As we near the 2022 NHL Draft and focus on the top-20 prospects for the Columbus Blue Jackets, what better opportunity to take a look at some of the worst draft picks in the history of the franchise? For the long suffering CBJ, we all know there have been plenty of draft horror stories, and it would be easy to find more than a few clear misses. But for the purposes of this article, let’s dive into some picks that were obviously incorrect, and look at who the team should have taken.
Since it typically takes roughly five years to know how well you did at the draft, we’re only looking at selections made in 2017 or prior. Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at the three best picks ever made by the team, using the same parameters.
Gilbert Brule, 1st round (#6 overall), 2005 NHL Draft
Following the cancellation of the 2004-05 NHL season due to lockout, the league drew weighted lottery balls for every team in the league prior to the 2005 NHL Draft, with the Blue Jackets winning the sixth pick. Heading into a draft with a somewhat clear top-5, this left the team seemingly just barely on the outside, until the Montreal Canadiens surprised many by taking goaltender Carey Price … allowing Gilbert Brule to fall right into the lap of then-GM Doug MacLean.
At first glance, the pick seemed like a dream come true. Living in a WHL city at the time, I was fortunate enough to see Gilbert first hand and knew how talented he was. He was coming off of a 39 goal, 87 point, 169 penalty minute season with the Vancouver Giants, and looked like the next coming of Jeremy Roenick. He was a tremendous playmaker at the junior level, slinging highlight reel passes and playing an exciting, physical brand of hockey for a smaller player. It finally seemed like the Blue Jackets had a legitimate potential top-line center at their disposal, a great setup man for Rick Nash.
But for Brule and the Blue Jackets, it just wasn’t meant to be. They rushed him to the NHL too early, and after skating in just 7 games in the fall of 2005, Brule was returned to Vancouver, where he finished out the year on a high note, scoring 23 goals and 38 points in just 27 games.
Unfortunately for Brule, he was never quite the same player at the professional level, spending just two seasons with the Blue Jackets before being dealt to the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for Raffi Torres. Brule would play just 299 games in the NHL, scoring 43 goals and 156 points for the Blue Jackets, Oilers, and Phoenix Coyotes. He last played hockey in China – for the Kunlun Red Star of the KHL, in 2020.