2nd Round (#34 overall): Andrew Peeke
South Florida born defenseman Andrew Peeke was touted as a project-type pick out of the USHL, ranked by most services as a potential third round pick. But the scouting staff for the Blue Jackets saw potential in the physical young blueliner – enough to make him the fourth player selected in the second round. Though it took several years of development, Peeke looks like a solid find for the club, and a quality addition to the team’s top-two defense pairings.
After being picked by the Blue Jackets, Peeke spent the next three years with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (NCAA), posting moderate offensive numbers (12 goals, 52 points in 119 games). But Peeke’s game is built more around his ability to defend and play a physical brand of hockey, and he captained the Irish in his junior season before turning pro in 2019.
While he struggled to find footing with the Blue Jackets, bouncing back and forth between the NHL and AHL for two years, Peeke flourished under new head coach Brad Larsen in 2021-22. Entering training camp as a fringe player, he made the most of his early opportunities and worked his way up from the third pairing, to seeing heavy minutes on the top pair due to injuries. By the end of the season, Peeke cemented himself as a physical top-four defenseman for the team, counted on in a shutdown role against the opposition’s top players.
For a franchise that has historically struggled with finding quality talent in the second round, drafting Peeke is an easy win. In fact, the only real negative I can find with this selection is that two star players were taken soon after (Jordan Kyrou, #35 to STL; Alex Debrincat, #39 to CHI). But, looking back now, it’s hard to call this pick anything but a win. Watch: Andrew Peeke’s First NHL Goal
Round 2 Grade: A-
3rd round (#65 overall): Vitaly Abramov
A high scoring winger playing in the QMJHL, Vitaly Abramov averaged 1.62 points per game in his CHL career, scoring 129 goals and 301 points in 185 games played. Surely, Abramov had first round skill, but his slight 5-10, sub-180 pound stature likely held him back (he was ranked mostly in the second round), until the Blue Jackets spent a third round pick on him.
The return paid off quickly, as Abramov would light up the QMJHL that fall, leading the league in scoring with 104 points. His stock rose steadily for the Blue Jackets, making him one of the top prospects in their system. He turned pro for the 2018-19 season and started his career well, scoring 12 goals and 22 points in 52 AHL games with the Cleveland Monsters. But plans change quickly, and in a push to add pieces at the 2019 trade deadline, Abramov was a key part of the deal that brought star center Matt Duchene to the Blue Jackets.
After being traded to Ottawa, Abramov spent the remainder of 2019 and the next two seasons, mostly in the AHL. He did wind up appearing in 5 NHL games, though struggled to find firm footing and this past year, decided to take his talents back to Russia. This pick was a clear win for the Blue Jackets, as Abramov became a key piece in a headliner trade. Without the development of mid-late round prospects like Abramov and Jonathan Davidsson, the Blue Jackets don’t likely get Duchene, or come away with a huge playoff upset.