Historically the Blue Jackets have had a solid pipeline of drafting and developing prospects. Part of their success can be attributed to some high draft picks where they hit with names such as Pierre-Luc Dubois, Ryan Johansson, and Zach Werenski all in the top ten of their drafts. But there has also been some misses in Nikita Filatov at sixth overall, and Ryan Murray a second overall pick from 2012.
A big part of their success has also been having a strong AHL team which continually feeds the NHL roster. The Lake Erie Monsters won an AHL Calder Cup with prospects Sonny Milano, Zach Werenski, Oliver Bjorkstrand, and Josh Anderson, who are all now playing in Columbus.
While the team has plenty of graduates playing important roles in the NHL, the prospect pipeline has not been depleted as the franchise continues to do an excellent job of scouting, drafting, and developing talent.
1. Pierre-Luc Dubois, C/LW – Columbus (NHL)
Drafted: 3rd overall in the first round of the 2016 draft by Columbus
After making Dubois the surprise third overall pick in 2016, the Blue Jackets returned Dubois to junior. He had a slow start before turning his game around with a trade, and a starring role with Team Canada at the World Junior. It remained to be seen where Dubois would play in his D+2 year as he has a year of junior eligibility remaining, but after a strong training camp, he has won an NHL job in Columbus on the third line. Playing in his rookie NHL season, he has been playing on the third line averaging a little over 12 minutes a game and producing 0.25 points per game. Dubois is just getting his feet wet in the NHL, and once he gets some experience and confidence, his role will be expanded significantly, and he will have a far greater impact on the game.
2. Vitali Abramov, RW/LW – Victoriaville (QMJHL)
Drafted: 65th overall in the third round of the 2016 draft by Columbus
Abramov should pan out to be a tremendous value pick for Columbus in the third round. In his post-draft year in Gatineau, the talented Russian posted a 104 point season on a mediocre Olympiques team. Abramov was returned to Gatineau this where, where he posted 25 points in 16 games before being traded to Victoriaville. He joins NHL prospects Pascal Laberge and Maxime Comtois and should challenge for the CHL scoring title. Abramov may be undersized but his skill set is off the chart, he is a speedy and shifty skater and is tenacious in pursuit of the puck. His greatest asset is his shooting ability and nose for the net. Abramov was not eligible for the AHL this year and seemed reluctant to return to junior but avoided returning to Russia and should be ready to make the jump to the NHL next season.
3. Sonny Milano, LW/RW – Columbus (NHL)
Drafted: 16th overall in the first round of the 2014 draft by Columbus
After two solid years in the AHL developing his game at the pro level, Milano looks ready for full-time NHL duty. He has developed his game away from the puck and found some consistency offensively as well. Milano is a highly skilled offensive winger with very good puck skills which allow him to possess the puck for extended periods, elude defenders and find teammates with creative passes and puck distribution. Milano is still struggling to make his way at the NHL level as in his first full season he is averaging ten minutes per game, has been a healthy scratch for a few games, but despite his limited deployment has managed five goals and 21 shots in 19 games.
4. Gabriel Carlsson, D – Columbus (NHL)
Drafted: 29th overall in the first round of the 2015 draft by Columbus
Last year was a tremendous development for Carlsson, spending the majority of the year playing for Linkoping in the SHL. He also saw time with Sweden at the WJC, finishing the year making his debut with both the Cleveland Monsters in the AHL and the Blue Jackets in the NHL. Carlsson is playing the entire season in North America this year and so far has bounced between the AHL and the NHL. The majority of his time has been in the NHL. The big defender is more of a defensive player and uses his size to his advantage in puck battles and dishing out hard hits. Carlsson has a high hockey IQ and reads and reacts well to plays, is often in position, makes good decisions, intercepts passes and forces turnovers. He may not create much offense, but he is a solid defensive defenseman.
5. Markus Hannikainen, LW/RW – Columbus (NHL)
Drafted: Undrafted, signed as a free agent in 2015 by Columbus
Hannikainen has spent the past two years in North America playing mainly in the AHL since signing as a free agent. He finished last year playing for Finland at the World Championship, and after going undrafted, he has established himself as a legit prospect. Playing mainly in the NHL in his third season, he is off to a fine start with two goals and four points in 12 games despite being a healthy scratch for several games and playing in just over eight minutes a game in a limited role. Despite the obstacles in his career path, going undrafted, playing in the AHL, limited minutes in the NHL, he continues to push forward and work his way up the depth chart as an underrated prospect.
6. Vladislav Gavrikov, D – SKA St. Petersburg (KL)
Drafted: 159th overall in the sixth round of the 2015 draft by Columbus
Gavrikov is a big physical defensive defenseman. He has racked up plenty of international experience in his young career including being named Captain of the World Junior team in 2015, representing Russia at the World Championship and is a contender to play in the Olympics. Gavrikov is a bit of a throwback defenseman in that he cannot create much offense. He has signed a two-year contract in the KHL which further clouds his NHL future.
7. Kole Sherwood, RW – Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
Drafted: Undrafted, signed as a free agent in 2015
Sherwood is in his third season in the OHL and on his third team. He made his debut with the London Knights in 2015, and last year took a step forward playing in a larger role with the Flint Firebirds, posting 33 goals and 52 points in 60 games. This year he is a Kitchener Ranger, recording 13 points in his first 14 games. Sherwood is a Columbus native and had a very strong rookie camp and training camp with Columbus this summer which raised his status on the depth chart. Sherwood is a big bodied offensive player that should have a strong final OHL season before making the jump to the pro level next year.
8. Andrew Peeke, D – University of Notre Dame (NCAA)
Drafted: 34th overall in the second round of the 2016 draft by Columbus
Peeke is a big two-way defenseman that skates well and sees the plays both offensively and defensively. Peeke could use his size more to his advantage. His offensive game is developing more in his sophomore season, building on his 2016-17 point total of 14 points in 40 games with eight points in the first 14 games this year. Defensively he is very sound and blocks a ton of shots, has good positioning and gap control as well. As Peeke continues to develop nicely at the college level there is no need to rush him.
9. Alexandre Texier, C – KalPa (Liiga)
Drafted: 45th overall in the second round of the 2017 draft by Columbus
The Columbus first pick in the ’17 draft (they had no first round pick) was a wild card as a France native Texier had limited competition playing in France. In his post-draft year he made the move to Liiga to play pro hockey. In his first 25 games he has five goals but only seven points. Drafted for his speed and puck skills, Texier is a project to be sure but one with good upside and plenty of promise.
10. Kevin Stenlund, C – HV71 (SHL)
Drafted: 58th overall in the second round of the 2015 draft by Columbus
Stenlund had a breakout year playing in the SHL for HV71 last year, posting 13 goals and 20 points in 48 games, and winning the SHL Championship. Off to a slower start this year due to an early injury, the big-bodied forward plays a smart, two-way and physical game that projects him as a potential middle-six forward.