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Baby Blue Jackets win bronze in Traverse City

Which CBJ prospects impressed?

NHL Prospects Tournament Day-4 Columbus vs Dallas Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images

The Columbus Blue Jackets prospects were unsuccessful in defending their championship, but earned a third place finish and 3-1 record in the annual prospects tournament in Traverse City, Michigan.

Results

Game 1 (Friday, September 6) CBJ 6, New York Rangers 2
Recaps: BlueJackets.com, Blueshirt Banter. Analysis and Video: Blueshirt Banter

Game 2 (Saturday, September 7) CBJ 3, Minnesota Wild 2 (OT)
Recap: See below

Game 3 (Monday, September 9) Dallas Stars 5, CBJ 3
Recaps: BlueJackets.com, Defending Big D

Third Place Game (Tuesday, September 10) CBJ 5, Toronto Maple Leaves 4 (OT)
Recap: BlueJackets.com

Standout Players

Alexandre Texier

New Cleveland Monsters head coach Mike Eaves, who coached the team in this event, was given the directive to play Texier at center on the top line. The Jackets front office wanted to see if Texier could handle the position. The verdict in these four games was a resounding “YES.” Sexy Texi led all Jackets skaters with six points (four goals and two assists). This includes game winning goals in each overtime victory.

Trey Fix-Wolansky

The diminutive forward made a large impact with five points on the weekend (two goals and three assists).

Eric Hjorth

The 2019 draftee led the team with a plus/minus rating of +5. He also scored two goals. Each new thing I hear about this kid makes me more excited. He could be a key addition to the Columbus blue line in a couple of seasons.

Nikita Korostelev and Egor Sokolov

The two Russian free agent invites each put on a show for the scouts in attendance. Monsters vet Korostelev scored two goals and three assists (tied with Fix-Wolansky for second on the team in points) while Sokolov scored four goals (tied with Texier for the team lead).

Presented without comment

Andrew Peeke (your captain for the week) scored a power play goal!

This was the team’s only PPG in 16 attempts. Only Minnesota had a worst success rate (0 for 12). Tournament champion Detroit scored 9 PPGs in 19 attempts.

Goalies

The two Columbus goalies finished second and third in GAA among tournament goalies. Both allowed six goals total over two starts, but Veini Vehvilainen played nine more minutes thanks to each of his games going to overtime. He faced just two more shots on goal, however. Here is one gem of a save from VV:

While VV was undefeated, Elvis Merzlikins was in goal for the team’s one loss. I wanted to see him dominate this level of competition, but it sounds like he is adjusting to playing on smaller ice:

Full stats available at PointStreak.com

FFMorgan89 checks in

Cannon commenter FFMorgan89 lives in Michigan and made the trip for Saturday’s game against Minnesota. He was generous enough to share his observations with us (lightly edited for clarity and formatting):

Jackets were SMALL and fast seems like they kept the puck away from Minnesota all day, did a really good job handling the puck and keeping it in the zone as a team.

Notable standouts:

Tim Berni played really well, very solid. He wasn’t flashy by any means but he moved the puck well and did a fantastic job keeping it in the zone and controlling the offensive zone.

Andrew Peeke was similar to Berni in that he wasn’t flashy but he was very solid. Made some really good cross ice passes and used his size well (considering how much bigger the Minnesota team was).

VV looked really good but he certainly needs another year or two to develop but the talent is there. He had some really good looks through traffic and FANTASTIC athletic leg save (and stopped the secondary shot). The goals he let up weren’t unstoppable but it wasn’t absolutely horrendous either. The potential is definitely there and I’m much more excited about him than I was 2 nights ago.

Sexy Texy: What can I say, the French phenom was the best player on the ice by a good margin. His skating, puck handling, and passing were hands down better than everyone. He was the only one I saw that was ready for the NHL.

Noticeably not noticeable:

Trey Fix-Wolansky’s size really hasn’t helped him but he has decent speed. He didn’t dazzle me with fancy puck handling but he didn’t turn it over a lot either. I did see some flashes of a poor man’s Atkinson but I think he needs to get a little stronger and a little faster.

Liam Foudy - what can I say? I was underwhelmed by Foudy. He wasn’t bad but he also didn’t stick out either. As a first round pick and one of the higher end talents in the league he should be beating up on a bunch of teenagers (with a handful of 20-21 year olds). He played well defensively and had decent speed, but he wasn’t as fast as I expected him to be from what I have read about him. This could be in part to playing two games in two days. I know it’s one game, but if this game is any indication he isn’t NHL ready yet.

Miscellaneous

Eric Hjorth: I liked his size and he didn’t let too much behind him. He is 18 and needs to fill out his frame but he is someone I want to keep an eye out for in the coming years.

Jacob Lilja: The skill is certainly there but as an older player playing against teenagers it’s hard to say if he will be a full time NHL player. I could see him getting a call up when the injuries pile up but I don’t know if I see him as much more than a rotational/4th line player.

Korostelev: Has some nifty puck handling dazzles. It was fun to watch but I would need to see a few mroe games before I can get a good read for him.

Sokolov: The guy is big and has a decent shot but I don’t think he will be fast enough for the NHL. That being said if he makes it to the NHL and his nickname isn’t SoCo or SoCo Lime then we will have missed out on an incredible opportunity.

Overall thoughts on the tournament:

Just going to say it, it was a blast, seeing all of the front office/scouts there (there was a Jarmo sighting, I wanted to say hi and tell him he has done a great job but he was talking to who I am assuming are scouts and I’m a big introverted wuss; maybe next year), the games were fun to watch, and to see a glimpse into the team’s future was fun especially for 10 bucks a day (4 games played per day). Traverse City is also a wonderful town that is a blast to visit even outside of hockey. I couldn’t get the time off to go to the other games because I started a new job two weeks ago but I will definitely try to stay for the whole tournament next year. It was truly a fun experience.

Thanks again to Morgan for his insight! I’ve heard great things about Traverse City myself and may need to book a trip up there for next year’s tournament.