Paul Castron is now the director of amateur scouting for the New Jersey Devils. Before being hired on July 31, Castron served in the same role for the Columbus Blue Jackets since July 2006. Since he will serve an important function for the rebuilding process the Devils are undergoing, I think it is a good idea to look at how Columbus' drafts have went while Castron was in that position. It is true that Castron did not pick where Columbus would go nor did he necessarily have a say in who got traded away and to the organization. Still, they do represent a result of his staff's work. I hope by giving an overview of these drafts, we have reason to be more excited - or more concerned - that Castron is now in charge in New Jersey. (Note: I'll be using HockeyDB as a reference for who was picked in what year for the Blue Jackets)
I'll touch on the two latest drafts first. It is unfair to really judge them now. One of them was drafted about a month ago. Their big picks were both defensemen; Zach Werenski at eighth overall and a trade up into the first round to snag Gabriel Carlsson. The other was only a year ago. None of these players have yet made it to the NHL, though Sonny Milano (14th overall, 2014) played ten games with their AHL affiliate in Springfield in this past season. For the most part these classes are total unknowns so I would not conclude anything about Castron from them. One could argue a draft class needs four or five years before proper judgment, but let's cross those bridges when they get there.
Let's start with the 2007 draft class. Since Castron was promoted to the position in July 2006, that would be the first draft year where he was Columbus' director. It's a shame since the 2006 class was pretty good: Derick Brassard in the first round, Steve Mason in the third round, and Derek Dorsett in the seventh round all have played quite a bit in the NHL. He even picked the better Sestito in Tom, who's still active with Vancouver. In 2007, though, only Jakub Voracek really made it as a player. He turned to be an excellent choice at seventh overall. However, like the other players mentioned in this paragraph, he found greater success with another team. Voracek and Mason have been standouts in Philly; Brassard has become a star for Our Hated Rivals since the Gaborik trade; Dorsett and Sestito have been mean for the Canucks. The only other 2007 Blue Jackets picks to have played in the NHL were left winger Maksim Mayorov and goalie Allen York. Mayorov only had cups of coffee before joining the KHL in 2012; York was a call up for eleven appearances and has since continued to bounce around in minor-pro hockey.
While 2007 wasn't a good year, 2008 was better. Cam Atkinson turned out to be an excellent find in the sixth round; the small winger is one of Columbus' most prolific shooters. Fifth round pick Matt Calvert has also become a roster player over the last few seasons, which is always a good get late in the draft. While two NHLers were found, four others have had tastes to varying degrees. Among them, second round pick, defenseman Cody Goloubef managed to get into 36 games last season. He'll likely push for a roster spot, though he's going to have a lot of competition. Right winger Tomas Kubalik got some games but never stuck with the team; he's plying his trade in Europe. Center Sean Collins has been a featured player for Springfield and got into some games with Columbus; he's now a member of the Caps organization now. Since Kubalik and Collins were late picks, only a handful of appearances is fine. Alas, Castron and the Blue Jackets whiffed on their first round pick: Nikita Filatov.
Whereas Columbus got six out of nine picks to appear in the NHL and two to be contributing players - and to their current roster, no less - 2009 was slimmer. They only had six picks and only two of them made it in the NHL. Those two are familiar names. In the fourth round, David Savard was picked at 94th overall. While he only finished his second season of NHL hockey, the 24-year old defenseman averaged just under 23 minutes per game. He is a big part of their top four, for better or worse. The other guy who made it was their first rounder, John Moore. Yes, the current Devil may be a third pairing caliber defender, but 230 games played means he is at least a regular and that's a pick with some success. He wasn't a high first rounder either; he was picked twenty-first overall. And with 230 games, he's made more appearances than most in that year of picks. Still, that was really it in 2009.
In 2010, the Blue Jackets picked who is now their top player at fourth overall: Ryan Johansen. I hope I don't have to explain why that pick was a success. He wasn't the only find for the scouts that year. Columbus did find Dalton Prout in the sixth round. The defenseman did average eighteen minutes per game this year, though he was largely used against the weaker competition and hasn't exactly driven the play. Yet, finding someone who can be in 142 games that late in a draft is a good thing. Again, that would really be it for Castron and his staff. The other six picks didn't really make it, although third rounder Petr Straka appearing in three games for Philly last year. Also of note, two late picks were thrown at goalies that year, starting a three-year run where five goalies were picked across three drafts.
