Much of the talk about the young Columbus Blue Jackets’ prospects has centered around those in Columbus or in Cleveland. Despite the obvious fact that these are some of the top prospects in the organization, there are a good deal of players throughout Canada and Europe with promising futures.
The Columbus Blue Jackets Prospect Pool
Abramov has become a well-known prospect among Fifth Liners since being drafted last summer. The short and speedy winger has lit the QMJHL up this season, and because of that he is creating a great deal of buzz and excitement, albeit slightly tempered.
It’s easy for most Blue Jackets fans to get excited about the future, especially given the fact that this season has been so successful due to the young talent coming through the system. Abramov might just be another diamond in the rough style prospect for the Blue Jackets. With former third round selection Oliver Bjorkstrand starting to get his skates underneath him at the NHL level, there’s every reason to believe that the most recent third rounder could very well do the same in the foreseeable future.
While Abramov is not a big figure, coming in at 5’9″ (this might be a generous listing) and 172 lbs, he doesn’t need to be big to make his presence known. He’s a smooth skater and is fast as lightning, allowing him the ability to escape big hits and avoid the physical battles. Due to his success in imposing his fast-paced style he was able to rack up an impressive 104 points over 66 games this season, a slight improvement over his 93 points in 63 games in 2015-16.
The next prospect name that comes up is yet another third round selection in Keegan Kolesar. While Kolesar hasn’t generated nearly as much buzz as Bjorkstrand or Abramov, he’s still one to watch for the future of the organization.
Kolesar, unlike the aforementioned Abramov, is a big-bodied forward who isn’t afraid to use his size to his advantage to impose himself. Coming in at 6’2″ and 223 pounds, Kolesar is a force to be reckoned with at the WHL level, and could easily translate his physical play style to the AHL, and maybe someday to the NHL if his development offensively continues.
When Kolesar first came onto the scene full-time in the WHL back in 2013-14 he was bottom six forward who couldn’t contribute much offensively. Although he isn’t necessarily lighting up the WHL, his point production took a massive jump in 2015-16 and has continued into the 2016-17 season with a total of 121 points over 118 games. Not exactly numbers to get excited over, but for a physical bottom six forward this is solid point production.
It’s highly unlikely that Kolesar will make a long-term appearance in Columbus anytime soon, but he surely fits the bill as a future bottom six forward. Look for him to make a name for himself over the next few years in Cleveland, and possibly make the jump to take over the role as the physical presence in the bottom six someday from Josh Anderson.
Not much is known by the general Blue Jackets fan about Stenlund, primarily because he has been plying his trade in his home country of Sweden with HV71 Jonkoping. In his two seasons with the club he has made one very obvious improvement, point production. In his first season with the club in 2015-16 he scored a single goal and added another lone assist. This year was a much more successful one for Stenlund, with 13 goals and 20 total points to his name.
It’s tough, at this point, to tell whether or not the 20-year-old Swede will develop enough in his home country to make the jump to Columbus, but he’s definitely worth keeping an eye on. And with a 6’3″, 202-pound frame, he definitely has size on his side to be able to play center at the NHL level.
The first blueliner worthy of mention on this list is yet another Swedish-born prospect in Gabriel Carlsson. Carlsson is a big, physically-imposing defenseman, with little to add to offense. His lack of points, however, is not indicative of his potential as a lockdown defenseman.
Just like the aforementioned Stenlund, Carlsson is plying his trade in his home country of Sweden with Linkopings HC. But unlike Stenlund, there is a good deal of reports out there to give everyone a better idea as to what Columbus got with the 29th pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.
Before the 2015 draft, LWOH prospect guru Ben Kerr had Carlsson ranked as the 33rd overall prospect in the draft. Kerr states that the strongest part of play for Carlsson is in his own end. He goes on to say that Carlsson has a great hockey IQ, excellent positioning, cuts down lanes well, and breaks play out his zone extremely well. His weakness, however, is his inability to see the ice as well in his attacking zone, choosing not to join the rush when breaking out of his zone.
Carlsson is an exciting prospect, but don’t expect him to ever really put up much for point production at any level. The lack of points should not temper any excitement around the big Swede, as he has a high ceiling and will very likely be a solid NHLer sometime in the very near future.
Many Blue Jackets fans were left not knowing whether to be happy or mad about taking Peeke at 34th overall last summer, as little was known about the defensive prospect. Before being drafted in the second round, Peeke spent a single season in the USHL with the Green Bay Gamblers where he had 30 points over the course of 56 games and was easily their best and most well-rounded defenseman on their roster.
After being draft Peeke made the move from the USHL to NCAA hockey, committing to the University of Notre Dame. In his first season in the NCAA he played in 36 games and had four goals and nine assists, not a bad first season.
Merzlikins is a prospect with a good deal of promise, and many Blue Jackets fans have become accustomed with hearing his name on the international level. The Latvian-born goalie has been a bit of a late bloomer, but it is safe to say the he has the potential to be a very solid goalie.
Year after year Merzlikins has improved on the stat sheet for HC Lugano in Switzerland. He has shown great potential, and has shown time and time again that he is good at tracking the puck and moving quickly across the crease. The only question is whether or not he will ever come to play hockey in North America. It has been stated multiple times that Merzlikins is rather uninterested in coming to North America for anything other than NHL-level hockey. And with the likes of Sergei Bobrovsky and Joonas Korpisalo, it looks unlikely that that will happen anytime soon.
Columbus has one of the deepest prospect pools in the NHL currently, of that there is no doubt. With the likes of players like Oliver Bjorkstrand, Sonny Milano, Joonas Korpisalo, and the ones listed above, it’s easy to state that the future is bright for hockey in The Buckeye State.