COLUMBUS OH - FEBRUARY 05: John Moore #7 of the Columbus Blue Jackets keeps an eye on the puck while playing in his first NHL game against the Edmonton Oilers at Nationwide Arena on February 5 2011 in Columbus Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Once again the Jackets will participate in the Traverse City Prospect Tournament, hosted by the Detroit Red Wings in Traverse City, Michigan. The Jackets have won the tournament twice- in 2005 and 2006. Since then, they have struggled. Last year was especially tough, as the team went 0-4, with a goal differential of 8-23. The main reason was due to the team bringing in so many free agent invites, rather than established prospects with some pro experience. This time there are only six free agents.
There are eight teams participating in this year's tourny- Columbus, Detroit, Buffalo, Minnesota, St.Louis, Dallas, Rangers, and Carolina. The latter four teams will play in the "Gretzky" division, while the former four, including Columbus, will play in the "Howe" division. The tournament runs from September 10th to the 14th.
Take a look after the jump to see who the Jackets will be sending to Traverse City.
Ryan Johansen - Arguably the best player in the tournament, The Johan will be a go-to player for the Jackets at this event. This is the first step towards making the Jackets full time this season. Being dominant at a tournament like this is something he'll need to do to help convince Howson and Co. that he is ready for the Jackets, rather than an extra year in Portland. He doesn't qualify for the AHL until next year.
Cam Atikinson - How long can the Jackets keep him a secret? He absolutely lit up the college ranks the past two seasons, and didn't look out of place with the Falcons last season. He's a sniper- and if paired with Johansen the duo can do some damage at Traverse City.
Tomas Kubalik - This is a player I am very excited about. His one season in Victoriaville of the QMJHL was enough to make me a fan, and he followed that up with a fantastic rookie pro season with the Falcons last season. He's a power forward, and if the Traverse City coaching staff (comprised of the Falcons staff, Rob Reilly, Nolan Pratt and Brad Larsen) choose to go with a dominant first line, Kubalik would look great alongside The Johan and Atkinson.
Michael Chaput - I'm looking forward to watching Chaput play again this season. Last year he and the now-defunct Lewiston MAINEiacs travelled to Halifax to play the Mooseheads, and I came away from that game very excited that he was added to the organization in a deadline trade with Philly for Tom Sestito. He's a do-everything centerman who has good size and offensive ability.
Petr Straka - Straka is a player with something to prove. He's the latest player to suffer the "CBJ second rounder curse", where a highly touted player doesn't live up to expectations after being taken in round two by Columbus. To be fair, he dealt with injuries last season, but he only put up 25 points in 41 games when healthy. He's an offensive winger, and this tournament will be a prime opportunity to show that he is still a top prospect.
Dalton Smith - Joining Straka in the same "something to prove" category, Smith was supposed to be a go-to player for the Ottawa 67's of the OHL last season but severely disappointed. He'll never put up major offensive numbers, but 12 goals in junior for a player with his ability and age is a let-down. This is an important stage for him to carve a niche within the organization.
Oliver Gabriel - Gabriel was an invite at last year's tournament, and went on to impress in main camp, eventually earning a contract with the Jackets. He's a physical winger who was injured for a bulk of last season. He and Smith would look good together as the wingers on an energy line at Traverse City.
Boone Jenner - Considering the Jackets didn't have a first round pick in June's draft, they came out with a damned good player with their second round pick. Jenner is a first-round talent and the Jackets were very lucky that he was around when they picked. I am very excited about Jenner- he's known as a coach's dream, and to go along with his defensive game, he has leadership and some offensive pop. Jenner was recently named captain of his junior squad, the Oshawa Generals.
Lukas Sedlak - I have high hopes for Sedlak. Like Kubalik, Sedlak is a Czech winger with offensive ability. Also like Kubalik, Sedlak is making the move from the Czech Republic to the QMJHL, where he'll play with the Chicoutimi Sagueneens this season. I follow the QMJHL very closely, and Sedlak will be one of the guys I pay special attention to. He would look good along fellow Q prospects Chaput and Straka in Traverse City.
Mike Thomas - A fellow maritimer from New Maryland, New Brunswick, Thomas was signed to an AHL/ECHL contract by the Falcons this summer. Thomas was the captain of the powerhouse, Memorial Cup-winning Saint John Sea Dogs last season. Last year's squad will go down in history as one of the deepest and most talented junior teams ever. Thomas is a grinder, and will look to bring his sandpaper style and leadership to Traverse City as a camp invite.
Adam Payerl - An undrafted free agent invite from the Belleville Bulls of the OHL, Payerl is a checking forward who is willing to drop the mitts when needed. His offensive game hasn't developed in the OHL, and will be a long shot to earn a contract.
