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Blue Jackets plan to draft ‘best player’ available, but will that be a defenseman?


After losing prospect defenseman Mike Reilly, the Columbus Blue Jackets enter next week’s NHL Draft with the eighth overall pick and it will be interesting to see if they use that on another young blue liner to bolster that position within their organization.

Then again, general manager Jarmo Kekalainen may decide to go in a different direction when it’s that club’s turn to announce its first-round selection next Friday.

One name bandied around recently by the club’s director of amateur scouting Paul Castron on the Columbus website was right winger Mikko Rantanen, the top-ranked European skater heading into the draft, according to Central Scouting’s final rankings.

“Rantanen is a player who wouldn’t surprise me if he stepped in right away with his size (6-3, 211) and strength,” Castron told the Blue Jackets website. “He’s got tremendous upside. It’s not as high-end in Europe as we’ve seen in the past. But again, those guys tend to develop a little later.”

As per Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch, Kekalainen conceded the organization is short of prospect defensemen. Reilly, selected in the fourth round of the 2011 draft by the Blue Jackets, opted this week not to sign with Columbus.

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