Welcome to the 2021 Top Shelf Prospects series. As we go through the Summer of 2021 LWOH will be featuring a team-by-team look at the top prospects in the NHL. You can find all the articles here. Since we had an extensive NHL Draft preview, we will not be reviewing the players who were drafted in the 2021 draft, as there have been no games since then, and our reports on them will not have changed. Today, we look at the 2021 Columbus Blue Jackets Prospects.
What we will be doing is linking you to those articles, as well as taking a look at prospects that were acquired before this year’s draft; their progress, and their chances of making the 2021-22 roster of the NHL team in question. We will also bring you one sleeper pick – a player who was either drafted in the 4th-round or later, or was an undrafted free agent signing who we pick as our dark horse to make the NHL. For those wondering, the cut-off for what is or isn’t a prospect is typically about 50 NHL games played (including playoff games) or is 25 years old. These are not hard or fast rules though, and we may make some exceptions depending on the circumstances.
2021 Columbus Blue Jackets Prospects
The Blue Jackets suffered the most painful and tragic loss of the off-season, as goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks passed away following a Fourth of July accident. It would feel wrong to talk about this incident in hockey terms but also feels wrong not to mention it in the off-season review section. As such we mention it in its own paragraph and LWOS once again expresses our condolences to his family, friends, teammates, coaches, team staff, fans, and all who cared about him.
After a disappointing hockey season, the off-season has been full of change in Columbus. Long-time coach John Tortorella is moving to ESPN and has been replaced by Brad Larsen. Seth Jones and Cam Atkinson, two core members of the team have been traded, and follow on the heels of the early-season trade of Pierre-Luc Dubois, and the late-season trade of David Savard. That’s four players who would have been considered part of the core one year ago. It is time for a new era in Columbus. A new core must come from a prospect system that was able to add three first-round picks in the 2021 NHL Draft, as well as Stanislav Svozil in the third round, getting a fourth player LWOS graded as a first round talent.
2021 Draft Picks: Kent Johnson, Cole Sillinger, Corson Ceulemans, Stanislav Svozil, Guillaume Richard, Nikolai Makarov, James Malatesta, Ben Boyd, Martin Rysavy
Graduations: Alexandre Texier, Kevin Stenlund, Elvis Merzlikins
2021 Top Columbus Blue Jackets Prospect: Kent Johnson
The Blue Jackets drafted Johnson with the 5th overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. Prior to the draft, we did an in-depth scouting report on Johnson. As no games have been played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.
#2 Prospect: Cole Sillinger
The Blue Jackets drafted Sillinger with the 12th overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. Prior to the draft, we did an in-depth scouting report on Sillinger. As no games have been played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.
#3 Prospect: Kirill Marchenko
Right Wing/Left Wing — shoots Right
Born July 21st, 2000 — Barnaul, Russia
Height 6’3″ — Weight 187 lbs [191 cm/85 kg]
Drafted by Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2nd round, #49 overall at the 2018 NHL Draft
Marchenko, followed up an excellent rookie season in 2019-20, with a strong sophomore campaign with SKA St. Petersburg in the KHL. He put up 15 goals and 28 points in 41 games on one of the best teams in the KHL. However, Marchenko struggled in the playoffs with just three goals and four points in 14 games as SKA leaned heavily on their veterans.
Marchenko is a strong skater. He has very good top-end speed but could get a little quicker with his first step and acceleration. Marchenko has very good agility and strong edgework. He makes quick cuts and can weave in and out of traffic with ease. Marchenko is dangerous one-on-one with a defender, especially when working off the rush. He has improved his lower-body strength, helping him to be strong on pucks and fight through checks. However, he could still use a bit more weight and core muscle strength to improve these areas before coming to North America and playing a more physical game on smaller ice. He just recently turned 21, so its not unusual that he has started to fill out his frame, but there is continued room for improvment.
Marchenko has good hands. He can make plays with the puck while moving at top speed. When defenders back off to protect against his speed and skill, he can take advantage of the passing lanes that are opened up, finding teammates with tape-to-tape passes. He is a creative player looking to get by defenders one-on-one and create plays that way as well. Marchenko is more a goal scorer than a playmaker. His shot is accurate and features a good release. He has also added power in the last two years, helping him to score off the rush and from further out. Like most players though, the majority of Marchenkos goals come from in close to the net and he is not afraid to get to those dirty areas of the ice.
