NHL

Columbus Blue Jackets: 2008-09 Top 12 prospects

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Shane Malloy, Prospect Insider
11/26/2008 4:04:27 AM
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After nine drafts, the Columbus Blue Jackets almost have a full cupboard of prospects to draw from. While Kris Russell and Jared Boll have played enough NHL games last year to come off this list, the next group is not far behind. It looked like the cupboard was bare a few years ago but the last three drafts have replenished the stocks. The Blue Jackets need only to be a little more patient as the prospects continue to develop. They have a couple of potential All-Stars and the rest could make up a good core of third and fourth liners or No. 4 to No. 7 defencemen.

Up front is where most of the talent and depth is, and Columbus has three potential elite players in Derick Brassard, Nikita Filatov and Jakub Voracek. Both Brassard and Voracek are making a mark in the NHL as rookies and all have the capability to play in the top six as dangerous offensive players. The remaining group of Derek Dorsett, Maxim Mayorov, Tim Sestito, Adam Pineault and (potentially) Stefan Legein could all develop into role players on the third and fourth lines.

The defence has six unknown blueliners in Will Weber, Cody Goloubef, Andrei Plekhanov and Brent Regner, along with recently acquired players Jonathan Sigalet and Ted Ruth. They all have shown some tools to play at the pro level, but none of them are projected to play in the top three. The Blue Jackets will need a couple more blueliners in the system with the potential to develop into top four defencemen. In goal, Columbus looks to be in good position with Pascal Leclaire as a solid netminder and the talented Steve Mason developing quicker that expected. The lone wild card in the system is goaltender Dan LaCosta, who has suffered some setbacks due to injury.

In the end, it could be the 2004 NHL Draft that comes back to hurt Columbus long term, as they had five players drafted in the Top 100 and maybe one will make it to the NHL. With their top two round picks in 2009 they need to add a couple of potential elite defenseman to the mix and fill a long term need for the organization.

Derick Brassard – Centre, 21 (1st round 6th overall 2006)
Currently with Columbus (AHL)
After an injury riddled junior season where he missed all but 14 regular season games and 12 playoff games in 2006-07, he rebounded with a great rookie season in the AHL. To his credit, he did have 25 points in those 14 regular season games and an impressive 24 points in the 12 postseason tilts. Last season, he played 42 games and picked up 51 points with a plus-9 rating and 51 penalty minutes which earned him a 17-game call up to the NHL. His postseason numbers in the AHL where equally impressive for a rookie since he had a point a game with 13 points in 13 games. At first glance, he looks more like a skinny skater kid hanging out at the 7-11 than a potential NHL offensive force. But looks can be deceiving. He has the ability to single-handedly take over a game, as he possesses great speed and hockey sense while not being afraid to get his nose dirty to score. His puck skills, vision and passing are at an elite level and he has the ability to be a top setup man with a developing goal scoring ability. He can be dazzling with the puck and can stickhandle and deke at high speed to create time and space for himself and his teammates. He uses his linemates well and sees his options generally a couple steps ahead of others. He has shown a feisty edge at times, but is not a physical player and needs to get stronger to compete against NHL defencemen on a regular basis. He's developing into a responsible defensive player knowing that more offensive opportunities derive from coming back to help the defense than having puck possession. Since he is small, he uses his quickness and intercepts passes by getting his stick in the passing lanes. He has improved on keeping his head on a swivel and using angles and body position to his advantage. He must continue to get physically stronger, but has the capability to be a Daniel Briere clone and a top line, point-producing pivot. This season, Brassard is currently leading all NHL rookies in scoring and could win the Calder Trophy if he continues at this pace.

