The Blue Jackets did the most Blue Jacket thing they could do this weekend. After a lousy performance in a 7-0 loss to the Florida Panthers, the team battled and scrapped for a win on Sunday against Ottawa, moving them into 30th overall in the NHL standings.
It can be frustrating as a fan, I’ll be the first to admit that. In fact, when Marchenko scored the OT winner last night, my immediate reaction was to drop my hands to the couch and laugh, because that’s exactly what we should have expected. If you’ve watched this team for more than the last 5-7 years, you know this story.
The team has a history of being brutal all year, only to have a late season push with replacement players vying for jobs, dropping their draft value lower and lower. And it stinks this year, because if you were going to be terrible in any season, this is the one you want to be terrible in.
We’ve all been watching Connor Bedard with a keen interest this season, but the thing to remember here is: he isn’t ours, until we make the pick. All along, we should be paying attention to the entire top half of the top-10. And really, knowing Jarmo Kekalainen, we should be looking at other players as well. After all, he’s been known to make some really off the board choices – not the least of which was Pierre-Luc Dubois third overall in 2016.
The last time there was a player of Connor Bedard’s caliber available at the draft was in 2015, when the Edmonton Oilers took Connor McDavid with the first overall pick. This draft is stacking up eerily similar to that one, with a generational talent at the top, followed up by some seriously good blue chip prospects that should become NHLers very soon.
Making comparisons, I don’t think it’s a stretch to line up Adam Fantilli with Jack Eichel. He has that kind of upside, and produced at a similar rate in his draft year – consider him a near lock to go second overall. After those two players, things get a little bit murky. Matvei Michkov may be the best prospect Russia has ever produced. He could be an elite scoring NHL winger the moment he hits the ice in North America … the only problem is, that’s three years away, if at all.
Michkov is so good that I’ll make a statement that may surprise you: he would challenge Connor Bedard for first overall, if he were playing anywhere other than Russia. He might even challenge for first overall if he weren’t signed beyond this season. Still, he’s good enough that with these concerns, he’s still a near-lock for the top-5. Imagine a team taking a player they may never get in the top-5. His pedigree is that strong.
After Michkov – or before, depending on a team’s preference and comfort level with that player – there are a handful of players vying for top-five slots. The most obvious one here is Swedish forward Leo Carlsson, who has drawn comparisons to Mats Sundin at the same age. Like Michkov, Leo is playing professional hockey in Europe, though in the SHL; which has a transfer agreement currently in place with the NHL. Carlsson may be the safest pick made after the top-two of this draft, and for that reason he could go as high as third overall. The only questions here are, can he be a center, and how high is his ceiling? But even if you miss out on these guys…