As 2010 will likely be better known for Johansen, 2011 will likely be known for Boone Jenner. The Blue Jackets did not have a first round pick, but they appeared to have hit on their first pick of that year at 37th overall. After a promising rookie season, injuries cut his season short like many on Columbus last season. He'll still be one to watch out for in the future. As for the rest of the class, goalie Anton Forsberg made five appearances last season. They didn't go well, but at least he can say he made it. The others are up in the air. T.J. Tynan just finished his first season in the AHL, Seth Ambroz is just entering the AHL, and Lukas Sedlak, well, hasn't done much in two years in the AHL. Defenseman Mike Reilly (fourth round, 98th overall) looked like he had a real future; but it won't be with Columbus. He stated in June he would not sign with the Blue Jackets and the Wild picked him up. He may turn out to be a player, but it won't be in Columbus' favor.
Like 2014 and 2015, the draft classes of 2012 and 2013 are works in progress. It may not be fully fair to judge them, but there are promising signs of success. Second overall draft pick in 2012, Ryan Murray, hit the NHL right away and has established himself as a regular. Like many on Columbus, injuries cut short his sophomore season. Due to said injuries, 2012 fourth rounder Josh Anderson got a six-game call up last season. Their second and third round picks were spent on goalies. Second rounder Oscar Dansk split time between the AHL and ECHL; third rounder Joonas Korpisalo got a few AHL games while spending a full season in Finland. If either goalie makes it, then that makes this class look better. Otherwise, it may be all about Murray like 2010 is all about Johansen (sorry, Prout) and 2011 is all about Jenner.
I have higher hopes for 2013. Alexander Wennberg, Marko Dano, and Kerby Rychel all showed signs of talent and a bright future. Wennberg, selected fourteenth overall, played the most of the three with 68 games and 20 points. He showed more later on in the season, possibly a sign of growth. Dano, picked 27th overall, was part of the deal that brought Brandon Saad to the capital of Ohio. He displayed quite a bit of skill in his 35 games with Columbus. Rychel, whose name was called at 19th overall, only made five appearances but managed three assists in limited action. All are young and have plenty of room to grow, albeit Dano will do so for Chicago. Should second round defenseman Dillon Heatherington and third round right winger Oliver Bjorkstrand perform well in the AHL, they could help make this class be one of Columbus' best in quite some time.
In some ways, this overview gives me pause. Castron and his crew only found one or two NHL players in every year. At the same time, that would be an improvement over what the Devils have experienced. Here are the following established players Columbus picked from 2007 until today: Voracek, Calvert, Atkinson, Moore, Savard, Johansen, Prout, and Jenner. Murray and Wennberg will likely join that list very soon and one day in the future, Rychel. And while some of those players are succeeding with other teams, it doesn't negate that the pick worked out. Castron isn't the one making deals, after all. Even so, Johansen, Jenner, and Atkinson played top-six minutes last year; Calvert was a solid hand in the middle; and Savard and Prout were regulars on the back end. For the sake of comparison, here's who New Jersey picked since 2007 that has been established: Matt Halischuk (who did it with Nashville, not New Jersey), Adam Henrique, Jacob Josefson, Eric Gelinas, Jon Merrill, and Adam Larsson. Sure, Damon Severson will join them and there's a lot of hope Stefan Matteau and Reid Boucher will do so soon. But that's not only two fewer players, but players in lesser roles or not part of larger deals. Columbus has had higher draft picks, but Castron and his staff helped made most of those higher picks count. They've also found more late round success than the Devils, too. Simply, they've found at least a little more success than the Devils in this time frame.
Therefore, I'm encouraged that Castron is now the director of amateur scouting for the Devils. Drafting inherently carries risk. Some prospects don't work out for one reason for another. Yet, for the rebuild to avoid being protracted, they need to find good players with the picks they'll get. The Devils will be picking higher than in past years, which will help; but Castron and his staff of scouts still need to do the work to find the players they need. They need more and better prospects, particularly at forward, in the system. Getting lucky and winning the first overall pick in 2016 would be fantastic and it won't be enough for a total turnaround. While there have been misses and some lean classes, it's not a coincidence that several players who are part of Columbus' core came from these drafts - as well as the assets in some of their big deals (Voracek, Moore, Dano). It's not a guarantee Castron will succeed, but through this overview, I'm confident he'll help the Devils in this aspect of the organization.
That's my takeaway from this overview of Columbus' draft classes from 2007 through to today. I want to know what you think. Do you come away from reading this post more or less confident in Castron's hire? I'll admit this was a quick and dirty overview and not necessarily the best way to look at a draft class. What would you look at for a more complete review? If you're a Columbus fan, were you pleased with the team's draft classes under Castron? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about Castron and his drafts in Columbus while director of scouting in the comments. Thank you for reading and please share this and other posts if you appreciate them.