Tyler Johnson - A free agent invite who has just completed his collegiate career at Colorado College, Johnson is an undersized offensive forward who is a former "Mr.Hockey" finalist in the state of Minnesota. This past December Johnson was named Division 1 College Hockey Player of the month. He'll need to work on his defensive game, but he has a shot to impress the brass at Traverse City. Reminds me of a collegiate Geoff Platt.
Patrick Kennedy - Another college free agent invite, Kennedy just completed his senior year as co-captain of the Cornell Big Red. He was a teammate of current CBJ prospect Sean Collins. Kennedy isn't polished offensively, rather he is a hard-working intangibles-type. He's a long shot.
Kyle Ostrow - Ostrow, like Johnson and Kennedy, is an undrafted college free agent. He just completed his senior year at Denver, where he was team captain. He stands at only 5'8", but he is an offensive forward with leadership ability. He had a cup of coffee with Portland of the AHL last season on a tryout contract. He's looking to earn one with the Jackets, Falcons or Express with a solid outing in Traverse City.
John Moore - The former first round pick had an up-and-down rookie pro season last year with the Falcons. He'll be expected to increase his offensive totals and improve his plus/minus this season, and a strong start at Traverse City will help that. He's a very fluid skater, and is very good on the breakout. He's one of the guys who can really dominate at a tournament like this.
David Savard - While Moore got most of the attention at the beginning of last season, Savard was the top dog at the end of the year. Savard had a fantastic rookie season with the Falcons, and he was arguably their top defender. He's in the mix for a spot on the Columbus blueline, so a lot of eyes will be on him at Traverse City.
Cody Goloubef - Goloubef had a solid rookie season with the Falcons last season. He'll look to improve in all areas however, and will be one of the key blueliners at this tournament. This is a good opportunity for him to showcase himself to the Falcons coaches, so he can get into more than 50 games next season.
Theo Ruth - Ruth and Goloubef had similar seasons last year, the only difference being Ruth is more of a stay-at-home type where Goloubef likes the puck on his stick. Ruth will also be looking to showcase himself to the coaches as well, and the two would make a fine pairing in Michigan.
Anton Blomqvist - After coming over from Sweden at the end of last season, Blomqvist suited up for five games with the Falcons. That wasn't much time to make an impression, so this tournament will be the start of his road to establishing himself in North America.
Steven Delisle - Caught in a numbers game in the AHL, Delisle was sent to Fort Wayne of the CHL, where he sustained an injury and only played in six games. The towering blueliner is looking for a fresh start this season.
Dalton Prout - Prout signed his entry-level contract with Columbus this summer, and is looking at a job with either the Falcons or Chicago Express this season. He's a physical defenseman who found his offensive game last year. It's unlikely that his offense will translate to the pros, but he has the tools to be an effective two-way blueliner.
Brandon Archibald - Archibald and Prout were traded from their respective teams to the Saginaw Spirit late last season. While Prout will be making the jump to the pros, Archibald will be back in Saginaw as a go-to member of the Spirit blueline. He'll look to boost his offensive numbers.
Austin Madaisky - Madaisky was well on his way to a solid offensive season with the Kamloops Blazers before a scary injury ended his season prematurely. Traverse City offers a fresh start, and this is a guy who I am excited to see. He could surprise.
Mathieu Corbeil - As a Mooseheads fan, I understood the need to trade Corbeil last season. He went from a terrible Halifax squad to the powerhouse Saint John Sea Dogs. He was the backup last season, but finished the regular season with a 13-1-1 record as a member of the 'Dogs. He'll be their starter this season, where they'll look to repeat as Memorial Cup champs. This is just the kind of tournament to show the brass that he has pro potential.
Allen York - York will be splitting time with Curtis Sanford in the Falcons cage this upcoming season, and I look forward to seeing him in action after a great career at RPI. The goaltending duties will likely be split among all of the attendees at Traverse City, but this tourny offers the Falcons coach's another chance to see York in action.
Paul Dainton - The goalie from Nunavut, Dainton was the third goalie in Springfield last season, and will be in the same position this year. If York and Sanford are healthy, Dainton will more than likely be the starter with Chicago of the ECHL.
You know me and depth charts, so here's one for gits and shiggles:
KUBALIK - JOHANSEN - ATKINSON
SEDLAK - CHAPUT - STRAKA
GABRIEL - JENNER - SMITH
OSTROW - KENNEDY - THOMAS
SAVARD - MOORE
GOLOUBEF - RUTH
BLOMQVIST - PROUT
ARCHIBALD - MADAISKY
This is always one of my favorite annual tournaments. It's the unofficial kickoff of the hockey season, and it's a great chance to see all of the great young talent in the organization (with the exception of the college kids of course). The NHL network will be broadcasting all of the Rangers games, so that means unfortunately there won't be any Columbus games on the network. If somebody out there know of a way to watch these games, please share! Otherwise we'll be recapping the games as best we can, using boxscores and linking to game notes, where available.
For the first time this season, GO JACKETS!