Prout signing, draft make for hectic day for CBJ

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Between the typical craziness of the second day of the NHL draft and the re-signing of defenseman Dalton Prout, the Columbus Blue Jackets had a busy Saturday.

Even before taking 6-foot-5 defenseman Ryan Collins with its second-round selection in Philadelphia, the club announced it had signed Prout - a key component of what has become a solid core of young blueliners - to a two-year contract.

A restricted free agent, Prout could have received offers from other teams beginning on Tuesday.

There is still plenty of work left for the Blue Jackets, who will make every effort to re-sign leading scorer Ryan Johansen and another quality young defenseman, David Savard, who are restricted free agents. They likely will offer a contract to fourth-line center Derek MacKenzie, who is eligible for unrestricted free agency.

The future of UFAs Blake Comeau and Nick Schultz and RFAs Corey Tropp and Matt Frattin is still unclear.

General manager Jarmo Kekalainen announced the Prout deal, and the focus remained on the defense in the draft. Columbus used just two of its first six picks on forwards.

The Blue Jackets selected Collins, a hulking, stay-at-home defenseman, with the No. 47 pick in the second round. Like first-rounder Sonny Milano, he was with the USA development program last year.

“That definitely helps,” he said of the common thread between the teammates and Columbus. “The familiarity is there. I’ll get to know Columbus pretty well over the next three years.”

A Minneapolis native, Collins will play this fall at the University of Minnesota.

“I play a strong defensive game,” he said. “That’s my primary goal, to hold the top forward on the other team down. And I move the puck pretty well to the forwards.”

As the third round moved to the Blue Jackets’ selection, they swung a deal with Detroit. The Blue Jackets dealt the No. 63 overall selection acquired from Los Angeles in the deal that sent Marian Gaborik to the Stanley Cup champs to the Red Wings for the No. 76 pick in addition to a third rounder next year.

That gave the Blue Jackets back-to-back picks at No. 76 and 77, which they used for players on opposite sides of the world.

With the initial pick they took Latvian goalie Elvis Merzlikins, who played last year for Lugano of the Swiss National A League.

His father is also named Elvis, and his dad’s favorite singer was also an Elvis (Presley, not Costello). He’s tall (6-3) and has played above his age group for most of his career. The 20-year-old Merzlikins was ranked 11th among international goaltenders by the NHL’s Central Scouting.

Columbus then selected Blake Siebenaler, a defenseman who was born in Toledo, lived in tiny Edon, Ohio, until the third grade and then moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana. The 6-1, 192-pound 18-year-old played last year for the Niagara Ice Dogs of the Ontario Hockey League, where he had six goals and 24 assists in 68 games.

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