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Training Camp Battles: The Forwards

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A handful of young forwards are looking to cement themselves as NHLers

Boston Bruins v Columbus Blue Jackets Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the upcoming training camp is the group of young forwards looking to force themselves on the Blue Jackets roster. There won’t be enough spots for all of them, but thanks to the offseason departures of William Karlsson, Scott Hartnell and Sam Gagner, there are at least three spots up for grabs.

There’s also another short term opportunity, thanks to the continued recovery of Brandon Dubinsky from offseason surgery. Though a veteran will likely replace Dubinsky’s minutes up the middle for at least the first few games of the season, this will likely be in the form of a veteran winger like Nick Foligno or Boone Jenner, meaning another spot (at least temporarily) on the wing would be freed up for a young player knocking on the door.

With a healthy Dubinsky, there a few players we can confidently lock into positions. Alexander Wennberg and Artemi Panarin seemed destined to start as a duo. Foligno, Dubinsky and Cam Atkinson will be on scoring lines. Jenner, Matt Calvert and Lukas Sedlak are likely bottom-sixers, with Josh Anderson joining them as soon as he gets a new contract signed.

That’s nine forwards right there, with four more spots to fill.

You know Oliver Bjorkstrand will be on the roster, but where will he slide in? CBJ fans are salivating at the thought of Bjorkstrand lining up with Wenns and the Bread Man, and that could be precisely what happens if he has a good camp.

To continue this narrative (and looking ahead to a healthy Dubinsky) a second line of Foligno - Dubinsky - Atkinson would bring a little bit of everything.

Who’s left to play in the bottom six with Calvert, Anderson*, Jenner and Sedlak?

The answer is a few players, each with a different skill set. Sonny Milano is almost at that point where he needs to deuce or get off the bucket. Markus Hannikainen is a safe player, and is probably a safe bet to get one of the three spots up for grabs. Tyler Motte was anything but a throw-in in the Panarin deal, while a player like Sam Vigneault, Calvin Thurkauf or even a Paul Bittner could surprise and nail down a spot. Jordan Schroeder is a veteran option.

Or perhaps one or both of the club’s elite prospects in Pierre-Luc Dubois or Vitaly Abramov grab spots?

Not to oversimplify, but here are some canned scenarios:

Fill the roster with skill:

Panarin - Wennberg - Bjorkstrand
Foligno - Dubinsky - Atkinson
Jenner - Dubois - Anderson
Calvert - Sedlak - Abramov
Schroeder/Milano

Round out the lineup with #grit:

Panarin - Wennberg - Bjorkstrand
Foligno - Dubinsky - Atkinson
Jenner - Sedlak - Anderson
Calvert - Dubois - Hannikainen
Schroeder

Balance it out:

Panarin - Wennberg - Bjorkstrand
Foligno - Dubinsky - Atkinson
Jenner - Dubois - Anderson
Calvert - Sedlak - Abramov
Schroeder/Hannikainen

Balance it out 2:

Panarin - Wennberg - Bjorkstrand
Foligno - Dubinsky - Atkinson
Jenner - Sedlak - Anderson
Calvert - Dubois - Milano
Motte/Hannikainen

You’ll notice that in all scenarios I’ve maintained the top-9, with the exception of 3C, which I see as a battle between Dubois and Sedlak. This spot was Karlsson’s, and Sedlak seems like the guy who can pound-for-pound replace him. Calvert and Sedlak could form a new PK duo.

It’s probably a safe bet that the team will try to balance the roster, so if Dubois makes it there are realistically two more spots to be had. Among the skill players, Milano will look to hold off Abramov (who will likely play in Europe if he doesn’t make the team) while Hannikainen, Motte, Schroeder and a dark horse like Vigneault will duke it out for the last spot.

Obviously this is all hypothetical meant to foster discussion. We’ll know in a few days when the Jackets open camp - which forwards do you see earning a spot on the roster to start the season?