Marchenko has good size and is learning to use it more effectively. He has gotten better at being aggressive and battling in the corners. There is still room to do even more, but he is getting there as he continues to get stronger. He has also improved his ability to establishing his position in front of the net without the puck. With the puck, Marchenko is willing to attack the dirty areas of the ice, cutting to the net, and trying to make plays in tight. While things have improved, he can be more consistent in forechecking the opposing team and creating pressure and turnovers in the offensive zone.
Marchenko’s defensive game is also improving but still a bit of a work in progress. He sometimes seems to shy away from the physical aspects of the game. He is good at getting his stick into passing lanes and intercepting passes, or to poke check an opponent and take off in the other direction. When this works, he transitions quickly to offence. However, if it does not work, Marchenko can get caught out of position. He will need to learn how to pick his spots as he develops.
Not yet signed with the Blue Jackets, Marchenko is likely to be back in St. Petersburg this season. According to Elite Prospects, his contract with SKA runs out after the 2021-22 season. The Jackets will be focused on getting him to sign on with the team and come to North America for 2022. Once he gets to Columbus, he may be able to go straight into the NHL lineup. Even if he does need AHL time to adjust to the smaller ice, it surely won’t be a long stint in the minors.
#4 Prospect: Yegor Chinakhov
Right Wing — shoots Left
Born February 1st, 2001 — Omsk, Russia
Height 6’0″ — Weight 178 lbs [183 cm/81 kg]
Drafted by Columbus Blue Jackets in the 1st round, #21 overall, at the 2020 NHL Entry Draft
Undrafted in 2019, the Blue Jackets shocked the hockey world when they took Chinakhov with a first-round pick in the 2020 Draft. He rewarded their faith in him, scoring 10 goals and 17 points in 32 games with Avangard Omsk in the KHL. Chinakhov also put up five goals and seven points in 21 games, helping Avangard to the Gagarin Cup. He also played for Russia at the World Juniors, scoring one goal in five games. Chinakhov also played for Russia at the European Hockey Tour, as the Russians took a very young team. He scored two goals and three points in three games.
Chinakhov’s skating is a work in progress and the weakest part of this game. His stride is very wide. This takes away from his power and acceleration. Chinakhov has some issues winning short races to loose pucks. His top-end speed is also below average. He uses his hockey sense to be in the right position and keep up with the play but could really use some work with a good skating coach.
Chinakhov also needs to improve his edgework and agility. This is something that should also improve with better skating technique. His wide stance makes it difficult to make tight turns, quick cuts, and good crossovers. That stance has one advantage though. Chinakhov’s balance is good due to that low centre of gravity. However, he still needs to add muscle to his frame, in order to get stronger and win more battles on the boards and in front of the net.
Chinakhov is a pure sniper. His wrist shot is at an elite level. It is very powerful and extremely accurate. He also has good hands and his release is extremely quick. Chinakhov can vary the angle on that release, which also helps to fool goalies. In addition to his excellent wrist shot, Chinakhov has a very good snapshot, slap shot, and one-timer. He can even score on his backhand. He also does a good job of scoring in tight to the net with his soft hands. Chinakhov has a knack for finding open ice without the puck and putting himself into position to take a pass from a teammate and get a scoring chance. He is willing to shoot from anywhere in the offensive zone.
While he is very much a shoot-first player, Chinakhov also shows playmaking skills. He sees the ice well and can anticipate his linemates’ movements and hit them with a pass. He is able to feather passes through tight areas and passing lanes. Chinakhov can work on his puck control and stickhandling. Rather than carry the puck through the neutral zone, he seems to defer to teammates to generate zone entries.
Chinakhov has proven to be useful in his own end of the rink but there are some areas that still need some improvement. His positioning is strong as he keeps himself between his man and the front of the net. He also uses his stick effectively, poke-checking opponents and cutting down passing lanes. Chinakhov is also willing to support the defence down low. However, he relies a bit too much on his stick sometimes. He needs to improve his physical game and willingness to take the body going forward.
Chinakhov signed his entry-level contract with the Blue Jackets following the end of the KHL season. He is headed to North America next season. Chinakhov might need time in the AHL, as he continues to work on his skating and adjust to the more physical game on the smaller North American Ice. The Blue Jackets hope to develop him into a game-breaking winger at the NHL level. He will need to be paired with a playmaker who can drive the play in order to unlock his true potential.
