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Elaine’s Mailbag : Gabriel Carlsson, no bodychecking, and a shallow prospect pool

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Cleveland Monsters v Laval Rocket Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

Welcome to my first ever mailbag!

Today I’ll answer questions pertaining to who might have their breakout year, what the AHL season might look like, the idea of no bodychecking in the OHL, and a whole lot more.

Thanks for submitting questions and I look forward to doing this again in the future.

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I’m combining the first three questions because my answer is the same for all of them

@kylesartillery - Are there any players, in the system,that you think might blossom and surprise people?

@tyster342 - Who in the system breaks out this year?

@littleboomercbj - What player that has been in our system for a while, is ready to break out this year?

Gabriel Carlsson is ready for his breakout season. Contrary to popular belief Carlsson knows how to be an offensive asset in the form of creating and driving plays. He is an incredible poke checker and can read a play well enough to place himself into a position to scoop up rebounds. This year will be the year Carlsson shows the league what he brings to the table.

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@warrpat - Biggest bust on the CBJ roster and thoughts on a Most Improved Player to come?

Within weeks of me calling someone a bust, reports come out that the player was injured. So, I’m going to take another approach to this question. This Jackets team is one of the most inconsistent of all the teams in the past. I think that’s what makes them so frustrating for fans to watch. So,the answer to your question is consistency is the biggest bust on the CBJ roster.

Boone Jenner will hands down be the Most Improved Player for the Jackets this season. With Mikko Koivu on the team, Jenner will move back to his true position of winger. Jenner plays with a different level of intensity and confidence when playing left wing. He might not finish the play but he knows how to keep it going.

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@jpizz45 - What is your favorite phrase to hear at a game? Or call from the play by play announcer?

Oh this is a tough one. During the games, I’m so honed in on what’s happening on the ice that I tend to miss those kinds of things. I will say this, the kids who attend Monsters games are intense. Nothing brings a smile to my face more than hearing a group of kids yelling “FIGHT HIM” or “GO TO THE BOX AND FEEL SHAME” when the Monsters are playing an overly aggressive opponent.

When it comes to play by play announcers, the Blue Jackets organization have some of the best in the two leagues. Tony Brown is eloquent and knows how to put the feeling of the arena into words. While, Bob McElligott is full of energy, honesty, and sayings that keep you laughing for days. I used to try and emulate him while I was running the AAA Blue Jackets twitter back in the day by saying things like “We’re all tied up here like a hog at a rodeo”.

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@gioavini - What new signee could make the biggest impact?

Jackets : I believe Mikko Koivu is going to have the biggest impact on the Blue Jackets this season. His leadership style is catered towards action instead of words. Talking the talk can only get a player and a team so far in the NHL.

Also, for the past 14 years, Koivu consistently stayed in the 51-55% range for faceoffs. This makes him the only person the Jackets to consistently be in the 50s. Winning faceoffs allows a team to dictate momentum and control the play. Especially when the faceoff takes place in the defensive zone during a close game.

Monsters : Tyler Sikura is going to help elevate the Monsters to the next level during the 2020-21 season. His speed and ability to create plays will take some of the weight off of the shoulders of Nathan Gerbe and Zac Dalpe. Also, Sikura’s willingness to chase down a rebound will allow the defense to hang in the neutral zone knowing they will only need to rush the offensive zone as a last resort.

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@baseballfan1712 - What do you think the AHL season will look like this year?

To be honest, how the 2020-2021 AHL season looks depends a lot on each state’s legislation and if the Canadian-United States border is open.

If the border is closed at the start of the season, the divisions will have to be completely realigned. To throw a wrench into the whole process, the AHL will likely have to move three teams to Canada for the season. (There has been no official word from the AHL on if this is a possibility.) The parent clubs of the Utica Comets, Bakersfield Condors, and Stockton Heat are located in Western Canada. NHL teams will have a tough time pulling from their farm team if it’s located in another country. Losing two teams in California will require the AHL to get a little creative with their realignments. It’s not the first time they’ve moved divisions around. So, I’m sure they already have an idea in mind.

The next thing to look at is how many fans will be allowed into the arena when the season starts. It’s not a secret that for the AHL to make money they depend on fans being inside the arena and local sponsorships. With many local businesses closing or tightening purse strings due to COVID-19, having fans in attendance is the best way to earn any type of profit this season.

If fans are allowed in the building, it’s likely attendance will be limited to a certain percentage. Teams like the Manitoba Moose, Chicago Wolves, San Jose Barracuda, and Iowa Wild will be able to social distance and still allow the bulk of their fanbase in the building. Those four arenas have a capacity of 15,000 or more. On the flip side, social distancing protocols will hurt teams like the Utica Comets, Belleville Senators, Binghamton Devils, Colorado Eagles, and Rockford IceHogs because they have a capacity of 6,000 and below. With that being said, some teams may opt out of the AHL season due to financial reasons. Teams opting out of the season would also force division realignments.

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@rnldluce - Curious about the team you cover’s parent club, the Blue Jackets. What does their prospect depth look like? Do they have a lot of young guys ready for the AHL or NHL?

Simply put, no. The Jackets have three players signed to contracts that are not playing in the AHL or NHL.

Goaltender Daniil Tarasov was expected to join the Monsters this season giving Cleveland three high-caliber netminders. According to scouting reports, last season, Tarasov was performing at the same level of play as Matiss Kivlenieks and Veini Vehvilainen leaving the Monsters/Jackets with a conundrum involving what to do with three goalies on the roster.

I don’t know much about defenders Tim Berni and Jacob Christiansen. They could be ready to hop over to the AHL from Europe when/if the season starts in February.