Jakub Voracek – Right Wing, 19 (1st round 8th overall 2007)
Currently with Columbus (NHL)
The Czech born player is an impressive offensive talent that can change the game with his speed, quickness and ability to make defenders look silly one-on-one. He has the hockey sense to play at an elite level in the NHL, but tends to be more of a playmaker than a scorer. But do not think for one minute he is not dangerous when shooting. He has the vision and puck skills to be effective on the power play and has been known to play the point. His wrist and slap shot are both dangerously quick and accurate, especially in close. He's not afraid to get his nose dirty and plays a North American style. He's responsible defensively, but still needs some refinement in that area. Has good size at 6 foot 2 and 190 pounds and he will be come more effective when he continues to get stronger and increase his overall fitness level. His offensive numbers have been impressive the past two seasons, with 187 points in 112 games while only picking up 68 penalty minutes. Most importantly, he showed in the playoffs he could take his game to another level as he had 12 goals and 30 assists in only 27 games over the past two years. He has a great attitude and work ethic and is one of those players that just loves being at the rink. He's made the jump to the NHL quickly after two years of junior and expect him to be a Calder Trophy candidate by the end of the year as he adjusts to the tempo and speed.

Steve Mason – Goalie, 20 (3rd round 69th overall 2006)
Currently with Columbus (NHL)
The lanky south paw has developed quickly and looks to have the ability to become a No. 1 NHL netminder in about two to three years. He took his game to another level leading team Canada to gold at the WJC but an unfortunate injury took him out of the Memorial Cup. After three seasons he has compiled a record of 77-23-7, five shutouts, a 2.90 GAA and an impressive .916 save percentage. His postseason numbers are equally solid with a 14-7 record, one shutout with a 3.05 GAA and a .921 save percentage. Mason shows good quickness, agility and lateral movement in and outside of his crease and remains in compact form. He has good positioning, plays aggressively and does not give much to look at. He is improving on his shot recovery and rebound control to help his defensemen clear pucks away and keep them out of danger. When his shot recovery gets stronger, the physical and mental stamina will go to another level. He will flash a quick glove hand and is using his blocker more effectively for directing pucks to the corners. He is a poised and relaxed netminder who can handle a high percentage of quality shots without being rattled. His ability to move and play the puck will be a tremendous asset at the NHL level to help his defencemen and keep the forecheck honest. Due to an injury to Pascal LeClaire, he made the jump to the NHL and made quite an impression in the first five games he's played. Expect him to play in the AHL for the majority of season and fight for ice time with Dan LaCosta.

Nikita Filatov – Left Wing, 18 (1st round 6th overall 2008)
Currently with Syracuse (AHL)
He is the most dynamic forward to come out of Russia since Evgeni Malkin! He has the ability to dominate and take over a game at will. His hockey sense and vision are exceptional and he reads the play like he is in a slow moving chess game. He makes smart, fast decisions with the puck and never seems to panic. To say he can stickhandle his way out a phone booth is an understatement, as he can turn players inside out and weave his magic. What truly sets him apart is his speed and his ability to separate in two strides. He can bob and weave like Barry Sanders on the football field at full speed with the puck, and if you do not keep great gap control he will be all alone on the goaltender. Filatov is a patient shooter and knows when to wait or release the puck instantly depending on the situation. His wrist shot is deadly accurate, while his slap shot has surprising zip that can fool goaltenders. He shows no fear going to the net. To his credit, he plays a responsible defensive game and shows hustle coming back to support his defencemen. He uses his speed and quick stick to close passing lanes and is a puck possession defender. He's a kind of skinny kid at 175 pounds and can get pushed around if you catch him. But once he reaches the 200 range, he could be absolutely lethal. Despite his lack of strength, he competes hard and is considered a perimeter player. He's a clutch performer and is on the ice in all crucial situations. It is clear Filatov does not like to lose. He shows commitment to his team and the fact he speaks English very well certainly helps. He shows passion for the game like Alexander Ovechkin and will go far in NHL if he makes the sacrifices. For an eighteen year old kid to leave home and make the jump to the AHL is impressive, and his play thus far has not disappointed. Do not be shocked to see him on the Columbus roster after Christmas as he continues his rapid development.