#5 Prospect: Liam Foudy
Centre — shoots Left
Born February 4th, 2000 — Scarborough, Ontario
Height 6’2″ — Weight 182 lbs [188 cm / 83 kg]
Drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets in 1st round, #18 overall, at the 2018 NHL Draft
It was a tale of two seasons for Liam Foudy. He looked good at the AHL level, putting up three goals and 16 points in 12 games with Cleveland. However, when he moved up to the NHL level, he struggled, with just four assists in 24 games with the Blue Jackets. He also won a gold medal with Team Canada at the World Championships, but was used in a bottom-line role and had just two assists in 10 games.
Foudy is an elite skater. He is incredibly fast, and reaches top speed quickly, with very good acceleration. Foudy’s ability to change speeds is a weapon in one-on-one situations. He can beat defenders to the outside and cut to the net. As they back off to defend him, it opens up passing and shooting lanes. Foudy also has excellent edgework and agility. He can change directions on a dime. When he was in junior, Foudy showed off a powerful stride and good balance. He was strong on the puck and won battles along the boards and in front of the net. Now that he’s moved up to the pro game, he is not nearly as effective in this area. However, at just 21-years-old, Foudy has time to grow into his frame and improve this aspect of his game.
Foudy has a decent arsenal of shots. His wrist shot is good and has a decent release. It continues to improve each season and should continue to get better as he adds more upper body strength. His snapshot is also very effective at the junior level, but he struggled to score with it against professional goalies. Foudy scores most of his goals in tight to the net. He has the speed to generate breakaways but seems to lack something right now. In junior his soft hands allowed him to beat goaltenders in that situation. However, he must continue to improve against the increased competition he now faces.
Foudy has worked harder to get to the net without the puck this past season. While he has always been willing to take the puck to the net, he needs to add muscle to do it effectively against pros. This will help him to take the physical pounding needed to create offence without the puck. As mentioned, in junior, Foudy was strong on the cycle as he protects the puck well, and has good balance. With time this should improve.
He has good stickhandling ability. Foudy is willing to try to weave past a defender or make a quick move to open up a passing lane. Once a play is available he has the skill to make passes through tight areas. Foudy needs to find consistency. In the AHL, he has games where he is dominant. He can be dangerous on every shift, and look like the best player on the ice. He also has games where he is near invisible and does not create much. This is another area he could work on.
Foudy’s speed helps him in the defensive end. He can create turnovers and quickly transition to offence. He has worked on being more physical and supporting the defence down low on the backcheck but will need to get stronger to keep doing so at the next level. Foudy also needs to work on his faceoffs if he is going to play centre at the next level.
Foudy showed that he was not NHL ready last season. However, he still is just 21 years old and has a lot of high-end skills including his skating, stickhandling and passing abilities. The Blue Jackets should continue to work with Foudy to develop the areas of his game that are lacking. If they do, he can still be a top-six player and a big contributor to the teams’ future.
#6 Prospect: Daniil Tarasov
Goaltender — shoots Left – catches Left
Born March 27th, 1999 — Novokuznetsk, Russia
Height 6’5″ — Weight 185 lbs [196 cm/84 kg]
Drafted by Columbus Blue Jackets in the 3rd round, #86 overall, at the 2017 NHL Draft
Tarasov played 16 games for Salavat Yulaev in the KHL, putting up a 2.07 goals-against-average and .925 save percentage. He also spent time with Toros Neftekamsk in the VHL, putting up a 2.16 goals-against-average and .909 save percentage in five games. Tarasov finished his season with Cleveland, putting up a 3.16 goals-against-average and .896 save percentage in six games.
Skating and Talent Analysis
At 6-foot-5, Tarasov has excellent size. He takes up a ton of net and gives shooters little room to shoot at. He takes advantage of this by getting far out of his net to cut down angles. With his strong backwards movement, he is able to get back to his net and avoid being deked when cutting down those angles. He also has a strong lateral push and gets side-to-side quickly. Tarasov is also very athletic. When he does get caught out of position he can recover quickly and make highlight-reel saves. When down in his butterfly, Tarasov’s long and powerful legs take away the bottom of the net effectively.
