Columbus Blue Jackets NHL Draft Preview: What To Do With The Fifth Pick

Columbus Blue Jackets NHL Draft Preview: What To Do With The Fifth Pick

Barry Devoe
3 years ago
3 min read

While Columbus didn’t get the result they were looking for in moving up in the 2021 NHL Draft via the draft lottery; the good news is they didn’t move down either. By staying at fifth overall, the Blue Jackets should still get a quality player who could possibly step into the lineup on Opening Night in October 2021. 

The 2021 NHL Draft Class isn’t as strong as it has been in recent years, and there isn’t a consensus No. 1 overall pick (though University of Michigan defenseman Owen Power looks like the future top selection). Furthermore, COVID-19 significantly altered schedules for junior teams, collegiate programs, and national team development programs, and there will not be an in-person scouting combine. This year more than ever before, scouting is everything. 

Here are some of the top prospects Columbus should consider at No. 5 overall in the 2021 NHL Draft:

Matthew Beniers, C, University of Michigan

While Beniers is the most unlikely player on this list to be available at No. 5, he is still worth mentioning on this list because draft experts are so torn on where Beniers will actually end up on draft day; some have Beniers as high as first overall, others as low as 16th.

Beniers scored 10 goals and 14 assists in 24 games as a freshman at Michigan, but he underwhelmed at World Juniors with one goal and two assists in seven games. His overall game is a lot like Jonathan Toews as a prototypical two-way center, but he isn’t a very flashy player and isn’t the type of pure goal-scorer or pure playmaker you would normally see as a Top Five pick.

Luke Hughes, D, USA National Team Development Program

If New Jersey doesn’t select Hughes at fourth overall to join brother Jack in the Devils’ organization, Columbus should sprint to the podium to grab him. Hughes is an incredible defensive prospect, widely considered to have an even higher ceiling than his other brother, Quinn, who plays for the Vancouver Canucks.

Hughes is an excellent skater, reads his gaps well, makes smart decisions, and can contribute offensively. If the rumors that Seth Jones wants to move on from the Blue Jackets are true, Hughes could be not only the best player available at No. 5 but also a player who fits the biggest need.

Simon Edvinsson, D, Frolunda Jr. (Sweden)

Like Hughes, Edvinsson could fit a significant organizational need while still providing great value if Hughes is off the board. There is some deliberation as to whether Hughes or Edvinsson has the higher upside, with Hughes having a slight edge in scoring ability but Edvinsson having a more polished defensive game and a bigger frame (Edvinsson is 6’4”, 198, Hughes is 6’2”, 184). 

The other advantage with Edvinsson is his experience playing in professional leagues in Europe, rather than strictly U-20 opponents. Edvinsson spent time with Frolunda in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL), as well as the HockeyAllsvenskan (akin to being the AHL of Swedish hockey).

William Eklund, LW, Djurgårdens IF, Sweden

Without a doubt, the Blue Jackets need players throughout the organization who can put the puck in the net. After tying for the third-fewest goals in the league in 2020, Eklund could provide a scoring punch a couple of years down the road.

Eklund scored 11 goals and added 12 assists in 40 games in the SHL, again being an 18-year-old prospect playing against grown men. His skating is phenomenal, and though his top-end speed is just short of being considered “elite” for a prospect, his edgework and agility definitely fit that criteria.

While he likely needs another year or two in Sweden to polish his overall game, Eklund is a prospect Blue Jackets fans can and should get excited about. Of the four players mentioned here, he is the likeliest to end up in a Columbus sweater. 

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