All of the draft rankings are out, and once you get past the first five or so picks in this draft, things differ wildly depending on which one you look at. Like everyone else, we have our own thoughts on where certain guys should be picked. For the Jackets however, it comes down to strategies.
With their first round pick, a lot of things hinge on what happens right in front of them. Let’s assume that Anaheim goes “boring” and picks Adam Fantilli second overall. If that happens, my wild prediction here is really not wild at all: I think it’s going to be Leo Carlsson to the Jackets with pick number three.
Some scouts say the gap from Fantilli isn’t that far. Some scouts say the gap from Carlsson to Smith isn’t that far. A lot of them disagree on which gap is closer; but when you break it all down and look at the whole picture, Carlsson to the Jackets just makes so much more sense. This franchise has long desired a big bodied, skilled, 200-foot center.
If they didn’t already have a couple of highly skilled play-driving wingers in Johnny Gaudreau and Kent Johnson, I think they might consider Will Smith a little bit harder here. But, the opportunity to draft a player like Carlsson is extremely rare, and I just have a hard time seeing them pass on this kind of center. The last time they picked this high, they passed on the “consensus third best player” (Jesse Puljujarvi) … and drafted a big bodied, two-way center instead. I expect the same outcome here.
The other thing I see coming in tomorrow’s first round is a little bit bolder and more exciting: some of the roster questions get answered via trade. Whether it’s shipping out players that will be pushed out of the lineup this fall for other picks or prospects – or via a large upgrade at the center position – I think Jarmo will be very active. It will be fascinating to follow, and I suggest tuning in, if you can.
After the first round, things get a lot muddier. The Jackets will certainly have their own list of 100 or so players to pick, and I expect them to mostly stick to that list in the order they have it. Meaning whichever player is ranked the highest on their own list and still on the board at #34, will be picked there no matter their position. Likely, they will mention how that player was much higher on their list than the slot they landed him.
For rounds 3-7, my only real prediction is that they are going to take at least one goaltender. The pipeline is pretty thin there, and this is one draft where there are some really good options between the pipes. It’s also possible that they will acquire more picks or trade picks around at the draft, that’s pretty common for an active GM like Kekalainen. They might see a player they like and try to move up; or trade down and add more picks later.
We’ll be live tweeting during the draft tomorrow, and will have full in-depth feature articles on each pick in the days following the draft. Be sure to stay tuned to our social media channels, and visit unionandblue.com regularly!