Jonathan Sigalet – Defense, 22 (4th round 100th overall 2005-Trade Boston 2008)
Currently with Syracuse (AHL)
He's a slick puck-moving defenseman who has the skating ability and vision to develop into an offensive force. He has a slight frame and could use some work in the weight room. Having only played two years in the NCAA, he will need some time to groom at the AHL level. An unfortunate shoulder injury in the 2006-2007 season hampered a promising season, as he had 22 points in 50 games but followed it up with 23 points in 74 games last season in Providence. In 199 games in the AHL, he has posted 81 points and is looking to crack the Columbus lineup in 2008-2009. He has the height at 6 foot 2 and has finally put on the necessary weight and strength at 199 pounds. He has above average puck skills and passing ability with time and space. He shows a good array of shots and gets it away quick enough, but he's not usually in the right place to take advantage of that. He's considered an above average skater and he has a bit of a hunched over style, and has the extra gear and quickness that came with more power to his core and lower body. To his credit, he plays a safe and smart game away from the puck. He mixes it up physically when needed, and shows the ability to work along the walls and fight for loose pucks. He seems to be an ideal defenceman for the more free wheeling game in the NHL, but he has not put it all together yet. Columbus will be patient as he's currently leading all defencemen in points in Syracuse and looks to be coming into his own.

Teddy Ruth – Defense, 19 (2nd round 46th overall 2007 – Trade Washington)
Currently with Notre Dame (NCAA)
He's an underrated defenceman who does many things very well and shows the hockey sense and work ethic to play as a pro one day. Not a big guy at 6 foot 1 and 200 pounds, but he plays hard and has a good power to weight ratio. He's a strong skater who has enough acceleration and lateral movement to handle quick forwards. He will play a physical game and lay the body when forwards linger around the net or along the boards. Though he does not produce much offense with five points in 42 games last season, he makes decent passes and displays enough puck skills and patience. He shows intangibles in terms of leadership, is accountable on the ice and sticks up for his teammates. Expect him to play at least three seasons before turning pro and it would not hurt him to stay for the fourth as well.

Adam Pineault – Right Wing, 22 (2nd round 46th overall 2004)
Currently with Syracuse (AHL)
After moving from four different organizations and five leagues over the last seven years, he is beginning to show the consistency and ability to play at the pro level. He shows the hockey sense to play in the AHL and it remains to be seen if he can translate that to the NHL level. He has decent puck skills and can stickhandle and pass the puck, but that's not his strength and forte. He works hard battling for loose pucks in the offensive zone and finds seams and gets good body position. He's a very good overall skater and displays the quickness and foot speed needed to excel at the NHL level. He also has a sneaky wrist and right-handed slap shot. His ability to shoot the puck from anywhere and get the puck on net is a valuable asset, especially on the power play. Over the past two seasons in the AHL, he has been decent defensively and is improving on picking up his forward on the back check. He jumped from 28 points last season to 48 points this season in 74 games and if he can repeat that improvement, he could make the NHL in 2009.

Dan LaCosta – Goalie, 22 (3rd round 93rd overall 2004)
Currently with Syracuse (AHL)
Due to the log jam in the crease in Syracuse, LaCosta has bounced back and forth from the ECHL to the AHL over the last couple seasons. Last season, he posted good numbers as a backup in the AHL with 9-2-3 record and a respectable 2.12 GAA and a .932 save percentage. Even his ECHL numbers were solid with a 7-4-1 record, 2.15 GAA and identical .932 save percentage. He suffered an injury last season that set back his development and playing time, so he is trying to make up for it this season. He has decent size at 6 foot 2 and 185 pounds and covers a good part of the net when he remains square to the shooter. He's a good skater and shows quickness and agility in the crease with athletic ability. He has improved his positional play, adjusted to the speed of the pro game and consistently remains compact. He has learned not to rely too heavily on taking away the bottom half of the net and keeps his back upright to keep shooters honest. His mental focus and concentration is better and he does not get as flustered when in heavy traffic or corralling rebounds. He might have the potential as a backup netminder at the NHL level and will need another year or two in the AHL to round out his game.

