pittsburgh along with 2013 second-round pick (Dillon Heatherington) in June 2013 trade that sent second-round pick (Tristan Jarry) to Penguins

Sonny Milano: 2014 first-round pick, 16th overall  

Zach Werenski: 2015 first-round pick, 8th overall  

Gabriel Carlsson: 2015 first-round pick, 29th overall; Pick acquired from Toronto for 2015 second-round pick (Travis Dermott), 2015 third-round pick (Martins Dzierkals) 

Kevin Stenlund: 2015 second-round pick, 58th overall  

Vladislav Gavrikov: 2015 sixth-round pick, 159th overall  

Markus Nutivaara: 2015 seventh-round pick, 189th overall  

Pierre-Luc Dubois: 2016 first-round pick, 3rd overall 

Alexandre Texier: 2017 second-round pick, 45th overall 

SIGNED/WAIVERS (8) 

Markus Hannikainen: Signed to an entry-level contract April 20, 2015 

Dean Kukan: Signed to an entry-level contract June 1, 2015 

Kole Sherwood: Signed to an entry-level contract July 1, 2015  

Zac Dalpe: Claimed on waivers from Minnesota on Feb. 27, 2017  

Eric Robinson: Signed to an entry-level contract March 26, 2018 

Adam Clendening: Signed to a two-way contract July 1, 2018  

Riley Nash: Signed to a three-year one-way contract July 1, 2018  

Mark Letestu: Signed to a two-way contract Sept. 27, 2018  

TRADE ACQUISITIONS (9) 

Sergei Bobrovsky: Acquired June 22, 2012, from Philadelphia for a 2012 second-round pick (Anthony Stolarz), a 2012 fourth-round pick (Taylor Leier) and a 2013 fourth-round pick (Justin Auger). The 2012 second-round pick was originally Ottawa's, then was acquired by Phoenix in a trade for Kyle Turris, then was traded to Columbus on Feb. 22, 2012, along Curtis McElhinney and a 2013 fourth-round pick (Auger) for Antoine Vermette, whom Columbus acquired on March 4, 2009, for 2001 first-round pick Pascal Leclaire and a 2009 second-round pick (Robin Lehner). The 2012 fourth-round pick was one of two acquired by Columbus from Vancouver for Sami Pahlsson, who signed with the CBJ on July 1, 2009.

Nick Foligno: Acquired July 1, 2012, from Ottawa for Mark Methot (sixth-round pick in 2003)  

Brandon Dubinsky: Acquired July 23, 2012, from the New York Rangers with Artem Anisimov, Tim Erixon and a first-round pick (Kerby Rychel) for Rick Nash (first overall pick in 2002), Steven Delisle (fourth-round pick in 2008) and third-round pick in 2013 (Pavel Buchnevich) 

Seth Jones: Acquired Jan. 6, 2016, from Nashville for Ryan Johansen (first-round pick in 2010)  

Scott Harrington: Acquired June 25, 2016, from Toronto for Kerby Rychel (first-round pick in 2013, originally acquired in Nash trade) 

Artemi Panarin: Acquired June 23, 2017, from Chicago with a sixth-round pick in 2017 draft (Jonathan Davidsson) for Brandon Saad (acquired in 2015 for Artem Anisimov, Jeremy Morin, Corey Tropp, Marko Dano and a fourth-round pick in 2016), Anton Forsberg (seventh-round pick in 2011) and a fifth-round pick in 2018 (Michael Callahan). Columbus acquired Anisimov in deal for Nash; Morin in trade for Erixon, who originally came to Columbus in Nash trade; Tropp off waivers from Buffalo in November 2013; Dano as first-round pick originally acquired in Jeff Carter trade to Los Angeles, which netted Philadelphia Jakub Voracek (2007 first-round pick), plus picks in the first (Sean Couturier) and third (Nick Cousins) in 2011.  

Matt Duchene: Acquired Feb. 22, 2019, from Ottawa with Julius Bergman for conditional first-round picks in the 2019 and 2020 NHL drafts, Vitaly Abramov (third-round pick in 2016) and Jonathan Davidsson (sixth-round pick in 2017, originally acquired in the Panarin trade) 

Ryan Dzingel: Acquired Feb. 23, 2019, from Ottawa with a seventh-round pick in 2019 draft (originally Calgary's) for Anthony Duclair (signed July 5, 2018), a second-round pick in the 2020 draft and a second-round pick in the 2021 draft 

Adam McQuaid: Acquired Feb. 25, 2019, from the New York Rangers for Julius Bergman (acquired in the Duchene trade), a fourth-round pick in the 2019 draft, and a seventh-round pick in the 2019 draft 

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