I’ve heard good things about some of their more recent draft picks Kirill Marchenko (2018), Dmitri Voronkov (2019), and Yegor Chinakhov (2020). The problem with all three of them is they are likely to stay in the KHL for at least another year.

Basically, the Jackets pool of prospects is fairly shallow. I have a feeling they are going to be spending more time than normal watching their recent draft picks.

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@joshbarlog - talk about the comical move to cancel checking in the OHL

Let me start by saying I understand why someone would want to eliminate any form of contact during a pandemic.

However, If a league or province is concerned about whether or not a player is going to catch and then pass COVID onto another player and decide it’s best to modify the way the game is played, they should cancel the season.

There is no way to dramatically damper the spread of COVID without placing the OHL into a bubble. Which they cannot financially afford to do. Plus, players in the OHL range from the age of 16-21. Trying to figure out chaperones and family/billet logistics would be mass chaos.

From a development standpoint, there are both pros and cons to eliminating bodychecking.

On the positive side, you’ll see skill players and those with high “hockey IQs” flourish. Plus, those who struggle with the fundamentals of the game will be forced to hone their passing, stick handling, playmaking, and skating skills. So, you will likely see a faster game with more finesse.

Now, on to the negative side of things. The OHL is a direct jump into the NHL. Players who have been drafted and signed by a NHL team can be called up from the OHL in the middle of the season. Bringing a player up to the NHL who hasn’t played in games with bodychecking can be dangerous. How many players that get brought up from the OHL are going to get absolutely rocked on NHL ice? My guess is a good number. When bodychecking is eliminated, you also begin to eliminate a player’s ability to know how to take a hit or how to safely retrieve a puck from the corners. Plus, we all know there are a few players in the league who will be gunning for the younger players who are no longer well versed in the art of bodychecking. One would hope the OHL teams will still teach their players the fine art of protecting themselves despite bodychecking not being allowed.

The OHL’s rule has the potential to affect how rosters are shaped in the NHL during the 2020-21 season. Due to the NHL-CHL agreement, a player drafted out of the OHL, WHL, or QMJHL cannot play in the professional minors (AHL/ECHL) before they have played in the Major Juniors for four years or turn 20. In a “normal” season, if a player is on the bubble of making the NHL roster, the organization usually will send them to the OHL to continue their development. If the game is being played differently, it doesn’t make sense to send a player you plan on calling up midseason or have on the roster during playoffs to the OHL. I could see (I’m hypothesizing here) teams decide to leave their OHL bubble players in the NHL to allow further development of their prospect. This means a player on a two-way AHL/NHL contract will be sent down to make room on the roster for the player in need of development.

Another option is to send prospects from the OHL overseas to play in Europe. This only works if a team doesn’t plan on having those players on their roster at any point in the season or playoffs.

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@tree_turty_tree - Who do you see as the D lineups this year after the dust settles?

For the Jackets:

First Pair - Zach Werenski and Seth Jones
Second Pair - Vladislav Gavrikov and David Savard
Third Pair - Gabriel Carlsson and Dean Kukan

7th D man - Scott Harrington

For the Monsters:

First Pair - Gavin Bayreuther and Adam Clendening
Second Pair - Dillon Simpson and Andrew Peeke
Third Pair - Wyatt Newpower and Thomas Schemitsch

For the Monsters, as of right now, there is not a seventh defender. Tim Berni and Jacob Christiansen are currently playing overseas. If the Jackets decided to bring them stateside when the season starts, they will likely play for the Monsters.

Once the AHL start date is set in stone, I think it would behoove the Monsters to re-sign Anton Karlsson, Doyle Somerby, and Steve Johnson. It doesn’t hurt to have extra bodies on the roster who understand the inner-workings of the team during a condensed season.

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@zieglerashton (She is a newer Jackets fan and on the hunt for a good CBJ hat. Help a fan out!) - Why did the Jackets not even try to get Hall?

I can’t speak for Jarmo Kekalainen but I can take a stab at what may have been going through his mind involving Taylor Hall. Kekalainen did offer Hall a longer contract with less money than Buffalo. It’s clear Hall wanted to be paid for a short period of time. It’s likely Kekalainen didn’t throw the whole house at Hall because he still has to sign Gavrikov and Pierre-Luc Dubois this offseason. Both of those players deserve to be focused on and get a decent sized pay day.

Also, signing a skilled player to a one-year contract leading into what will be a wild free agency and expansion draft year is not the safest thing for the Jackets. Over the years, the Jackets have seen some of their best players choose to walk out on the team despite the winning culture that has taken shape. The Jackets need phenomenal players who want to play for Columbus with almost every fiber of their being.

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@arthuronsports - How do you see the future of the ECHL shaping up, especially in relation to NHL/AHL affiliations? Have you ever been to a Mentor Ice Breakers game?

Honestly, I have zero clue how things could shake out for the ECHL. Right now, I think affiliating with ECHL teams is the last thing on the NHL’s mind. If a NHL team owns their AHL and ECHL affiliate, I could see things being a little dicey money wise. Both the AHL and ECHL will likely have a limited number of fans in the arena this season. Since they both depend on fans being in the building to make a profit, they will be looking for the parent club to help keep things running. I guess what I’m saying is the situation is very fluid.

I have not been to a Mentor Ice Breakers game yet. The rink in Mentor is an hour from my house and a lot of games take place on Monsters game day. I would like to get up there to watch a game.

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@littleboomercbj Favorite hockey cocktail?

Since I rarely sleep during the hockey season, I make it a point to drink more water and coffee than alcohol.

However, after the Monsters have three games in three days, I usually watch trash tv with my mom and drink wine straight from the bottle to unwind.