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The Blue Jackets end their season Friday, a win could keep them from the top draft pick

Columbus Blue Jackets' Johnny Gaudreau plays against the Pittsburgh Penguins during an NHL hockey game Thursday, April 13, 2023, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)
Jay LaPrete/AP
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FR52593 AP
Columbus Blue Jackets' Johnny Gaudreau plays against the Pittsburgh Penguins during an NHL hockey game Thursday, April 13, 2023, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

The Columbus Blue Jackets may have played themselves out of the bottom of the NHL rankings, hurting their chances at a top draft pick.

Thursday night, the CBJ beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in overtime at Nationwide Arena. They’ll play Friday at home against the Buffalo Sabres. Another victory could slide them even further from the top of the draft selection.

"They can't finish with the worst record in the league, which this season has been a lost cause since really the third or fourth week of the season,” said Aaron Portzline, reporter with The Athletic website. “And it's been all about the draft."

Portzline said the top draft pick is 17-year-old Connor Bedard from Canada. He’s being called a “generational talent.”

“He's mentioned in the same breath as a Connor McDavid, as in Auston Matthews, as a Sidney Crosby,” said Portzline. “These players who can really change the outlook of an entire organization and lift all boats types of players. And he has set all sorts of records. He's been a big deal in Canada and really on an international stage for three years now. And most expect him to be a special player in the National Hockey League.”

Portzline said the CBJ team struggled since the beginning of the season and then injuries to several players, including defenseman Zach Werenski, led to many back-to-back losses.

“They measure how big an impact injuries have on a team by how many games players miss. The Blue Jackets now with one game left in the season are probably going to end up around 560 some man games lost to injury,” Portzline said. “That is devastating.”

But with one more win tonight, the Blue Jackets could climb even further up from the bottom, and miss their opportunity to draft the next big player.

"This never goes in a straight line,” said Portzline. “They had a really successful season last year compared with what the expectations were. There were almost a .500 team last year. You just automatically assume it's going to keep going up from there, but it rarely goes in a perfectly straight line."