It was a busy evening at the Blue Jackets' table on the floor of New Jersey’s Prudential Center.
Columbus began the opening round with possession of three picks: the 14th pick (its own pick), the 19th pick (as a result of the Rick Nash trade) and the 27th pick (as a result of the Jeff Carter/Jack Johnson trade).
With its first pick, Columbus selected Swedish center Alexander Wennberg. GM Jarmo Kekalainen values hard-working, competitive players with a keen sense for the game and Wennberg fit the mold. The 6-foot-1 center had represented Sweden twice at the World Junior Championships by the time he was drafted and during his 2012-13 campaign with Djurgården, Wennberg netted 14 goals and distributed 18 assists.
Since having his named called in New Jersey, Wennberg joined Frӧlunda of the highly-competitive Swedish Hockey League where he registered 16 goals last season - pretty impressive for a teenager. In the year since he was drafted, Wennberg has added roughly 11 lbs. of muscle and has worked to bulk up his frame in order to compete against bigger and more experienced players.
Columbus recently inked Wennberg to a three-year entry level deal and he will have an opportunity to make the Blue Jackets' roster out of training camp.
Five picks later, Kerby Rychel’s name was called at No. 19 overall. The aggressive Windsor Spitfires forward caught the attention of Blue Jackets scouts with his “north-south” style of play in addition to “playing his role to a ‘T’.” He played that role to the tune of 87 points and 40 goals during Windsor’s 2012-13 campaign, leading the team in goals and finishing eighth in the OHL in points.
Rychel’s productivity carried into 2013-14, racking up 38 points in 27 games with Windsor prior to being dealt to the Guelph Storm. After 31 regular season games with his new club, Rychel added 18 points and 33 assists to his stat sheet as his Guelph Club breezed to the MasterCard Memorial Cup final, picking up the OHL’s Roberston Cup along the way.
The Edmonton Oil Kings topped Guelph 6-3 in the Memorial Cup final, Guelph’s first loss of the tournament. Rychel finished with 11 goals for Guelph during the playoffs.
Columbus signed Rychel to a three-year entry-level deal last December, meaning that Rychel will most likely be playing professional hockey in the Jackets' system next season.
To complete a busy first round, Columbus then selected Slovakian winger Marko Dano. The selection came as a surprise to some, but Dano’s ability to play both ends of the rink and his knack for being productive in high-traffic areas vaulted him into the first round.