Following breakout seasons from young Columbus Blue Jackets like Boone Jenner, Ryan Murray and Ryan Johansen, fans are eager to see the next wave of impact players in Columbus. While some Jackets’ prospects are more NHL-ready than others, these are 5 of the organization’s most promising prospects:
Tim Erixon, D
A 23-year-old defenseman with 51 NHL games played, Tim Erixon can hardly be considered a prospect anymore. A former 1st round pick in 2009 by the Calgary Flames, Erixon is already in his 3rd NHL organization. He came to Columbus as a part of the New York Rangers’ package for Rick Nash, which included Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov.
Despite his late development, Erixon may have finally turned the corner in 2014. In just 40 games with the Springfield Falcons (Columbus’ AHL-affiliate), Erixon put up 38 points (5G, 33A). Close to point-per-game numbers are impressive for a defenseman at any level. Tim Erixon is a restricted free-agent this summer and will be quite disappointed not to earn an NHL-roster spot during training camp.
Alex Wennberg, C
The Swedish center selected by the Blue Jackets with the 13th pick of the 1st round in 2013 does not turn 20 until late-September. Last week, Alex Wennberg signed a 3-year entry level contract with the Blue Jackets and will more than likely play in North America next season.
The teenager has talent, but is a longshot to make the Jackets’ roster for at least another year or two. Barring an outstanding training camp, Wennberg will likely adjust to the North American game in Springfield of the AHL during the 2014- 2015 campaign.
Kerby Rychel, LW
Lost in numerous players changing homes in the 2012 Rick Nash trade was the first round pick Columbus acquired from the Rangers. That 1st round pick was the 19th overall pick and is better known now as Kerby Rychel.
The California kid turns 20 in October, but already has four seasons of OHL hockey under his belt. In each of those four seasons, he played between 58-68 games and saw his point totals routinely increase (21, 74, 87, 90). The kid looks ready to play against men, but do not expect Rychel to make the NHL lineup next season.
Oliver Bjorkstrand, RW
The 2013 draft already looked solid for Columbus before they snagged this potential steal late in the third round. At age 16, Oliver Bjorkstrand played a tremendous season against grown men in Denmark’s professional hockey league. He turned 19 just a month ago, but has spent the past two seasons terrorizing the WHL to the tune of 172 points (81G, 91A) in 134 games.
These eye-popping numbers do not include his 52 playoff points in 42 postseason contests. Danish NHL-stars are few and far between, but Columbus may have struck gold with the 89th overall pick in 2013. A scout’s only concern would be his size (6-0, 169), though Blue Jackets management hopes that anywhere from one to three more years of physical maturation and strengthening will lead Bjorkstrand to the big leagues.
Oscar Dansk, G
The 20-year-old Swedish goaltender was acquired with the 31st pick in the 2012 draft. Dansk (6-3, 201) played two seasons professionally in Sweden before coming to North America in 2012 to play juniors in the OHL.
He struggled mightily behind an awful Erie Otters team in his rookie season, but his sophomore campaign should erase any doubts about his ability. Dansk posted a 29-9-1 record in 2014 with a save percentage and goals-against average of .909 and 2.39 respectively. While that SV% and GAA look just average by NHL standards, goaltending statistics like that in the ultra-high scoring OHL are remarkable.