Columnist: Jackets should trade their first-round pick so they don’t choose another Russian

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The Columbus Blue Jackets are poised to pick first overall this summer at the NHL draft. In the past when they’ve had high picks, they’ve had some trouble. While they were able to snag Rick Nash first overall in 2002, they’ve had issues in other years.

With this year’s draft featuring top prospects like Russians Nail Yakupov and Mikhail Grigorenko, the Jackets are in a curious position. Toronto Sun columnist Steve Simmons says he has a solution for Columbus: Trade away their first-round pick to avoid having to take a potential Russian superstar.

Twice in recent history, the Jackets used an early pick on a Russian forward. Twice they failed. It didn’t work out with Nikolai Zherdev or with Nikita Filatov. They can’t afford to fail a third time with the franchise so tender.

The options, along with dealing Nash, are this for Columbus: 1) They could keep the pick and not choose Yakupov, which would be counter-productive; 2) They could flip picks with another team, trading the first choice for another early choice, and getting an asset as well; 3) They could trade the pick to the highest bidder and begin rebuilding their team.

The problem here is that guys like Filatov and Zherdev weren’t labeled as “can’t miss” prospects. Yakupov and Grigorenko are potential franchise-changing players given what they’ve been able to do as juniors. If the Jackets wind up dealing Nash this summer, they’re going to need someone to fill his role as the offensive go-to guy and to do that they’ll need it to come from one of these future stars.

Then again, with how miserably the Blue Jackets have been run throughout their short history, blowing this situation would be all too familiar of a circumstance.