The last time the Blue Jackets had pick #12, things went pretty well
With their second first round pick, the situation has a lot less clarity. I really think the strategy here depends on a couple of things: Obviously, the scouting staff for the Blue Jackets will have their list made up and will have a general idea which player they are going to take here, regardless how the beginning of the draft lays out. We saw this last year when they selected Corson Ceulemans. But, I think their first pick could skew their pick here slightly. As an example, if you land a “safe” pick like Jiricek at #6, do you feel like taking a risk here? If you drafted a huge upside, swing for the fences type player earlier on, do you play it safe? If they have two players ranked closely together, I think that could swing their decision one way or the other.
Assuming the Jackets did land their defenseman (Jiricek) at six, I think they look to address the forward position here. There will be five selections before the Jackets go to the podium again: Ottawa (7th), Detroit (8th), Buffalo (9th), Anaheim (10th), and San Jose (11th). Without diving too deeply into these teams, my hot take is that Detroit takes Brad Lambert 8th overall, and it works for them. I’ll catch flak for it, but Steve Yzerman finds superstar talent, and I think Lambert is a much better player than his numbers in Liiga suggest.
Sitting at #12, I the Blue Jackets land one of Lambert (assuming the other teams all pass), Jonathan Lekkerimaki, Matthew Savoie, Marco Kasper, Connor Geekie, or Frank Nazar. If their first pick was a forward, we’re probably looking at defensemen including Kevin Korchinski, Pavel Mintyukov, or Denton Mateychuk.
Assuming they have Jiricek at 6, Nazar sure looks like a Jarmo Kekalainen type pick. He’ll take 2-3 years to develop, but it will be free development with the Michigan Wolverines (NCAA), where he’s headed this fall. He’s a terrific skater who has great hands and he can finish. If he were two inches taller, he’s probably a top-5 pick in this draft. Still, at 5-10, 180 pounds, he’s also not incredibly small and I think he’s a player who is being unfairly overlooked in this draft. Personally, I have him inside my top-10 and if the Jackets were to draft him at 12, after landing a player like Jiricek, this is a huge day 1 win in my opinion.