This spring, we’re running a short series to break down the five prospects most likely to be picked by the Jackets with their own first round pick in June. Today, we’ll kick this series off with a profile of the clear-cut #1 prospect in the draft; the lottery prize every team in the bottom-11 of the league is dreaming of: Regina Pats forward Connor Bedard.
First, let’s talk about the history of the Blue Jackets and high draft picks. No, we won’t go back and run through all of them – but we should mention that the Jackets have been in this position really, truly, only four times in their history. And none of them have worked out in their favor, so if you believe that history is the best indicator of the future, you might not like their odds in the draft lottery.
Before the inaugural draft lottery, the Jackets held the third-best odds (along with Minnesota); but lost the lottery and wound up picking fourth (Rostislav Klesla). After the 2001-2002 season, the Jackets finished with the second-worst record in the NHL, behind the then-Atlanta Thrashers. The draft lottery saw the Florida Panthers jump over both teams and land the first pick – but as we all know, GM Doug MacLean pulled some strings and swapped pick with the Cats, using that #1 pick to select Blue Jacket legend Rick Nash first overall.
The 2004-05 season was cancelled due to a league-wide lockout, changing the draft lottery odds exponentially. Still, the Jackets were amongst the teams with the highest odds to win the right to select some guy named Sidney Crosby (he turned out pretty okay). Instead, they won the sixth overall pick and took Gilbert Brule, who did not turn out okay.
The last time the team had odds as high as they will in this upcoming lottery was in 2012, when they finished with the worst record in the league by a full 9 points – only to see the Edmonton Oilers jump over them and select Nail Yakupov. Still, the Jackets got “their guy” according to then-GM Scott Howson, taking Ryan Murray second overall.
It isn’t all bad though, they actually did win one lottery, and it wasn’t that long ago. In 2016, the Jackets had the fourth-worst record in the league, but won the third lottery and moved up one spot – selecting center Pierre-Luc Dubois, who they later traded for the second overall pick from that same draft (Patrik Laine).
The key in all of this: the Jackets have only been in a position this close, to possibly land a generational talent, once in all of their existence. That was in that fateful 2005 draft, that shaped the league for at least the next 18 years. None of the other drafts mentioned produced a player of exceptional status – maybe except for that 2016 draft with Auston Matthews going first overall. But that’s a moot point, because they actually managed to move up that year…just not far enough to land that elite talent.