Tarasov has improved his rebound control but still needs a bit more work. This is a common issue of many young goaltenders though and could be something that improves with time. He has also improved his glove hand last year. Like many tall goaltenders, his five-hole can often be an issue. These are all little things that can be improved with work and good coaching. Considering that Tarasov is still just 22-years-old and that goaltenders typically take longer than other positions, he still has time to continue iron out these wrinkles in his game.
Tarasov does a good job of staying cool and composed in his net. When he gives up rebounds, he continues to fight his way back into position to make the next save. He never gives up on a play. His cool, calm demeanour shines through even when under heavy pressure. When a goal does go in, Tarasov does a good job of preparing to make the next save.
Tarasov should be the number one goalie in Cleveland, getting big minutes and adjusting to the new angles he will see on a smaller ice surface. He is also likely to be the first goalie called up if the Blue Jackets face any kind of injury issues in the net. He could compete for a backup job in the 2022-23 season.
#7 Prospect: Corson Ceulemans
The Blue Jackets drafted Ceulemans with the 25th overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. Prior to the draft, we did an in-depth scouting report on Ceulemans. As no games have been played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.
#8 Prospect; Stanislav Svozil
The Blue Jackets drafted Svozil with the 69th overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. Prior to the draft, we did an in-depth scouting report on Svozil. As no games have been played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.
#9 Prospect: Dmitri Voronkov
Left Wing/Centre — Shoots Left
Born September 10th, 2000 — Angarsk, Russia
Height 6’4″ — Weight 190 [192 cm/86 kg]
Drafted by Columbus Blue Jackets in the 4th round, #114 overall, at the 2019 NHL Entry Draft
Voronkov had a decent season in the KHL, putting up seven goals and 12 assists for 19 points in 53 games for AK Bars Kazan. He really turned it on in the playoffs though, scoring six goals and 10 points in 15 games. This strong play continued into the Men’s World Championships. Voronkov scored two goals and six points in eight tournament games.
Voronkov is a decent skater but there are still some areas where he can improve. His first few steps are a bit choppy. However, once he gets going his acceleration is above average and his top-end speed is more than good enough to allow him to keep up with the play. While he will never be considered a speedster, he also is not slow. Voronkov has good agility and edgework. He can make a quick cut to get past a defender and find open space. He is also strong on his skates, with good balance and the ability to fight through checks on the boards and in front of the net.
Voronkov plays a power forward’s game. He gets to the dirty areas of the ice, both with and without the puck. Voronkov drives the net and creates havoc in front of the opponent’s goalie. He has the hands and skills to score in tight, with quick hands and the ability to elevate the puck into tight spaces. Voronkov also has the hand-eye coordination to pounce on rebounds and get deflections. He also has a good shot and decent release to score from further out.
Voronkov is a decent passer as well. He finds the open man and keeps the puck moving in the cycle game. He loves to work the give and go, making a short pass to a teammate and then finding open ice. Voronkov usually maintains possession with a short and simple play, but can occasionally try something a bit more creative to generate a scoring chance. He is also good on the forecheck, getting in quickly and pressuring opponents into turnovers and mistakes.
Voronkov is also a good defensive player. He is willing to use his size and bring his physical game to all three zones. He will support the defence down low and help to contain the cycle game. Voronkov is also willing to provide backpressure against the rush. His positioning is solid and his long stick cuts down passing lanes. When a turnover is created, Voronkov is effective at transitioning the puck up the ice and creating offence.
According to Elite Prospects, Voronkov is signed in the KHL through the end of the 2022-23 season. If he can continue to develop, the Blue Jackets will be eager to bring him over at that time. Given the amount of time, he will have spent playing pro hockey in the KHL, it is likely that he could go straight into the NHL lineup at that point.
#10 Prospect: Andrew Peeke
Defence — shoots Right
Born March 17th, 1998 — Parkland, Florida
Height 6’3″ — Weight 200 lbs [191 cm / 91 kg]
Drafted by Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2nd round, #34 overall, at the 2016 NHL Draft
Peeke split time between Columbus and Cleveland last season. In 11 games with the Blue Jackets, he had three assists. He also had four assists in seven games with the Monsters in the AHL.
Peeke is a decent, but not great skater. He has good straight-line speed. He also has a quick first step and decent acceleration. This is true in both directions and helps him to play a two-way game. He needs a bit of work on his edgework and agility, however. He can sometimes struggle to contain quick forwards who force him to move laterally. Peeke is strong on his skates. He battles well in front of the net and along the boards, as well as being strong on the puck.
