Welcome to our continuing coverage of training camp battles for the 2019-20 Columbus Blue Jackets roster. Today we will be taking a look at the team’s goalie situation, and who is the best fit to fill some pretty big Russian skates.
No one is quite sure which one of the potential candidates is going to earn that regular starting role, but we’re thinking that training camp might give us a pretty good clue.
For the last seven years, goaltending for the Jackets has been anchored by the stalwart Sergei Bobrovsky, who made his expected exit from the team this summer as the most decorated goalie in franchise history. Admittedly, the candidates looking to fill his place are relatively green in comparison. However, both show demonstrable potential to grow into the dependable, confident goalie that the team could desperately use this upcoming season.
Let’s take a look at our vying contenders...
Oh, Korpi. By no means a CBJ newbie, Joonas Korpisalo will return for his fifth season with the Jackets. However, circumstances are different than before — no longer is he second fiddle to Bob, because the starting role is now his for the taking.
This will be a defining season in Korpi’s career, as it will be his first real chance to prove himself as starter material. His previous appearances have been brief and far between, with only 81 career starts and 90 appearances since 2015-16.
Someone to look forward to
Despite not having made his NHL debut yet, Elvis Merzlikens has developed a reputation that has preceded his arrival to Columbus. GM Jarmo Kekalainen dropped some high praise on him, calling him “the best goaltender outside of the NHL right now.” This Latvian goaltender is coming hot off a season as the best goalie in Switzerland, known for his flair and big personality on the ice.
What remains to be seen is how these highly-praised skills will translate to NHL ice, especially how Merzlikens performs against Korpi, who is a little more seasoned but still untested by a regular starting role within the league.
In my opinion (and yours, according to this poll Will took), the aforementioned are the two realistic contenders for starting goalie this season. But it’s CBJ hockey, which means anything can happen. So for the sake of thoroughness, let’s just run through the rest of the rostered goaltenders, shall we?
Top 25 Under 25: #9
Check out our (linked above) Top 25 Under 25 article for the complete lowdown on Veini, but I can sum it up for you here: he’s worth paying attention to. After attending CBJ’s development camp last summer, Vehviläinen went on to have a notable season in the Finnish Liiga, the top tier of Finnish hockey. He may not be on the short list for starting goaltender, but his talent speaks to the depth of the Jackets’ options.
It’s likely we’ll see Kivlenieks spend most of his 2019-20 season developing with the Monsters, which is an appropriate place for him to be right now. While probably not ready to hit the NHL ice yet, Matiss is young and has plenty of time to grow into a competitive goaltender the Jackets can utilize down the road if the time is right.
Granted, I’m an optimist, but I believe the Jackets are in a great place right now with their goaltending situation. They have plenty of depth and developing talent in the pipeline, plus a handful of guys who will always be pushing themselves and each other to be the one in that coveted starting spot.
Stay tuned to The Cannon for more coverage as training camp gets underway. Hockey season is almost here!