With three first-round picks, Kekalainen says Columbus will be ‘active and aggressive’ at Draft

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If Jarmo Kekelainen’s past is any suggestion, he’ll be one to watch at the NHL Entry Draft.

The Blue Jackets GM — who, two months ago, shook up the trade deadline by acquiring Marian Gaborik — has vowed to be a mover and/or shaker at Sunday’s draft in New Jersey.

“Every draft is different, not just the players available but the conversations between clubs,” he told the Columbus Dispatch. “We’re going to be active and aggressive.”

That’s a quote worth paying attention to, as the rookie GM has the tools at his disposal to make a real splash.

Columbus holds three first-round picks — No. 14, 19 and 27 overall — and heads into Sunday with 17 players under contract for next season and over $18 million in cap space.

Kekalainen also has experience in holding three first-round picks from his time as St. Louis’ “draft guru.”

Here’s more, from the Dispatch:

In 2007, the Blues had three first-round picks — Nos. 9, 24 and 26 — at the draft in Nationwide Arena. Six years later, the results are a mixed bag. Kekalainen said the Blues tried hard to move up but couldn’t find any takers. So they traded down from the No. 9 spot, giving that pick to San Jose for No. 13 overall, a second-round pick and a third-round pick in 2008.

The Sharks took Logan Couture with the No. 9 pick, and the Blues took Lars Eller, who was later traded to Montreal for goaltender Jaroslav Halak. The Blues traded the No. 24 pick and a third-round pick to Calgary for No. 18 and took defenseman Ian Cole, who has had a so-so career. With the 26th overall pick, the Blues drafted [David] Perron, one of their “foundation” players.

“We would have taken Eller at No. 9, but we thought we’d get him later, and we were right,” Kekalainen said. “For San Jose, Couture was definitely a player worth moving up for.”

Kekalainen says his approach to drafting players is very basic.

“I have a very simple philosophy: You work hard and you rely on your instincts, which are shaped by your experiences,” he explained. “You have to get to the core of the player, find out what motivates them, find out what they’re about.”