Columbus Blue Jackets' Draft Preview

Pat SullivanCorrespondent IJune 16, 2008

The Columbus Blue Jackets’ renaissance begins at the 2008 Entry Draft.

The Jackets have two picks—Nos. 6 and 19—in the first round. Don’t be surprised to see one of these picks dealt for a skilled center. The Jackets crave offensive depth and will definitely seek a big name in exchange for one of their first round picks.

With the pick left over from the almost inevitable trade, the Jackets will seek a quality defenseman. Their current top four defensemen would not make the defensive corps of any playoff team.

As the Red Wings showed in this year’s Stanley Cup Final, defense wins championships.

Expect Columbus to draft an NHL ready defenseman. A top Major Junior defenseman would be ideal for the young Jackets.

Major Junior players play a schedule almost as rigorous as the NHL’s and are generally better prepared than others.

The Jackets are in luck. This year’s draft possesses defensive depth. Four of the top 10 prospects are defenseman.  With the sixth pick, Columbus will surely select one of these dependable d-men, if one remains.

If they’re smart, the Jackets will have their eye on Drew Doughty, Zach Bogosian, Alex Pietrangelo, and Luke Schenn. If the draft goes as expected, the Jackets will end up with Schenn, a 6-2 defenseman from the Western Hockey League’s Kelowna Rockets.

Schenn is a stay-at-home defender with a physical presence. He shoots right, which is a defensive rarity. He is not expected to put up big points, but he can be a shutdown player.

Schenn is certainly not the ideal first pick for the Blue Jackets. He did not play to his potential at the World Junior Championship and he is compared to former Jacket Adam Foote.

He does not appear to be NHL ready and will not be the powerplay catalyst the Jackets desire.

Drew Doughty is the top rated defenseman in the draft and second overall, just behind future Bolt Steven Stamkos. Doughty put up sensational numbers for the Ontario Hockey League’s Guelph Storm. He can adequately defend opponents too.

His stature is comparable to Niklas Lidstrom. His powerplay skills are too.

He is the ideal defenseman for any team and sadly, he won’t be around for the Jackets. The Los Angeles Kings, who have the same defensive woes, will likely take Doughty as the second pick.

The Jackets may have to make a big decision between Alex Pietrangelo and Schenn. Pietrangelo possesses Doughty’s offensive prowess and Schenn’s physicality. He, like Doughty, can man the powerplay.

This Niagara Icedog could be fast-tracked to the Jacket’s lineup if need be.

Peterborough Pete Zach Bogosian is a long shot as the Jackets’ top pick. While he does posess skill, he has a lot to learn. While he is projected as the third pick overall, the Jackets do not have time to develop this year’s top pick.

Time is running out for the Columbus Blue Jackets. Their first pick, whether it be No. 6 or 19, cannot be a project. The top pick cannot play another year of junior or report to the minors. The first pick should be chosen for now, while other picks can develop and crack the lineup sometime in the next decade.

The Blue Jackets need to make the playoffs and put fans in the seats. Hockey is dying in Ohio’s capital and a successful fresh face could revive it.

This is the biggest draft in the team’s eight year history.

It is GM Scott Howson’s first true draft and the first without deceased owner John H. McConnell.

The pressure is on for Howson and his scouts. A poor draft could spell trouble for the Jackets.

The Jackets are flat-lining. While they may be able to bring in another Michael Peca or Sergei Fedorov, the Jackets cannot manufacture the genuine electricity a successful youngster brings to town. Columbus was at the pinnacle of public relations when the young Rick Nash led the league in scoring.

A Calder Trophy candidate could return the Jackets to that plateau.

The new face of the Blue Jackets will be drafted. Trades will be made. The team will be retooled.

The Blue Jacket revival will begin.