As soon as he was drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets today, the natural question was thrown at Fort Wayne’s Blake Siebenaler, who grew up in the adjacent state.
“Were you a big Blue Jackets fan growing up?” he was asked by a reporter.
After a smile, and a moment of hesitation, he said: “Not in particular growing up, no. But this definitely changes your perspective on things.”
Siebenaler, an 18-year-old defenseman, who grew up a Red Wings fan, was taken with the 17th pick of the third round, 77th overall, by Columbus.
He is the first player from Fort Wayne to be drafted by an NHL team since Dale Purinton went to the New York Rangers with a fifth-round pick in 1995.
Siebenaler was born in Toledo, lived in Edon, Ohio, until third grade, and then moved to Fort Wayne with his family.
“I think they’re in the process of building a pretty powerful team in the NHL and I’m pretty excited to be a part of that,” said Siebenaler, who will likely return to his junior team, the Ontario Hockey League’s Niagara IceDogs, this season.
He had seven goals and 34 points in 75 games there last season, in the regular season and playoffs combined.
“I try and play a two-way game,” he said. “I try and contribute offensively, join the rush, and make plays in the offensive zone. But I definitely need to improve on my defensive game, too.”
Siebenaler played a year for the Carroll club team and has also skated for the United States Hockey League’s Indiana Ice and USA Hockey’s Under-17 National Developmental team.
He was interviewed by 15 teams at the NHL combine, including the Blue Jackets, and most projections had him going in the late third or early fourth round.
The Blue Jackets had three picks prior to Siebenaler, taking left wing Sonny Milano in the first round, defenseman Ryan Collins in the second and goaltender Elvis Merzlikins immediately before Siebenaler.
“My skating ability is definitely giving me a huge boost,” Siebenaler said. “With my game, it’s definitely what puts me in front of everybody else. But I definitely need to work on other parts of my game, too, like Xs and Os and hands and shots, everything like that.”