(Due to work commitments, I couldn't make camp today, so a huge thank you to FlaggerX for posting this recap! - Matt W.)
I took the day to come down and watch the competition for the Mirasty cup, the intramural tournament which has opened Jackets training camps for the second year. It offered a good chance to watch the players go at it playing hockey, and with enough NHL regulars around so the kids get a chance to show themselves.
My plan was to start by writing down line combinations, but they varied so much and there were so many unfamiliar players I just decided to pick out and watch various player combinations. The games were quite equal, all the games except the championship ending in shootouts. If Filatov sticks with us all season, expect to win more of them because he won his Game 2 for Team McConnell with wicked shot stick side that actually caromed of the back shoulder of goalie David LeNeveu (who looked pretty good at times). Filatov's skill and speed where evidenced everywhere, but the day Jackets fans can relax about him will come when he actually hits somebody. I suppose the team was under orders to keep it down against their teammates, but Filatov is willing enough with a stick check, but it stops right there. I don't expect him to emulate Derek Dorsett, but Nikita, please try to use the body sometime. You might even learn to like it.
The Top NHL vets played like top NHL vets. Huselius stick-handled around everyone and many a rookie learned how unpleasant it can be to go into a corner with Jan Hejda, who played it clean but would thump you against the wall if you tried him. Commodore looked healthy and up to speed and often found himself, and Rusty Klesla wore a big grin most of the time. But what Jackets fans really aren't worried about whether or not Rick Nash or Umberger can play, we know they can. It's the kids who are the future, and our biggest question.
Voracek is a beast. Period. He's noticeably bigger then last year, still fast, still skilled, still ready to go into the areas where goals are priced in pain, and he lead Team Crane to victory. Simply put, he's picking up right where he left off after last years 50 point season. By rights he should be on the top line with Nash and Vermette, but that would stick Huselius with Brassard and Filatov, leaving Brassard as the tough guy in that lineup. Not for me. But I wouldn't be surprised if he got 70 points this season. This kid is a future all-star.
Matt Calvert also demands attention. I watched him for two games, and it finally comes down to this. He's Derek Dorsett with skill. He has a motor like Dorsett, always moving, always competing, and when he pries the puck away from behind the net he always manages to chip into a spot dangerous for the defense. If he can keep this up in camp our bottom six is going to change.
Brassard is a mixed bag. His skill is obvious, and on the open ice with the puck on his stick his agility, vision and drive make a difference. Brass too will go into the tough areas, only he's a lot easier then Voracek to push out of them. He did try to out-Huselius Huse a few times, and while his stickhandling is good, it was too much. But he still doesn't win many faceoffs. Derek is great kid, willing and skilled but he needs the puck on his stick.
I know now why the Jackets drafted Ryan Johansen at #4. He's good sized, built about like a skinnier Jared Boll, tall annd lean, and I think when he fills out he'll be a really big guy. He's also happy, fast, skilled and willing. He won't play here this year, but I like the pick a lot more today then I did before.
But not so much John Moore. He's big, willing fast, and does a nice job on the assignment right in front of him. But during the consolation game he ended up -2 within the first 90 seconds, and was -3 for the game. I tried to figure out why, but in most cases the puck was on one side of the crease and Moore came over to help dig it out. The first goal came when it instead went across the net to find Rick Nash right there and waiting for it.
And so I wonder if what Moore needs I isn't so much more muscle as better situational awareness. Granted a forward should rotate back to help the weak side --- and that's the sort of mistake which is common in scratch games with inexperienced players, but an NHL defenseman needs to keep the whole ice in mind while fighting the local battles. I don't know how to teach that-- lots of film study maybe and experience should help but I think that more then skill and desire separates Moore from the NHL guys. Which is too bad. With Kris Russell hurt we need his puck-moving skills more then ever.
Speaking of prospect defenseman Springfield fans should take heart and expect their blueline will be really solid and talented this year. Cody Golubef is a smooth, quick skater who makes great decisions and is so positionally sound. The same could be said for Jonathan Sigalet who played with Klesla on team Wolfe's top pair. He was always in position, showed a good shot and played with sense. Teddy Ruth and Savard also looked solid, and with Clitsome returning Falcons fans and goalies should take heart. So should Jacket fans if the injury bug bites. We really do have a lot of defensive talent coming up.
I was not impressed by Jared Boll. His hands were hard and I saw none of the offensive skill we've been hoping for. I know we need someone as an enforcer, and Boller can eat minutes, but with guys like Calvert coming up Jared might be in trouble. Particularly if Ethan Moreau can fight. He is one big, big guy, and from the side looks a lot like Commodore. The Jackets had Mayorov taking face-offs with Umberger next to him which makes me wonder if he might switch in Springfield.
Dan Fritsche also looked good, and scored the goald which decided the Cup. Not brilliant, but a solid choice if he's willing to make his living as a grinder. I like him better then Murray because he brings some offense with his defense. Put him on a line with Moreau and Calvert you might have a bottom line with a scoring edge to it. I'm not sure he's done enough to get him in, or will, but he has possibilities. I've always liked Derek MacKenzie.
Mini-mite turned forward Michael Ratchuck scored twice and showed real speed and a good shot. I know he's a project, but you could see why he's a prospect for down the road.
All in all it was great to see hockey again, and Jackets back on the ice. I saw a lot of good things, but a few that worry me too. But I left the arena today smiling, and ready for the pre-season.