Yesterday, the Columbus Blue Jackets wrapped up their appearance at the Traverse City Prospects Tournament. They went 2-1, with a 7-1 win over St. Louis, a 4-2 loss to Detroit, and a 3-2 overtime victory against Toronto. A winning record is nice, but more important is individual players stepping up. Which prospects impressed the most?
Kent Johnson & Kirill Marchenko
These two were the players most likely to make the NHL roster out of camp, and nothing I saw this weekend changed my mind. MrSwift raised two questions about the pair on Friday: Could Johnson play center, and could Marchenko adjust to the North American game? Each were among the top scorers in the tournament, Johnson tied for the lead with six points and Marchenko close behind with five. Marchenko scored a goal in all three games, including the OT winner on Sunday. Both looked comfortable in all three zones, and showed immediate chemistry together.
If there’s one criticism, it’s that they had a tendency to pass the puck too much. They’re very good at it, but passed up a few good shots. On the flip side, when they were on the ice they excelled at getting the puck into the offensive zone, and creating chances around the net.
A third round pick this summer, Dumais opened the scoring with two goals in the first period of the first game. That was on the second line, with center Luca Del Bel Belluz. When Mikael Pyyhtia left the second game with an injury, Dumais was bumped up to his spot on the top line. With an extra skater on, Dumais got the tying goal at the end of regulation vs. the Leafs.
The knock on Dumais at the draft was that he was undersized, and not a fast skater. Despite that, he has a nose for the net, and seemed to be creating a scoring chance in every shift. Scoring 109 points in 68 games in the Q isn’t an accident. Could Dumais be another Bjorkstrand? We’re several years away from that, but the potential is there.
I was pleased with the entire blue line, for the most part. They dominated St. Louis, and even though Detroit and Toronto (with better rosters) got more chances, they didn’t get many second chance shots. You also saw all of the defensemen contributing on the offensive end as well. While all eyes were on #6 pick David Jiricek, the defender that impressed me the most was the other first rounder, #12 Denton Mateychuk.
Mateychuk moves around the ice as well as advertised. When he had the puck, he looked like another forward. He’s another player that is a few years away, but I understand now why scouts felt he had a very high upside.
Mikael Pyyhtia: What stood out to me about him was his speed. Johnson and Marchenko were playing at a high pace (not just straight-ahead speed, but making quick decisions), and he kept up. It’s a shame an injury cost him time, but it doesn’t appear major.
David Jiricek: He throws big hits and has a booming shot. I wasn’t blown away by him, however, so I don’t see him cracking an already saturated right side of the defense on the Jackets this season. That’s ok; let’s see him develop further for a year.
Ben Boyd: For those wanting more grit, Boyd is not afraid to drop the gloves. He had a fight against St. Louis, and led the team with 7 PIM in just two games played.
Luca Del Bel Belluz: A goal and an assist and +2 rating, and made the second line a legitimate secondary threat after the Johnson line. Dude’s a legit NHL center in the future.
Players officially check in for training camp on Wednesday, and hit the ice for their first practice on Thursday. Sunday marks the first preseason games, with half the roster playing the Penguins in Pittsburgh at 1 p.m. and the other half playing in Columbus at 7 p.m.
Here’s an early look at what the Cleveland Monsters roster may look like this year. New head coach Trent Vogelhuber could have a stacked squad.
You got Crew in my Blue Jackets! You got Blue Jackets in my Crew!
Let’s ignore that the Crew drew AGAIN. They have a Torts-like knack for not getting regulation results. At least they wore proper yellow kits, and not the white/gray abominations they’ve been busting out lately.
Cole Sillinger made the case that he could be a better fifth starter than Zach Plesac:
Sure it was an eephus pitch, but it was a strike, and fellow Canadian Cal Quantrill was impressed. Speaking of cool first pitches, neat prop work from the Minnesota Wild’s Alex Goligoski:
Play me out
There’s a great new documentary on Netflix about Creedence Clearwater Revival. It traces the early history of the band, leading up to a performance at London’s Royal Albert Hall. The last hour of the film is a previously unreleased recording of that concert, featuring the band at their peak. That film and this excellent ranking of songs by Steven Hyden make a great case for CCR being one of the greater bands of their time. Their time at the top was too brief, but they were insanely prolific: they released five albums in two years and each was a masterpiece, full of memorable hits.