Jarmo Kekalainen is “99.9% sure” he’ll be calling out a top prospect’s name Wednesday night with the Blue Jackets’ third overall pick instead of trading it prior to the NHL draft at Bridgestone Arena.
Regardless, this is what some of his NHL general manager peers are hearing: So, you’re telling us there’s a chance!
“We had a few phone calls from teams that wanted to move up or try to trade a real good NHL player for the third pick, but nothing’s been even close to what would make us trade that pick … and I doubt there ever will be,” Kekalainen said. “I’m 99.9% sure we’ll make the pick.”
Right, but about that pesky 0.1% chance they won’t?
There’s no interest in moving back, but attempting to move up can’t be counted out. It would take a deal with Anaheim Ducks GM Pat Verbeek, who hasn’t spoken with reporters in a couple weeks, but anything’s possible at this point.
How hard the Blue Jackets push to flip-flop picks with the Ducks depends on the need to assure themselves a shot at the player they want, which likely boils down to three centers. Connor Bedard isn’t one of them, of course. The draft’s “generational talent” is all but locked into the Chicago Blackhawks’ pick to start the draft, but things will immediately get interesting after he leaves the stage.
What will the Ducks do at two?
That’s a question many have asked for more than a month and the Blue Jackets are no exception. Kekalainen doesn’t have an inkling about it.
“I wish I did,” he said.
Will the Ducks opt to select Michigan center Adam Fantilli, as nearly all analysts expect, or will it be a surprise pick such as Leo Carlsson or Will Smith? Or will Verbeek pull a major shock and take Russian winger Matvei Michkov, the X-factor of the top-10 who has immense talent and extenuating circumstances blocking his immediate NHL path.
“It’s so close after the first pick that we’re pretty comfortable in what we’re getting at No. 3,” Kekalainen said. “It’s going to be an exciting moment when we get to hear who goes two, but I don’t think there will be any disappointment either way. Whichever way it goes, we’ll be excited to get the player who is available at three.”
That’s not a full “no” on trading up.
“At three, we’re confident that we’re going to get a great player, as well, but if there’s a reasonable price to move up from No. 3 to No. 2, to make certain who we’re getting, I guess we will entertain that,” Kekalainen said. “But you’d have to ask Anaheim. I think they’re pretty comfortable at two.”
Kekalainen actually has asked Anaheim that very question in calls with Verbeek.
“It’s pointless to have any conversations about who they’re going to pick,” he said. “I’ve had calls from behind us about ‘Would you be willing to move back?’ And I’ve said no. I think the answer is the same, probably, from Pat. We keep those conversations private, but I think they’re very comfortable at No. 2, knowing they know exactly who they’re getting. That’s why I don’t think they’re moving.”
Columbus Blue Jackets expect interest in second-round pick
Assuming Columbus keeps the third pick, the next trade focus could be their second-round pick, which is 34th overall. The head of NHL’s scouting service, Dan Marr, feels this draft could have up to 40-plus players taken in the first 50 picks who make it to the NHL level, which is a jaw-dropping number.
This class is considered deep by most scouts, which gives high second-round picks more perceived value. The Jackets’ pick at No. 34 is similar to a late first-round selection in this draft, which means Kekalainen’s phone might start blowing up Wednesday night into Thursday ― prior to the start of rounds 2-7.
Kekalainen hasn’t received much interest yet, but that could change quickly.
“If somebody is willing to give you a roster player for the 34th pick, they’ll make those calls and see if that would make us make a decision,” Kekalainen said. “I would expect there will be lots of calls from teams who want to move up to 34 and we’ll have to see (which prospects are) available on our list.”
Columbus Blue Jackets still looking to pad depth at center ice
The most common axiom by NHL GMs is that you can never have too many defensemen.
The same can be said for quality centers, which is why the Blue Jackets are still in the market to improve that position. They’re expected to take one of the top center prospects in the draft with the third pick Wednesday and could also add an NHL-level center via trade or free agency, which opens Saturday.
“We’re always looking for ways to make the team better,” Kekalainen said. “The center ice position is one of the tougher positions to play on a team. You want to be certain you have the guys who are going to be able to play the matchups against certain teams on both ends of the ice, take the face-offs and all the defensive responsibilities. What we’re looking for right now is … we want to be certain with the center-ice position, and that means we’re always looking for ways to get better and improve our team in that department.”
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This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Blue Jackets notes: Will Columbus attempt to acquire Ducks’ pick?
Source: Yahoo Sports