Columbus’ all-time draft team: Tangled up in Blue Jackets

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It took a long time for the Blue Jackets to turn the corner as an NHL franchise. Just ask the long-suffering Rick Nash, who spent a decade in Columbus and never won a playoff game.

Rick Nash|USA Today

The Columbus Blue Jackets arrived as an NHL franchise in 2000, made the playoffs for the first time in 2009 and finally won their first playoff game in 2014. Their first playoff series victory was one of the biggest NHL upsets of all-time when they swept the heavily favored Tampa Bay Lightning last spring – but nearly two decades is an awfully long time to wait for your first taste of post-season success.

All of which is to say, the first 20 years of Blue Jackets hockey wasn’t exactly a master class in how to run an NHL franchise. And Columbus’ all-time all-drafted team reflects the franchise’s overall lack of success. You’re not going to see many (any?) of these players in the Hall of Fame. On the other hand, Columbus has qualified for the playoffs in each of the past three seasons and they’re in the ‘Qualifying Round’ mix this season (if, indeed, the rest of this season comes to pass). Clearly, the franchise has turned the corner and better days are ahead.

It goes without saying that the headliner on the Blue Jackets’ all-time draft team is Rick Nash. The No. 1 overall pick in 2002, Nash was the first forward drafted by Columbus in the first round after taking defenseman Rostislav Klesla in 2000 and goalie Pascal Leclaire in 2001. Nash is joined on the first line by center Ryan Johansen and right winger Jakub Voracek, both of whom started in Columbus before moving on and establishing their NHL credentials elsewhere.

On the second line, there’s center Derick Brassard – who, like Voracek and Johansen, began with the Blue Jackets but played his best hockey for other teams – between wingers Cam Atkinson and Matt Calvert. It’s a decent line, but, let’s face it, not exactly an all-time powerhouse. Pierre-Luc Dubois, Columbus’ current top-line center with three years of NHL experience, holds down the third-line pivot position. He’ll likely leapfrog Brassard before too long – and perhaps Johansen, too – but he’s a good fit as a physical, two-way center for the checking line. He’s joined by wingers Josh Anderson and Boone Jenner, a couple of bangers who can chip in offensively. The fourth line features plenty of skill, but inconsistency, too. Nikolai Zherdev might be the most talented player to ever don the Jackets jersey, but he ended up being more sizzle than substance. At least Alexander Wennberg and Oliver Bjorkstrand have managed to accomplish a bit more with their own high-end skill sets.

Zach Werenski, with all of four seasons of NHL experience, ranks as the all-drafted team’s No. 1 defenseman, and it’s not even close. He’s paired with Marc Methot, who brings physicality and shutdown ability. Klesla is joined by David Savard on the second pairing, with Ryan Murray and Kris Russell on the third unit. It’s not a bad defense corps, but it’s not a particularly good “all-time” blueline, either. Such is the plight of the Blue Jackets.

Steve Mason, winner of the 2008-09 Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie, is the starting goalie. Will Joonas Korpisalo overtake him – or will Korpisalo be overtaken himself by current creasemate Elvis Merzlikins (76th overall, 2014)?

Here’s a look at Columbus’ all-time all-drafted team. The 20-player lineup is based on players’ entire NHL body of work.

CENTERS
Ryan Johansen (4th, 2010)
Derick Brassard (6th, 2006)
Pierre-Luc Dubois (3rd, 2016)
Alexander Wennberg (14th, 2013)

RIGHT WINGERS
Jakub Voracek (7th, 2007)
Cam Atkinson (157th, 2008)
Josh Anderson (95th, 2012)
Nikolai Zherdev (4th, 2003)

LEFT WINGERS
Rick Nash (1st, 2002)
Matt Calvert (127th, 2008)
Boone Jenner (37th, 2011)
Oliver Bjorkstrand (89th, 2013)

DEFENSEMEN
Zach Werenski (8th, 2015)
Marc Methot (168th, 2003)
Rostislav Klesla (4th, 2000)
David Savard (94th, 2009)
Ryan Murray (2nd, 2012)
Kris Russell (67th, 2005)

GOALIES
Steve Mason (69th, 2006)
Joonas Korpisalo (62nd, 2012)