The Blue Jackets have held top-10 picks in the draft 16 times in their history. There were hits and misses in the early years, but we’re not looking back that far.
If we go back through the drafts taking place 2009 and later, the Blue Jackets held top-10 picks seven times. Under Scott Howson, they selected twice: Ryan Johansen (4th overall, 2010 – 0.66ppg, fifth best amongst 4th overall picks), and Ryan Murray (2nd overall, 2012 – 0.29ppg, worst amongst 2nd overall picks). They also held the 8th overall pick at the 2011 draft, which was dealt to Philadelphia for Jeff Carter. The Flyers used that pick to select Sean Couturier (ouch) – whose 0.64ppg is second best amongst 8th overall picks during this time frame.
In the drafts studied that took place under Jarmo Kekalainen, the Jackets drafted in the top-10 twice, in back to back years. Zach Werenski (8th overall, 2015 – 0.59ppg – third best amongst 8th overall picks), and Pierre-Luc Dubois (3rd overall, 2016 – fourth best amongst third overall picks). He’s also drafted in the top-10 in each of the last two years, selecting Kent Johnson (5th overall, 2021) and David Jiricek (6th overall, 2022); but we can’t use those picks statistically, quite yet.
Simple deduction here would tell you that Jarmo’s drafting success in the top-10 has been basically flawless. Selecting Werenski at 8th overall landed the team the most productive defenseman in the entire draft class so far – he’s the 11th most productive in the entire draft. Going “off the board” and taking Pierre-Luc Dubois 3rd overall in 2016, landed the team its long-sought after big-bodied center.
While things with Luc didn’t work out as planned, Jarmo was able to flip him for the player taken 2nd overall in the same draft, Patrik Laine – who, coincidentally, is the third most productive player from that draft so far.
His last two picks in the top-10 both already have NHL games under their belts and both look like future NHL stars. Kent Johnson has the 5th most points of any player taken in the 2021 draft so far – sitting just six points back from Cole Sillinger. Only four players from the 2022 draft have any NHL games under their belt, and one of them is David Jiricek – who is breaking the model for D+1 defensemen in the AHL.
In the end, this is a remarkable draft class that has drawn comparison to the 2015 draft, which is far and away the most productive of any of the classes I dug into. This means that any pick inside of that top-5, with our scouting staff’s drafting history, should come out strong. The top-10 of that 2015 draft averages out to 0.78 points-per-game. The next closest draft was in 2013, which averages 0.65 per game. If the Jackets can come away with a point-per-game player or close to (preferably a center), this season of heck was ultimately worth it.