The 2005 draft remains in my mind one of the greatest sore spots in franchise history. The team had been burned by a couple of European players, and General Manager Doug MacLean appeared to have a reasonably unfair bias towards prospects who developed in the North American system. Enter the Blue Jackets at the 6th pick, desperately needing a centerman to play with Rick Nash, their superstar number one pick only a couple years prior.
Now, whether you folks reading like it or not, I am exempting the Columbus scouting department for not picking Kopitar over Brule. My reasons are simple: It was not their first choice, it was the first choice of the GM who inevitably had the final say. Here is an exerpt from the Columbus Dispatch written by Aaron Portzline around draft time last year, discussing the passion Don Boyd (Director of Hockey Operations) has for scouting;
..It's also worth noting that Brule was not Boyd's pick. Boyd will not discuss the 2005 draft, but it's common knowledge in the Blue Jackets' front office that MacLean overruled Boyd's pecking order and drafted Brule with the No. 6 pick.
Tops on Boyd's list after five picks was center Anze Kopitar, now an All-Star with the Los Angeles Kings.
You are all welcome to your bias, but if this analysis is meant to be for the scouting department not doing their jobs, this example is a fairly clear cut indication of how well they actually do. Kopitar has gone on to become the epitome of what Columbus needs so badly, and Brule has, well, in a word, been a bust. Kopitar becoming a Jacket would have changed the very nature of success in the club (expect every pick following that year to be different based on them succeeding at a higher rate) and brought a top tier pairing to Columbus that would likely rival some of the league's absolute best scoring duos.
As noted, I will be breaking down a number of the picks following Columbus' first round selections in these articles, however, I will be giving them a pass on this year, based on who selected Brule. It is an unmistakable error and one that cannot be defended.
Here are the rest of the Blue Jackets picks from 2005:
Hit: Adam McQuaid (55th) - While McQuaid was dealt to Boston prior to him finishing his junior career with the Sudbury Wolves, McQuaid has recently adapted to the NHL game and has established himself on the Bruin blueline. There were six second round picks made after McQuaid, and none have played more than four NHL games in their careers. It was not until Kris Letang was taken first in the 3rd round that a player had comparable numbers to McQuaid.
Hit: Kris Russell (67th) - Russell has been a staple on the Jackets blueline for the last couple years and while his development has slowed, his value to the franchise under Arniel's coaching system is still prevalent. The next ten picks include only Jonathan Quick (72nd-G-LAK) with substantial NHL experience to this point.
Hit: Jared Boll (101st) - Boll was very successful in his draft year playing for the Lincoln Stars, scoring 47 points in 59 games, while building almost 300 penalty minutes. He has become a strong 4th line player for Columbus who can fight most of the tough guys in the NHL, while still being able to contribute on the scoresheet. Only Keith Yandle and Vladimir Sobotka have been more successful after Boll's pick, with Nicklas Hjalmarsson slowly becoming a solid NHL defensemen.
Miss: Tomas Popperle (131st) - Popperle was the only goalie taken by Columbus in 2005, and struggled to find his way onto the NHL roster, after a number of seasons in the AHL. He has currently gone overseas to play for Pizen HC of the Czech league. While Daren Helm was taken one pick after him by Detroit, none of the following ten picks have any NHL games, nor do any of the goalies taken after Popperle have any NHL success whatsoever.
Miss: Derek Reinhart (177th) - Reinhart's 200 penalty minutes in 67 games for the Regina St Pats likely gave him the edge for the Columbus scouts, however, his professional career ended after the 06/07 year. The best player taken in the ten picks following Reinhart was Tim Kennedy, who has had limited AHL/NHL success over the last couple years.
Miss: Kirill Starkov (189th) - Starkov followed his draft year with fairly impressive numbers (averaging one point shy of a point per game) playing for the Red Deer Rebels, but was unable to convert his game to the NHL level, returning to Russia in the 08/09 season. Matt D'Agostini was drafted one pick after Starkov and has had a fair bit of success with St Louis Blues, but once again, the following ten picks do not show another successful player.
Miss: Trevor Hendrixx (201st) - Hendrixx has struggled to make his way out of the ECHL over the past five seasons, playing for a number of teams. As expected, the following ten picks generate zero quality NHL prospects or players.
Overall, the 2005 draft was a fairly strong success for the Blue Jackets. I was unable to find the end of season Central Scouting Service report to compare the ranking of the 'gems' found near Columbus' picks to see if they were in fact diamonds in the rough. With that said, Kris Russell and Jared Boll have become substantial parts of the Jackets roster over the last number of seasons, which is impressive coming from a third or fourth round picks. It is a shame McQuaid was not retained as it appears he has become a decent defender, but that cannot be placed on the shoulders of the scouting department.
Next, I will review the 2006 draft in likely the same format. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section. Carry the Flag!