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"We have to be ready...(Jarmo) likes to be active at the draft"

by Mike G. Morreale / Columbus Blue Jackets


It's been nearly 10 years since the Columbus Blue Jackets had as many as the 10 selections they have at the 2015 NHL Draft, which will be held June 26-27 at BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla.

But it's a good year to have that many selections, considering the deep potential of the 2015 class.

"I think it's one of the deeper drafts since I've been scouting," Blue Jackets director of amateur scouting Paul Castron said. "There's obviously the top two guys at the top [Erie center Connor McDavid and Boston University center Jack Eichel] who are potential franchise players. But I think it's pretty wide open after them.

"It's going to be a fun draft that way because people think guys are going here or there and you just never know. I remember when Cam Fowler fell that one year to Anaheim and everyone thought he would go a lot higher."

Fowler, who was considered by many to be a top-five pick in the 2010 NHL Draft, fell to the Anaheim Ducks at No. 12.

The last time the Blue Jackets had 10 picks was 2006. That year they had three of the first 85 picks and selected center Derick Brassard (No. 6), goaltender Steve Mason (No. 69) and left wing Tom Sestito (No. 85). Barring any trades, the Blue Jackets will have four picks in the first two rounds this year: the eighth pick in the first round and three picks in the second.

It will be the most picks Castron has had with the Blue Jacketse since being named director of amateur scouting in July 2006.

"We know we're not getting the top two guys [McDavid and Eichel], but this could get interesting," Castron said. "We have to be ready if Jarmo [Kekalainen, general manager] pulls the trigger on a trade. He's active at the draft and is always looking to move up or back. If someone falls in the draft and might be available where we're picking or beyond, sometimes [Kekalainen] will move back to gain extra picks. Having three second-round picks, I don't know if he'll want more but we'll see."

Columbus already has a deep prospect pool of players that includes forwards Sonny Milano (2014 draft, No. 16), Kerby Rychel (2013, No. 19) and Oliver Bjorkstrand (2013, No. 89), defenseman Dillon Heatherington (2013, No. 50) and goaltender Anton Forsberg (2011, No. 188).

Bjorkstrand was awarded the Four Broncos Memorial Trophy as the 2014-15 Western Hockey League player of the year and the Bob Clarke Trophy as the league's leading scorer in the regular season with 118 points (63 goals, 55 assists) with the Portland Winterhawks.

"Oliver Bjorkstrand has high-end skill; we're definitely excited about him," Castron said. "He's a great kid and he works so hard. You just like to see a kid who has success like that. He's not the biggest guy (6-foot, 168 pounds), but he finds a way to get it done."

"We had some guys forced to play with the big club [in 2014-15] with all the injuries and they proved they could play," Castron said. "I think there are a lot of good, young kids in our system."

While picking a defenseman is an option, Castron said he was impressed by right wing Mikko Rantanen of TPS in Finland. Rantanen, No. 1 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of European skaters and could be available at No. 8.

"Rantanen is a player who wouldn't surprise me if he stepped in right away with his size (6-3, 211) and strength," Castron said. "He's got tremendous upside. It's not as high-end in Europe as we've seen in the past. But again, those guys tend to develop a little later."

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