Kekalainen Previews The Draft

This year’s NHL draft class has been heralded as the deepest since 2003, which is very good news for the Blue Jackets.

Columbus enters the June 30th event as the owners of first-round picks 14, 19 and 27, and if 2003 is indeed an indication of what might be available in 2013, then the CBJ should acquire a quality player.

Consider that in 2013…

  • There were 2 defensemen taken in the range of picks 14-27. Between them, they have averaged 513.5 career regular season games, 37.5 goals, 115 assists and are a combined +118.
  • There were 12 forwards selected in that range. They have averaged 404.2 career regular season games, 88.3 goals, 134.1 assists and are a combined +159.

2003 DraftOver the course of an 82-game season then, you’re roughly talking a +19 defenseman or a forward with 18 goals and 27 assists.

Not to mention that with three picks, Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen has some flexibility.

“We’re going to explore all our options. There are going to be a lot of conversations this week, I’m sure,” Kekalainen told 97.1 The Fan.

He went on to discuss the possibility of trading picks for an established NHL player. He also spoke about the potential of trading into the top 5, but seemed to feel that was a somewhat less likely scenario.

“We’ve had talks about moving up and talks about moving back, all kinds of different talks. But it is hard to move up, ” he said.

“When teams know there’s going to be great players at the top of the draft, they want to pick them.”

He used as an example the 2007 draft, when he worked with St. Louis. The Blues tried to leverage their three, first-round picks, but still couldn’t manage to convince the teams above them to part with their selections.

“We’re not ruling it out until the sixth pick comes, and we’re out of it,” assured the Blue Jackets general manager. “We’ll keep trying.”

If successful, the CBJ could grab one of the five or six players Kekalainen believes could be NHL ready next year. If they stay put, he estimates the team will be taking players who will need anywhere from three to six years to develop.

Columbus also own picks 44 (2nd round), 105 (4th round), 165 (6th round), and 195 (7th round).

???????????????????????????????Of course, Kekalainen is also trying to resign goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, who becomes a restricted free agent July 5 and who is simultaneously being courted by the Russian KHL.

Columbus management spoke with Bobrovsky’s agent today. Kekalainen said he feels progress toward a new contract is being made. He’s optimistic the Vezina-winning netminder wants to remain with the team.

The other unrestricted free agent the CBJ are working to resign is Artem Anisimov. The forward had 11 goals in 35 games this year, and Kekalainen believes they’ll have a new deal for him “sooner rather than later.”

As for unrestricted free agents Vinny Prospal and Adrian Aucoin, it’s still unknown if the team will bring them back, and though Kekalainen wants to quickly give them a definitive answer on that, he wasn’t sure if he’d be ready to do so immediately following the draft.

We’ll have special draft coverage this Sunday on 97.1 The Fan.

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