News came down the wire yesterday that Jackets prospect Matt Calvert was signed to his entry-level contract. This is good news for the Jackets because if he wasn't signed soon he would re-enter the draft. There was really no chance that he wasn't going to be re-signed, but it's good news nonetheless.
When the Jackets drafted him in the fifth round of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, he was the least heralded of a group of three youngsters playing for the Brandon Wheat Kings. Those three would spend most of their junior career playing as a line- the other two players are 2009 first round draft picks Brayden Schenn and Scott Glennie. Schenn went to the Los Angeles Kings and Glennie was taken by the Dallas Stars.
In the fall of 2009 Calvert was very impressive in training camp, and the Jackets were eager to sign him with the intention of sending him to Syracuse of the AHL. However, he was still eligible to return to junior for one more season. Most players elect to skip their overage year in junior and make the jump to professional hockey, but there was a huge incentive for Calvert to return to Brandon. They are the hosts of this year's Memorial Cup- the holy grail of junior hockey. Being the hosts, Brandon gets a bye right to the Memorial Cup tournament. The other three teams in the tourny are the champions of the QMJHL, OHL and WHL. Add to this fact that Matt is a Brandon native, and he made the decision to return to junior. He is currently tied for the team scoring lead with Schenn, with 99 points apiece.
Next year he will be a professional. With the current makeup of the team, he has a good shot at making the Columbus roster right out of camp. He is a tenacious player who's engine never quits. He can supply offense and for a smaller player he can be quite physical. For those Jacket fans who have been here since the start- he plays a hell of a lot like Tyler Wright. He is a logical replacement for Raffi Torres, so seeing him in a CBJ sweater next year should help ease the pain of trading Raffi.
While on the topic of Calvert, let's take a quick look at some other prospects. For the first time since the early years of the franchise, the prospect cupboard is relatively bare. There are still some very good players on the way for the Jackets though:
Nikita Filatov is still the team's best prospect, and count me in the group that wants to see him be a star in Columbus. Also in the mix is John Moore, the team's first round pick from last year. He will likely be in Syracuse of the AHL next season. Maksim Mayorov just completed a brief stint with Columbus and didn't do much to impress. That doesn't mean he isn't going to be a good player, he just needs some more time to develop.
Two more players are making the future look bright- The Cannon favourites David Savard and Cam Atkinson. Savard is piling up the points as a defenseman with Moncton of the QMJHL and Atkinson is curently fourth in Hockey East scoring with 34 points in 27 games while also leading his Boston College team in scoring. Savard has been nominated for the QMJHL's Best Defenseman Award, Sportsman of the Year Award, and Best Defensive Defenseman Award.
A pair of college prospects have been nominated for some CCHA hardware also. Forward Matt Rust, who was acquired from the Florida Panthers for defenseman Mathieu Roy has been nominated for the CCHA Top Defensive Forward Award. He plays with fellow CBJ prospect and 2009 second rounder Kevin Lynch at the University of Michigan. The other prospect up for an award is 2007 second round pick Will Weber, he is nominated for the CCHA top defensive defenseman award.