Will Weber – Defense, 20 (2nd round 53rd overall 2007)
Currently with Miami (NCAA)
He's a big strapping 6 foot 4, 205-pound defenceman who likes to bang bodies and be a physical presence. He is not blessed with elite level hockey sense or puck skills, so he must keep things simple when the puck is on his stick. Fortunately, he is an excellent skater for his size which allows him to recover quickly on the rush. He's getting better with his defensive reads and must use his body position, skating ability and wing span to his advantage once he has maintained proper position. Weber is a long term project and needs three more seasons of development in college hockey to see if he can turn into a defensive defenseman. In his 46 games last season in the USHL, he posted 18 points and averaged three penalty minutes a game with 137 penalty minutes.

Cody Goloubef – Defense, 18 (2nd round 37th overall 2008)
Currently with Wisconsin (NCAA)
Cody's a sophomore at Wisconsin beginning to learn the nuances of the defensive game. And he's showing he could develop into a reliable defensive defenseman. He does not have great size at 6 feet and 195 pounds, but thinks the game pretty well and makes up for it with an active stick and body position. He will need to get physically stronger, especially to handle larger, stronger forwards at the next level. He skates really well and can elude forecheckers by keeping the puck away and not taking hits. His offensive numbers are not really impressive and he does not move the puck fast enough or have the vision to make those passes needed to create offense. Last season as a freshman, he posted four goals and six assists in 40 games and is on pace for similar numbers this year. Expect him to play all four years at Wisconsin before turning pro and at that time he should be ready to take the next step.

Derek Dorsett – Right Wing, 21 (7th round 189th overall 2006)
Currently with Syracuse (AHL)
He's a valuable role player with the character and moxie needed to make the NHL even without the high end skill set. He's a smaller forward at 5 foot 11 and 180 pounds, but brings energy, intensity and a willingness to drop the gloves. He has average puck skills and offensive instincts and is not expected to contribute much offense at the pro level. However, he can score timely goals due to effort. Dorsett is a strong skater who has quickness and agility, along with great core strength as he is rarely run over. He hits someone on every shift and causes headaches on the forecheck as one of the toughest middleweight pugilists in the league. His defensive game is improving since he is very coachable and works hard and understands he must be solid in this area to play in the NHL. He probably needs a couple more years in the AHL to round out his game, but he could see some time in the NHL and could be a solid fourth liner.

Tom Sestito – Left Wing, 21 (3rd round 85th overall 2006)
Currently with Syracuse (AHL)
He's a big, solid north-south winger at 6 foot 4 and 210 pounds and has enough tools to play pro hockey and maybe the NHL. He did not show much offensive flare in his first two seasons in the OHL, but tripled his production with 42 goals and 22 assists in 2006-2007. His rookie season in Syracuse last year showed promising results, as he picked up 23 points in 66 games along with 202 penalty minutes. He does not have the hockey sense and offensive savvy to play on the top three lines, but does get points based on grit and hard work. He has good skating ability and enough quickness and agility to make life difficult on defencemen when on the forecheck or driving to the net. He has a decent shot and shows soft hands in close and will score goals as an opportunist. He plays a tough physical style and is willing to drop the gloves and take care of business. He needs some work on his defensive game like all young prospects. But as long as he uses his size, hustles and keeps his feet moving, everything should come along. He may need another year or two in the minors before getting a shot.

Columbus Blue Jackets - NHL Entry Draft Record (2000 - 2003)

When looking at the drafting and developing record of a NHL organization, it becomes an interesting blend of statistics and circumstances with perhaps some luck thrown in for good measure. Most of the time it's the general manager who receives kudos for a team's fortunes at the draft table. But it's usually never the case in today's NHL. For the most part, there are three aspects that make the whole process work. First it's the amateur scouting department's ability to evaluate and project talent - the most challenging aspect of all. Next is the organization's player development department, which must attempt to mold the prospects by giving the players tools to enhance their talents. Perhaps the most important aspect is the prospect's responsibility to pay the price and sacrifice - which generally requires a tremendous work ethic. If one of these aspects fails, then the likelihood of a prospect turning into an asset to his organization and having a NHL career becomes remote.

