Philadelphia, PA — The Blue jackets went with a distinctly American flavor at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft in the City of Brotherly Love, with four of their seven picks hailing from the United States. In addition to Sonny Milano (16th overall, 1st round), Columbus chose three more Americans, two Canadians and one European (Latvia) player.
While none of these players will have an immediate impact on the Blue Jackets roster (think three years down the road), this is a solid draft class by GM and company. Columbus is drafting for depth and building the organization with being competitive over the long run.
The Blue Jackets had six picks in the second day of the draft, with the only surprise being trading the 63rd (3rd rd) pick to Detroit in exchange for the 76th (3rd rd) pick and a 3rd rd pick in the 2015 draft. That extra 3rd rd pick in next years’ draft gives Columbus one 1st rd, two 2nd rd and three 3rd rd picks to start the 2015 Draft in a draft that is considered to be much deeper than this years’ draft.
In the second round, they picked defenseman Ryan Collins (USNTDP). Hailing from Bloomington, Minnesota, he’s a right-handed shot that stands 6’5" and weighs 180 lbs. He’s committed to the University of Minnesota this fall. Considered a defensive-defenseman, he brings size, skill and a defensive awareness to his game.
"I’m a big guy and obviously have a long way to go to fill out my frame," said Collins. "I’m a physical defenseman. I’m not a huge open-ice hitter, but I like to use physicality as an effective part of my game."
In the third round, Columbus traded down to have the 76th pick to use in conjunction with their 77th pick. With the 76th pick, they chose Latvian goaltender Elvis Merzlikins (HC Lugano). The 6’3", 185 lb. Riga native was ranked as the sixth-best European goaltender by Central Scouting. He could be considered a classic late-bloomer, as this was his third year eligible for the draft. He displays a very mature, advanced game for a 20 year old. He also handles the puck very well.
Coming right on the heels of Elvis, defenseman Blake Siebenaler (OHL) was selected 77th. The Fort Wayne, Indiana native is a right-handed shot that stands 6’1" and weighs in at 192 lbs. He played U-16 midget hockey with the Cleveland barons in 2011-12 (two Barons alum drafted by the same team in the same draft). He’s an offensive-defenseman who possesses the puck well in addition to being a very good skater with tremendous passing skills.
"I try and play a two-way game," Siebenaler said. "I try to contribute offensively as much as possible, but I definitely need to improve on my defensive game."
Moving to the fourth round, Columbus used its pick at 107 to select left wing Julien Pelletier (QMJHL). The Thurso, Quebec native is a left-handed shot that stands 5’11" and weighs 180 lbs. He has creative hands combined with an ability to make plays. He has the ability to get the jump on defenders, which will only get better as he improves his skills.
"I’m really happy to go to Columbus," said Pelletier. "I can put the puck in the net, (but) also pass the puck really well. I’m a fast skater with good skills and good vision."
Next up for Columbus was the fifth round pick (acquired from the Edmonton Oilers in exchange for defenseman Nikita Nikitin), where they selected Andover, MA native, right winger Tyler Bird (high school). He’s a right-handed shot that stands 6’2" and weighs in at 200 lbs. He was listed on the Central Scouting final rankings as 117 among North American skaters. In 37 games for Kimball Union Academy (NH), he racked up 33-27-60. He’s committed to Brown University in the fall.
Wrapping up the 2014 NHL Entry Draft for Columbus was Quebec City native, defenseman Olivier LeBlanc (QMJHL). Weighing-in at 160 lbs, the left-handed shot stands 6’0". He was ranked 126th by Central Scouting in their final rankings of North American skaters. He is definitely a work-in-progress, he’s considered an undersized, light-weight defenseman that has good vision and puck-moving ability.
And there you have it, the 2014 NHL Draft class (rounds 2-7) of the Columbus Blue Jackets. As said previously, don’t expect any of these players to make the transition to the NHL any time in the near future. You can see some, if not all, of these prospects at the Blue Jackets Development Camp, July 7-11. Also attending the camp will be players selected in last years’ draft.
Also of note, the NHL’s Free Agency period opens up on Tuesday, July 1. After trading to get Scott Hartnell, I wouldn’t expect Columbus to make a big splash in free agency. But then again, I’ve been wrong before.