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Boumedienne taking on next challenge with Blue Jackets

Front office staffer with many interests has been promoted to director of pro scouting

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider /

Josef Boumedienne's playing career was impressive in its own right. 

The native of Stockholm, Sweden, had a decorated tenure on the ice, playing professional hockey at the highest level in five different international leagues, including the NHL, from 1996 to 2013. 

Along the way, the defenseman who skated for the New Jersey Devils, Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals was noted for his hockey acumen -- at least in the eyes of Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen, who hired Boumedienne to be an amateur scout for Columbus as soon as his playing career ended. 

"Even earlier than that, when he was still playing and I was talking to him about hockey, I put him down as one of those guys I'd like to talk to as soon as he was done playing," Kekalainen said. "As soon as he was done playing, we hired him.  

"He's come a long way, and I think he has the potential to do whatever he wants in this business." 

Boumedienne went a long way toward proving that over the past year. With Swedish power Byrnas IF -- one of the royal clubs in the Nordic country, with 13 championships to its credit over the last half century -- on the verge of relegation this spring, the club hired Boumedienne and Nils Ekman to serve as coaches to keep the team in the top division. That mission proved to be a success, with Byrnas winning the relegation series against HV71.  

Add in the fact that Boumedienne is also currently studying to earn his executive MBA from the prestigious Stockholm School of Economics, and it's fair to say this is someone capable of doing some pretty varied things in this business. 

But Boumedienne is a Blue Jacket, having been promoted to the position of director of European scouting in 2016. This summer, he moved up again, being named the organization's director of professional scouting, a promotion that also includes a move to the United States to become an even bigger part of the team's day-to-day brain trust. 

And to hear the 43-year-old tell it, there's nowhere else he'd rather be at the moment. 

"Hopefully I've done something right," he said with a laugh when asked about his move up the ranks. "Being with the Blue Jackets for eight years now, it feels good to know people within the organization. I think I know the Columbus area quite a bit even though I haven't lived there. My family feels comfortable, and I feel comfortable. 

"I love being a part of the Blue Jackets. There's no place I'd rather be in the NHL, that's for sure." 

Columbus, of course, is happy to have him. Boumedienne is a self-described hockey fanatic, which can't be a huge surprise given he'd travel just about anywhere to play the game in his on-ice career. He started by moving up the ranks in his native country before making his top-level Swedish debut with Sodertalje SK in 1996, then spent two years in Finland before coming to North America in 2000. 

His first four years on this side of the pond were spent between the AHL and NHL, with the fourth-round pick in the 1996 NHL Draft debuting with the team that selected him, New Jersey, on Oct. 6, 2001. He would play just one game with the Devils, though, even scoring in his NHL debut before being traded to Tampa Bay, where he played in three games before ending up with the Caps. There, he skated in 43 games over two seasons, including a career-high 37 contests in 2003-04. 

At that point, he had amassed four goals and 16 points in 47 games, but with the NHL lockout wiping out the whole 2004-05 season, he returned to Europe. Boumedienne played for teams in Finland, Switzerland and Sweden before returning to the AHL from 2007-09, but his career from there returned overseas, including two stints in the KHL as well as more games in Finland, Sweden and Switzerland. 

He could have kept going, too, but Kekalainen called, starting what is now an eight-year tenure with the Blue Jackets. Boumedienne was a scout in Europe for three years, then has been the team's eyes and ears scouting the European pro leagues and KHL for the past five seasons. 

Over the years, he had talked with Kekalainen about the chance to move to the U.S. to continue to grow his career. It might have happened sooner were it not for the COVID-19 pandemic, but now, the time seems right to take the plunge. 

"He's very passionate about the game and always looking for new ways to evaluate, to dig deep and get results that way," Kekalainen said. "That's what player evaluation is all about, in my opinion. It's not about trying to go to one game and saying, 'I have such a good eye for it that I can decide here and now.' It's about doing the due diligence and making sure you get to the bottom of it. He's found a lot of different ways to do it." 

Boumedienne admits he thought coaching might be in the cards when his playing career was drawing to a close, but with he and his wife Petra raising three sons, he didn't want to force the family to live the uncertain and sometimes nomadic existence found in the coaching ranks. 

So while he enjoyed the emergency stint with Brynas to keep the team in Sweden's top level, it still felt like scouting was the move, even if it meant moving the family to the United States. In the new role, he'll be in charge of the team's efforts in keeping tabs on pro players all over the world, with help from Kekalainen and the whole front office crew.  

"I think scouting is done by committee, and we have really strong people in place with our pro scouts, former players and very knowledgeable hockey people," Boumedienne said. "Here in Europe, you are a little bit isolated. I'm really looking forward to collaborating more with my peers and my scouts on a more day-to-day basis." 

His focus on earning a graduate degree also shows how much energy he puts into developing his career. Boumedienne previously attended the Stockholm School of Economics for a year after his playing career ended, working in a diploma program designed for former professional athletes. 

That stint opened his eyes to what continuing his education could do for him, and his current executive MBA program -- which can be done via remote learning -- places him in a talented class of around just 50 people. One of the key benefits, too, is getting the chance to meet new people and be exposed to things outside of the hockey world.  

"I didn't do a lot of studying when I was younger," he said. "I turned pro when I was 17, but I always enjoyed other stuff than hockey as well even though I'm a hockey fanatic. It is fun to learn other stuff as well and see other people. When you're in the hockey bubble traveling around as a scout, you're pretty isolated as far as who you meet. It's fun to meet and talk to other people as well in a different setting." 

Add it all up and Boumedienne is happy to be where he is now. The family has enjoyed previous stints living in the United States, and the chance to stay with the Blue Jackets and try some new things is an opportunity he couldn't pass up. 

And it's all because Kekalainen perhaps saw what he could become all those years ago. 

"I was planning to play another year or two, but when Jarmo called, he said, 'Maybe you should retire,' " Boumedienne says with a laugh. "I could have grinded it out for a couple more years, but I thought it was a great time to transition to real life. It's been a great fit for me and my family." 

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