Jake Christiansen 6-1, 194 pounds
Cleveland Monsters (AHL)
Signed as a free agent, March 2020
Playstyle comparisons: Keith Yandle, Jake Bean
NHL upside: Second pair defenseman, #2 unit powerplay quarterback
Professional debut: 2020
Late bloomer Jake Christiansen hits our list as the seventh ranked prospect in the system for the Columbus Blue Jackets. A rare five-year player in the Western Hockey League, Christiansen posted solid, if unspectacular numbers through his first three seasons with the Everett Silvertips, before stepping up with a 12 goal, 44 point effort in 67 games during the 2018-19 season. As an overage player, he tore the league apart in 2019-20, scoring 22 goals and adding 28 assists for 50 points in just 38 games, earning himself a professional contract from the Jackets.
Christiansen joined the Cleveland Monsters for the COVID-shortened 2020-21 season, posting 3 goals and 15 points in 28 AHL games. For his first full season at the pro level in 2021-22, he showed marked improvement, scoring 13 goals and 45 points, while working to improve his defensive zone play on a young Monsters team. As a result of his strong play, he earned ice time with the Blue Jackets, where he scored his first NHL goal and skated in 8 games with the big club.
Christiansen is a good skater who can really move the puck well, in the offensive zone or in transition. Creating offense is at the root of his game, and he’s not only a setup man; he has a very good shot that he capably gets through traffic and onto the net, which makes him a dangerous player from anywhere in the offensive zone. As is the case with many young, offensive minded defensemen, he will have to continue to get stronger and learn the ins and outs of defensive zone play, but he is close to NHL-ready at this point. He has the skills that should allow him to be a powerplay quarterback, though he’s likely a second unit guy on a strong team.
There were times this season where I thought Jake deserved more of an opportunity in the NHL, but the logjam of puck moving blueliners with the Jackets mostly kept him out of the league. Still, I thought his play in the NHL was eye opening (in a good way), and I do think that it makes it easier for the team to shop one of the other young defensemen on the roster for help in other places, should they choose to do so.
Admittedly, Christiansen was a tough prospect to rank on this list. Obviously you don’t expect undrafted prospects to land this high on the list, but it’s hard to argue his production and development to this point. He has NHL size and all of the tools, and has improved consistently throughout his young career. Credit to GM Jarmo Kekalainen and his scouting staff for this one, he is a rising asset with strong NHL potential.
Christiansen is signed for one more year with the Blue Jackets, and at this point looks primed to start the year in the AHL again. But, should the injury bug hit, look for him to be one of the first call-ups to the NHL. He has the skill to stick, at this point he just needs some opportunity to gain experience.