It's obviously a small sample size, but the Traverse City eight-team prospects tournament can be a nice barometer for how a team's organizational depth stacks up against some other clubs. The Blue Jackets went into the tournament with a bevy of talent, including four first round picks from the last two drafts, and were determined to have a good showing.
And, despite losing one of those first rounders in the first game (Sonny Milano to a face injury), the Columbus kids were able to come together and win the tournament, going 4-0-0 along the way. Eric highlighted some of the individual performances this morning, and to say that the team brass was anything less than very happy about the outcome would be selling it short.
"To see a lot of our very good young players go there and play as well as they did against the other teams' best young players was very gratifying to see," said team president John Davidson. "To me, it gives you a strong sense of gratification that we've got something going on here. Not only the club's players that are here now, but the youngsters that are going to push for jobs and eventually become Columbus Blue Jackets."
"I've been to that tournament since 2002, though I skipped a couple of years while I was in Finland," said GM Jarmo Kekalainen. "This is as proud as I've ever been of a group of prospects, with the way they played as a team as well as on an individual level. They all performed to the high expectations that we had, and beyond."
"That's a great start to a new hockey season in my books."
Clearly, the near-term future of the Jackets franchise was on display, not just with the first round picks but also with guys like Josh Anderson and Oliver Bjorkstrand as well. Given some of the spots that may be up for grabs as training camp opens this week, for the gang of kids to have come together and played as well as they did is certainly a positive for the team as the new season dawns.
"It's remarkable what you can achieve in a good off-season," said Kekalainen speaking about the players themselves. "There are a lot of guys on our team that really put in the effort and the time to improve. As we improve as individuals, we're going to improve as a team."
For his part, Kekalainen thought that the line of Marko Dano, Alexander Wennberg, and Oliver Bjorkstrand was the best line in the tournament, and you'd be hard pressed to find any legitimate arguments to the contrary. But, he was quick to point out that everyone played well, down to the very youngest guys on the roster.
While obviously it would have been great to see Sonny Milano play in all four games, that the Jackets came through that adversity and still performed at such a high level is a great sign of what's to come in the next few years.