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With draft position set (for now), Blue Jackets forge ahead in offseason

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

For the first time in franchise history, the Blue Jackets received happy news at the NHL Draft Lottery.

Granted, it’s not a position they’d like to be in (lottery teams are, by rule, the lowest finishers in the league) but when the moment comes around, fingers and toes are crossed and everyone’s mumbling under their breath for good luck.

Tonight, the Blue Jackets got some good fortune and moved up the No. 3 overall pick – overcoming long odds to crack into the top three in the draft order.

Who they will select at No. 3 is to be decided next month at First Niagara Center in Buffalo, but for now, GM Jarmo Kekalainen knows where he's picking and can zero in on the next step.

“We were hoping to move up, and we did, which is great,” Kekalainen told BlueJackets.com. “It’s a good night for us. When we got to those fifth, sixth and seventh picks, I was cheering every pick hoping we would be moving up.

“It was good luck – not as good as we’d hoped for, but still good.”

Blue Jackets president of hockey operations John Davidson was the club’s representative in Toronto and told The Dispatch that he felt like moving to No. 3 was “a double or triple, but not the home run.”

In a national television event shortly before the Penguins and Capitals played Game 2 of their second-round series, hockey operations executives from each of the 14 lottery teams gathered in a small room in Toronto to watch NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly reveal the results.

The Blue Jackets had a better chance to move back two spots than they did to move up, but as the cards were flipped over for the seventh, sixth and fifth picks, it became more evident that fortune would be on Columbus’ side.

Was Kekalainen nervous when it was clear the Blue Jackets had a chance at the top pick?

“Yeah, I sure was,” he said with a laugh.

With the NHL Draft now two months away, much of the attention surrounding the Blue Jackets and those teams in the pick 1-3 range will focus on top prospects Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi.

Kekalainen and his amateur scouting staff put their list together last week in Columbus, so he’s not ready to divulge his thoughts on how the draft could play out…yet.

“You’re going to get 30 different answers from all the teams in the league (on the top prospects),” Kekalainen said. “The media craves top 3 this, top 3 that with the top guys. Everyone is thinking differently – we all put our lists together differently and come to a different consensus, so I’m not going to get too deep into it. “

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