Columbus Blue Jackets Youngsters Help Their Rise From the Ashes

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Updated: February 3, 2014

The Columbus Blue Jackets ended their three-game losing streak Wednesday night when they defeated the Washington Capitals 5-2 at Nationwide Arena. The Jackets were paced by second-year player Ryan Johansen who scored a pair of goals.

What has helped the rise of the team that ‘Carries The Flag’ from the bottom of the Eastern Conference to battling for a playoff spot are a quintet of high draft picks, along with a waiver pick-up growing up together and playing at the National Hockey League level.

Similar to the Major League Baseball draft, the NHL Entry Draft is a futures draft. Unless you have that ‘can’t miss’ prospect, like Taylor Hall in Edmonton or Nathan MacKinnon in Colorado, when a player is selected it is difficult to project where they will be two or three years down the line.

The five players that are a main cog of the Jackets’ success so far this season were selections made by then General Manager Scott Howson, who was relieved of his duties in October of 2012. Reaping the rewards of his moves are John Davidson, who came from St. Louis to be Director of Hockey Operations and Jarko Kekalainen, who was named general manager.

The main player of ‘that group’ is Johansen. The fourth overall pick in the 2011 Entry Draft (behind Hall, Tyler Seguin-Dallas, and Erik Gudbranson-Florida) he currently leads CBJ in scoring with 40 points (21 goals-19 assists).

The second is defenseman Ryan Murray. He was the second overall pick in the 2012 Entry Draft (Nail Yakupov-Edmonton was first). He played on two Canadian World Junior teams and was a high scoring defenseman with the Everett (WA) Silvertips in the WHL. In his rookie season he has 19 points (three goals) and has a plus/minus rating of +1.

Third is forward Boone Jenner. A second-round pick in the 2011 draft, he was an oddity as he played four junior seasons with the OHL’s Oshawa Generals. He became noticed when he scored hisfirst two goals in a game at Montreal in mid-October. Since then he has battled back from injury, as he has eight goals and 14 points as well as a +4 rating. From that second round only he and Detroit’s Tomas Jurko are currently on NHL rosters.

Helping Murray on the back line, is David Savard. A fourth-round pick in 2009, Savard played in the Quebec Junior League with Moncton and Baie Comeau. He spent last season with the Jackets team in the AHL the Springfield Falcons. He has just three goals and 11 points, but he is one of the tops on the club in blocked shots and in plus/minus at a +6.

The final member of the group is forward Corey Tropp, who was picked up off waivers from Buffalo.

In 36 games he has two goals and seven assists (nine points), as he works his way back from a knee injury that cost him the entire shorted 2012-13 season. A third-round pick by the Sabres in 2009, Tropp played college hockey at Michigan State and in the United States Hockey League with Sioux Falls. In training camp, then Buffalo head coach Ron Rolston had no plans for Tropp and he was released. CBJ picked him and he has been a blessing in disguise with all the injuries suffered during the first part of the season.

Coming into the season, Columbus was the youngest team in the NHL with its roster averaging 26.4 years of age. These five players have been the biggest reason the team weathered the storm of injuries in the first part of the season and their meteoric rise up the standings.

If this quintet stays healthy and intact, the Jackets have a nucleus to build on for continued success in the future.

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