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The Road to the 2016 NHL Draft

by Katie Foglia / Columbus Blue Jackets

Now that the Blue Jackets season has wrapped up, you may be wondering: what happens next?

Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen said management has had a lot of time to analyze the team’s strengths and weaknesses, and added that their “season” is far from being over.

“Our calendar is full from now on. Our season is far from over,” Kekalainen said. “It’s a full calendar. We’re going to do everything to find the solutions here and be better.”

What exactly is on that calendar?

Among the key events are the year-end amateur scouting meetings (which took place in Columbus at April's end), professional scouting meetings, keeping tabs on the Lake Erie Monsters in the Calder Cup playoffs, the 2016 NHL Draft Lottery (in which the Blue Jackets received some good luck and good news), the upcoming NHL Scouting Combine and the NHL Draft.

Moving forward, management’s focus will be concentrated on the road to the NHL Draft, so let’s start by taking a look at what’s already happened and then look ahead to what’s yet to come:

Amateur Scouting Meetings
Tucked away in a conference room inside Nationwide Arena, the Blue Jackets began their year-end amateur scouting meetings in Columbus.

This annual meeting brings the team’s regional amateur scouts from all over the world to one place to discuss a year’s worth of work. The scouts have spent countless hours and days using their expertise to watch and evaluate certain players of interest, all in an effort to help compile the team's "master list" at the end of the hockey season.

In that meeting, which is led by Kekalainen and head amateur scout Ville Siren, the hockey operations team spent three days discussing and evaluating players before assembling their list.

The meetings provide a forum in which scouts can vouch for players they believe will make an impact at the NHL level and prepare for several scenarios ahead of the 2016 NHL Draft Lottery…which bring us to our next stop.

2016 NHL Draft Lottery
On Apr. 30 in Toronto, the Blue Jackets were dealt a bit of good Draft Lottery fortune for the first time in franchise history.

The Blue Jackets moved up one spot (from fourth pre-lottery) and will pick third overall in the draft, which will be held June 24-25 at First Niagara Center in Buffalo.

The highly-anticipated Lottery determined the order of selection for the first 14 picks in the first round of the Draft. The Toronto Maple Leafs, who finished 30th in the regular season and thus had 20 percent odds to win the No. 1 selection, emerged with the top prize but the Winnipeg Jets - who moved from sixth to second - were also big winners.

Now that the order of selection in the top 14 has been set in stone, there’s still one more important event in keep in mind before the Draft, and that's the NHL Combine.

2016 NHL Combine
For the second year in a row, the Combine will be held at First Niagara Center, home of the Buffalo Sabres. During this five-day event, approximately 100 of the top prospects will be in one place for interviews with NHL teams, as well as taking part in medical and physical testing.

This is a great opportunity for teams to check in on prospects they’re interested in and further evaluate them before the big day.

2016 NHL Draft
As stated above, the Blue Jackets hold the third overall pick at the 2016 NHL Draft, which will mark the 54th in the history of the league.

In addition to teams using their picks to select top prospects and welcome the next wave of talent into their organizations, the Draft has always been a busy time on the transaction front. With 30 GMs in the same place, the draft weekend is a hotbed for trades and, of course, wild speculation and rumors throughout. As always, anything could happen.

So mark your calendars, sit back and try to relax — there’s a lot to look forward to in the coming weeks and months.

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