Everybody was talking about the two big winners from Saturday’s draft lottery — Toronto, which won the No. 1 pick and Winnipeg, which made the biggest move up and finished with the second overall selection.
There was a third team that had itself a good draft lottery, too. Columbus came into the night holding the No. 4 spot, with the possibility of dropping as low as No. 7.
So it came as welcome news when the Blue Jackets moved up one spot — to No. 3.
“It’s a good draft, and we moved up one spot,” Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen said, per the Dispatch. “That’s much better than it could have been. Much better. It’s really good. We’re happy to move up, period.”
Getting into the top three was crucial because, as draftniks have espoused over the last few weeks, there’s a definitive upper echelon of this draft comprised of Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi.
All three are predicted to be impact players and in the NHL next season.
For Kekalainen and the Jackets, this is welcome news. Though the club would ideally like to land a quality young center — remember, Columbus dealt away Ryan Johansen in the Seth Jones deal — it is more than happy to add a talented winger.
Puljujarvi and/or Laine would compliment the club’s existing stable of young talent on the wings — Brandon Saad, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Sonny Milano, Kerby Rychel — and, possibly allow Kekalainen to address the lack of depth at center by trading one of his veteran forwards.
Whatever the case, though, this much is clear — Kekalainen is excited about the possibility of adding a fellow Finn to the organization. To say Columbus has done its homework on both Laine and Puljujarvi would be a big understatement, as Keklainen quipped Blue Jackets scouts have filed “at least a hundred reports on each of them.”
“They’ve been on the radar a long time,” he said.