Draft experts and NHL fans alike spend hours debating the top prospects and organizing mock drafts. The decision for scouts and general managers presents numerous challenges, but finding talent in later rounds can be even more difficult.
The Blue Jackets' amateur scouting staff spends its year in rinks around the world, trying to find several “diamonds in the rough" or the guys who haven't made top headlines in their draft year. They've done well over the years, and here are four of their best late-round selections (all of whom are on the team's current roster):
Matt Calvert: Scouts said that the 5-foot-9, wiry winger from the Brandon Wheat Kings was too small to play in the NHL. They weren't sure that his ultra-high compete level could carry him, but Calvert has proven a lot of people wrong and continues to do so.
Calvert fell to the 127th pick (fifth round) in the 2008 draft, and the Blue Jackets were elated to see his name still on the board. He first established his game in the AHL with Springfield and this past season, was a key part of the Blue Jackets' playoff run and scored the game-winning goal in the franchise's first-ever playoff win - Game 2 in Pittsburgh.
David Savard: During his 2009-10 campaign with the QMJHL’s Moncton Wildcats, Savard earned several honors, including best defensive defenseman of the year, best defenseman of the year and was named to the QMJHL's first all-star team in addition to registering the most assists and points among defensemen. His 64 assists and 77 points helped guide Moncton to the QMJHL title.
Scouts admired Savard’s passing ability in addition to his physical style, but he fell all the way to the 94th (fourth round) pick of the 2009 draft. After only playing in 35 NHL games in his first two seasons with the Blue Jackets, Savard became a regular fixture in the Blue Jackets roster last season, playing in 70 games and appearing in all of Columbus’ Stanley Cup playoff games.
Cam Atkinson: Much like Calvert, Atkinson - who stands 5-foot-8 - has heard about his height impacting his NHL chances throughout his life, but there was no denying his natural goal-scoring ability. Atkinson netted 68 goals in three seasons with Boston College - a ridiculous total for college hockey - largely due to his terrific shot and quick skating.
Atkinson was selected by Columbus in the sixth round with the 157th overall pick. He split time between Springfield and Columbus during his first two seasons with the organization, but burst onto the scene with his first full NHL season last year. He scored 21 goals during the regular season and had three points in the Jackets' first-round playoff series, and Atkinson progressed from hopeful prospect to a young scorer ready to take the next step.
Jared Boll: Coming into the 2005 draft, Boll was touted as an intense competitor who didn't get enough credit for a great wrist shot. Boll registered 47 goals and 49 assists in his two seasons with the Plymouth Whalers (OHL), but surprising to some, that wasn't his main calling card. Though he possessed offensive skills, teams knew that Boll was going to have an NHL career as an enforcer.
Boll was selected in the fourth round with the 101st overall pick. In his seven seasons with the organization, Boll has logged 1,025 penalty minutes and dropped the gloves 133 times.