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Blue Jackets could opt for defenseman in first round

by Adam Kimelman / NHL.com

BUFFALO -- Columbus Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen has always believed that taking the best player available at the NHL draft is the best plan, and that won't change at the 2015 NHL Draft, where the Blue Jackets have the eighth pick of the first round.

But if there's a tie between two players of different positions, Kekalainen said the Blue Jackets could lean toward selecting a defenseman in the first round.

The Blue Jackets chose Ryan Murray with the second pick of the 2012 draft but he's played 78 games in two NHL seasons because of injuries. Mike Reilly, an offensive-minded defenseman picked in the fourth round (No. 98) in the 2011 draft, is unsigned and can become an unrestricted free agent June 15. He's spent this week in Buffalo during the 2015 NHL Scouting Combine meeting with other teams. Six of the 12 defensemen to play for the Blue Jackets last season were 25 or under. But of those six, David Savard (82) and Dalton Prout (63) were the only ones to play more than 60 games.

"Anybody that looks at our depth chart can see we have a lot more young forwards than young defensemen that are top prospects to play in the NHL," Kekalainen said. "So that's probably going to be something we're going to look at."

The Blue Jackets have six picks in the first three rounds; beside their first-round pick they have three picks in the second round and two in the third. The depth of the draft makes it a good year to have so many selections.

"It's supposed to be a deep draft and that's what we like," Kekalainen said. "Especially when we have six picks in the first three rounds."

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