The Columbus Blue Jackets underwent a front-office shakeup last season, with John Davidson taking over as president of hockey operations and hiring Jarmo Kekalainen as general manager. One reason for the change was the Blue Jackets' inability to turn high draft picks into a winning team. In their first 13 seasons, they had a top-six pick 11 times, but they have made the Stanley Cup Playoffs once and only one of those 11 high picks (Ryan Johansen) remains in the organization.
Davidson and Kekalainen are hoping to change that. They had three first-round picks in the 2013 NHL Draft and are hoping those players, along with some holdovers, will give the organization the boost it needs to become a consistent playoff qualifier.
Here's a look at the best of the Blue Jackets' prospects, according to NHL.com:
1. Ryan Murray, D: The 2012-13 season was a wasted one for Murray, the second player taken in the 2012 NHL Draft. The Blue Jackets returned him to his junior team, the Everett Silvertips, during the lockout, only to see the 19-year-old injure his shoulder in November and require season-ending surgery.
Murray, now 6-foot-1 and 198 pounds, is a year older, a year stronger and says his shoulder is fully healed. His coach in Everett, Craig Hartsburg, now is an assistant on coach Todd Richards' staff, and Richards said he's eager to see what a healthy Murray can do.
"I'm excited to see him," Richards told NHL.com. "He spent his whole summer here. He's ready to go. It's a big jump going from junior hockey to the NHL, especially missing the number of games and the time he missed last year because of his injury, so I don't know where he's going to be at. But from everything I've heard, I think he's the real deal and it's only a question of when."
2. Boone Jenner, C: The Blue Jackets will see what Jenner can do in the pros after a superb season with the Oshawa Generals of the Ontario Hockey League to finish his junior career. He had 45 goals and 82 points in 56 games, and then had three goals and an assist in five regular-season games with Columbus' American Hockey League affiliate, the Springfield Falcons. He also contributed two goals and five points in eight playoff games.
Jenner, 20, also impressed during Columbus' training camp in January, when he was one of the last cuts. With newcomer Nathan Horton out for the start of the season after offseason shoulder surgery, the 6-2, 204-pound center figures to get every chance to make the team, either in the middle or on the wing; if not, he'll likely be the No. 1 center in Springfield.
3. Oscar Dansk, G: The 19-year-old Swede, Columbus' second-round pick (No. 31) in the 2012 NHL Draft, had a rough introduction to North American junior hockey last season, going 11-23-6 with a 4.11 goals-against average while playing for the Erie Otters of the OHL, a team that got shelled on a nightly basis. Those numbers don't tell the whole story -- Dansk saw an average of nearly 37 shots a game and was among the top 15 in the league in saves. At 6-3, 187, Dansk can leverage his size to cover a lot of net and won't give up on plays. He'll be back in Erie and could be the starter for Sweden at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship.
4. Alexander Wennberg, C: The first of Columbus' three first-round picks (No. 14) in the 2013 NHL Draft is a 6-1, 190-pound center who's probably a bit of a longer-term project. He's a strong two-way player who put up 14 goals and 32 points in 46 games playing against men in the Allsvenskan, Sweden's second-tier professional league. Wennberg, 18, has good hockey sense and passing ability, and he prides himself on making the right play rather than the flashy one. He'll play for Frolunda in the Swedish Hockey League this season before considering a move to North America.
5. T.J. Tynan, C: Tynan, Columbus' third-round pick (No. 66) at the 2011 draft, is coming off the worst of his three seasons at Notre Dame. The 21-year-old finished 2012-13 with 28 points, continuing a trend that has seen him go from 23 goals and 54 points as a freshman to 13 goals and 41 points as a sophomore to 10 goals and 28 points last season, the first in which he was not named an All-American. At 5-8, 165, he's a terrific playmaker, sees the ice well and has become a better defensive player.
6. Cody Goloubef, D: After three seasons with the Blue Jackets' AHL affiliate, the Springfield Falcons, the 23-year-old is on the cusp of earning a spot on Columbus' blue line. He spent 11 games with the Blue Jackets last season and scored his first NHL goal. At 6-1, 190, Goloubef doesn't have overwhelming size, but the No. 37 pick in 2008 took steps to improve his play at both ends of the ice last season and could earn a spot as a depth defenseman.
7. Jonathan Audy-Marchessault, C: If Audy-Marchessault were an inch or two bigger and 10 pounds heavier than the 5-9, 175 he's listed at, he'd be a lot higher on this list, because there's no doubting his offensive skills. He's put up 64 and 67 points in two seasons in the AHL, finishing in the top 10 in scoring each time, and earned his first promotion to the NHL when the Blue Jackets called him up for two games. Audy-Marchessault, 22, competes and battles for loose pucks, and can kill penalties, but he'll have to show he can stand up to the physical game in the NHL.
8. Kerby Rychel, LW: Rychel, the son of former NHL forward Warren Rychel, was the 19th player taken in the 2013 NHL Draft after back-to-back 40-goal seasons with the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL. He's got an excellent shot, good puck skills and fine instincts offensively when he doesn't have the puck, and at 6-1, 205, he's got the size to battle in front of the net. Rychel, 18, will have to work on his skating and defense, and likely will spend at least one more season in junior hockey.
9. Mike Reilly, D: Reilly, taken in the fourth round (No. 98) by Columbus in 2011, had a solid if not spectacular freshman season at the University of Minnesota, with three goals and 11 points in 37 games. He played on the United States team that won the gold medal at the World Junior Championship. Reilly, 20, brings plenty to the table offensively: high-end speed along with good passing and puck-handling skills. But he needs to improve defensively and at 5-11, 156 (his listed measurements with the Blue Jackets), he'll have to add a lot of strength to avoid being overmatched physically.
10. Marko Dano, C: The third of the Blue Jackets' three first-rounders (No. 27) at the 2013 draft was one of the better players at the 2013 IIHF World Junior Championship and was good enough to play for Austria at the World Championship in May. He's quick on his skates, with good vision, passing skills and decision-making ability, and had three goals and seven points in 37 games against men with Slovan Bratislava in the Kontinental Hockey League. He's listed at 5-11, 183, meaning he'll need to add strength to play on the smaller NHL ice surface. Because he was drafted from a European club, the Blue Jackets could try to get the 18-year-old to come to North America and play in Springfield this season.
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Author: John Kreiser | NHL.com Columnist
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