The reason for the analyzing the years from 1997 to 2003 is to first give each NHL organization five years to develop their prospects. After all, players from different leagues evolve differently. Secondly, the years 1997-2003 involve the players that should be the building blocks for the core of your team - as they will be in the 23-29 year old age range. What makes each organization unique is what they do with the picks they have, as management will often trade draft choices for immediate help on their NHL and AHL teams. Now some players may be real late bloomers and eventually make the criteria set in this analysis down the road, but at this stage it is fascinating to see the results.

Criteria of NHL games played that deem a player has been drafted and developed successfully

  Forwards - Defenceman Goaltenders
1997-2001 125-200 NHL Games required 51-100 NHL Games Played
2002-2003 100 NHL Games required 25-50 NHL Games Played
Pending Player - Represents a player who has a legitimate chance to make criteria

Columbus Blue Jackets Prospects 2000-2003

Year Draft Picks NHL Players Produced (Round/Pick)
2000 11 ((2) (D) Rostislav Klesla (1/4), (D) Petteri Nummelin (5/133)
2001 11 (2) (G) Pascal LeClaire, (D) Aaron Johnson (3/85)
2002 13 (3) (LW) Rick Nash (1/1), (D) Ole-Kristian Tollefsen (3/65), (LW) Lasse Pirjeta (5/133)
2003 10 (2) (RW) Nikolai Zherdev (1/4), (RW) Dan Fritsche (2/46)

Total: 4 yrs - 45 draft picks - 9 NHL Players = 20.0% success rate

Success in the first three rounds (2000-2003)

1st rnd Draft Choices: 4 total picks
Undeveloped Prospects: None
4 yrs - 4 draft picks - 4 NHL Players = 100.0% success rate

2nd rnd Draft Choices: 4 total picks
Undeveloped Prospects: Tim Jackman, Kiel McLeod, Joakim Lindstrom
4 yrs - 4 draft picks - 1 NHL Players = 25.0% success rate

3rd rnd Choices: 6 total picks
Undeveloped Prospects - Ben Knopp, Per Mars, Jeff Genovy, Dmitry Kosmachev
4yrs - 6 draft picks - 2 NHL Players = 33.3% success rate

Total: 4 yrs - 14 draft picks - 7 NHL Players = 50.0% success rate in first 3 rounds

First Three Rounds - Developed vs. Prospects/NA vs. Euro
Developed players: (4) North American, (3) European
Undeveloped Prospects: Undeveloped Prospects: (4) North American, (3) European

Success in the last six rounds (2000-2003)

4th rnd to 9th rnd Choices: 31 total picks
7yrs - 31 draft picks - 2 NHL Players = 6.5% success rate

Shane Malloy provides hockey prospect insight and analysis on his Prospect Insider feature on TSN.ca, Canada's leading sports website. Many sports networks, hockey magazines and major newspapers have drawn upon his expertise and knowledge. His passion for the game and involvement in grass roots hockey from the junior hockey to the National Hockey League is evident. He is currently a host and hockey event reporter on XM Sirius Satellite Radio (Home Ice 204) where he co-hosts a hockey radio show on Hockey Prospects and the Business of Hockey.

Prior to joining TSN, Malloy was the columnist-covering prospects for NHL.com for two years and a NHL and prospect columnist Fox Sports.com for six years.

This document is the intellectual property of Shane Malloy and cannot be used or duplicated in anyway without expressed written consent. Any use of this document without the expressed written consent of Shane Malloy will result in public exposure and legal prosecution.

Nikita Filatov (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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