There are very few silver linings in this lockout, but leave it to new Columbus Blue Jackets president John Davidson to find one of them.
Without the NHL getting in the way, his front-office staff has had the time to devote itself to scouting for this June's draft. He recently returned from Calgary after scouting the Team Canada world junior camp, the latest excursion on a packed calendar to make sure Columbus is as educated as possible before using its three first-round picks in June.
If his leadership is going to be as successful in Columbus as it was in St. Louis, the Blue Jackets can't mess up this draft.
"This is just a gigantically important draft, no question," he said during a phone conversation on a drive to St. Louis this week. "There's a lot of future that hinges on this. We've been out in the field. All of our amateur people all over the place. Our GM, myself, assistant GM -- everybody."
Davidson won't call this season a rebuilding one. It's an unfair label for the coaches and veterans who will be trying to win hockey games if the collective bargaining agreement negotiations are ever settled. But even with an improved defense and more goaltending depth than Columbus has enjoyed in the past, there is a lot of building to be done in Columbus. It's likely it'll get a crack at one of the elite prospects in a June draft considered to be above average. Maybe, just maybe, Columbus will finally get a break and truly start building the kind of franchise this patient fan base deserves.
The team president plans on following the same blueprint he used in St. Louis, which is to build a strong foundation of players and constantly work to improve upon it. He has a long view when it comes to drafting, which means he is not against selecting another defenseman at the top of the draft even after the franchise traded for Jack Johnson and selected Ryan Murray last year with the No. 2 pick.
He pointed out that stockpiling talented defensemen was a valuable part of building the Blues, which selected Erik Johnson (No. 1 overall in 2006), Alex Pietrangelo (No. 4 overall in 2008) and David Rundblad (No. 17 overall in 2009) in the first round before GM Doug Armstrong dealt two of the three in trades that ultimately landed them key players such as Vladimir Tarasenko, Kevin Shattenkirk and Chris Stewart.
"Sometimes when you draft the best player and are rich in that area, you have a better opportunity to figure out who you don't want to keep," Davidson said. "Generally, there are teams that need what you have and have what you need."
Today, ESPN.com draft insider Grant Sonier releases his Top 30 2013 draft prospects in what has become the most important draft in Blue Jackets franchise history. Here's a look at the top six from Sonier's rankings and where each player would be a great fit at the NHL level:
C Nathan MacKinnon: Columbus Blue Jackets
The way to build a winner is through depth on defense and down the middle. Columbus is on its way defensively, but MacKinnon would give it the franchise center it's never had.
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