While Peeke is known for his defensive game, there is a bit of offensive ability in him as well. He makes a good first pass out of the zone and starts the transition. He can also be effective at keeping the puck moving at the offensive blueline. Peeke is not one to lead the rush but he does get back in his own zone, retrieve loose pucks and skate them out of danger. He has worked to improve his wrist shot and slap shot. While they used to be a bit of a liability, they are now above average.
Peeke has excellent size and uses it to play a strong defensive game. He is willing to be physical along the boards and in front of the net. Peeke can also throw big hits, and punish forwards who attack his side of the ice with their head down. He shows good positioning, as well as the willingness to block shots. Peeke uses his long stick to cut down passing lanes and is strong on the penalty kill.
Peeke is now 23-years-old and it is time for him to make his mark and compete for a job as a regular on the Blue Jackets team. With the club losing two right-handed defencemen in Seth Jones and David Savard, there is an opportunity to compete for a spot there. However, the lack of offensive upside may mean that Peeke tops out as a third pairing defender.
Sleeper Prospect: Trey Fix-Wolansky
Right Wing — shoots Right
Born May 26th, 1999 — Edmonton, Alberta
Height 5’7″ — Weight 188 lbs [170 cm/85 kg]
Drafted by Columbus Blue Jackets in the 7th round, #204 overall at the 2018 NHL Draft
Injuries have been an issue for Fix-Wolansky. He showed signs of finally breaking through and had four goals and nine points in nine games with Cleveland before tearing his ACL in March. It was a promising start to the season and a big jump in terms of points per game from the 26 points in 43 games he put up in 2019-20.
Fix-Wolansky is an undersized winger with excellent skating skills. His first step and his acceleration are very good and he reaches his top-end speed very quickly. That top-end speed is very good and helps him to be dangerous on the rush. A low centre of gravity helps Fix-Wolansky to be strong on the puck and good at digging for loose pucks along the boards and in front of the net. His edgework and agility are also very good and allow him to manoeuvre through traffic both with and without the puck.
Despite his lack of size, Fix-Wolansky is willing to play a gritty game. He gets to the dirty areas of the ice both with and without the puck. He has good hand-eye coordination and is able to tip-in pucks and bang in rebounds. From further out, Fix-Wolansky can finish plays with an accurate wrist shot and good release. He manages to find the soft spots in the defence without the puck, setting himself up for a one-timer.
Fix-Wolansky protects the puck well and his quick hands help him to make plays while moving at top speed. Fix-Wolansky is also able to make plays with the puck in traffic. He sees the ice well and can find seams to put a pass through and set up a scoring chance. His quick hands help him to change angles and create those seams to set up scoring chances. He can play a variety of roles on the power-play including controlling the play on the half-boards.
Fix-Wolansky’s lack of size becomes a liability in the defensive zone. He is willing to help out on the backcheck but has trouble containing bigger opponents in the cycle game. He also has problems clearing the front of the net. Fix-Wolansky reads the play well though and has strong positioning to cut down passing lanes.
It is unclear if Fix-Wolansky will be ready for the start of training camp in September. Even if he isn’t, that is okay, what is most important is that when he returns to the ice, he is able to stay healthy. Fix-Wolansky has the potential to play a middle-six NHL role and some powerplay time if he continues to develop. However, that can only happen if he stays on the ice. Expect him to start his season with Cleveland. He could be a contender to join the Blue Jackets later in the season.
Further 2021 Columbus Blue Jackets Prospects in System
The Blue Jackets system was gutted following the 2018-19 season as the team went all-in on trades for established talent and won a playoff round for the first time in team history. The Jackets have done a great job of starting to replenish the system and there are some high-end talents as seen above. However, building depth takes time, and the Blue Jackets will need that before having a large pool. That said, there are some intriguing long-shots worth keeping an eye on.
The Jackets have Jake Christiansen, Tim Berni, Samuel Knazko, Eric Hjorth, and Nikolai Makarov as names to watch amongst their defence prospects. Gabriel Carlsson also still qualifies as a prospect under our criteria. They also have forwards Josh Dunne, Tyler Angle, Carson Meyer, Mikael Pyyhtia, and Marcus Karlberg as players to watch in the system.