While the Columbus Blue Jackets and the rest of the NHL continue to sit idle during the lockout, the Jackets’ American Hockey League affiliate Springfield Falcons sit at the top of the Eastern Conference standings after seven games with 11 points and a 5-1-1 record.
Leading the way for the team’s strong start are some familiar faces for Jackets fans.
Ryan Johansen, who racked up 21 points in 67 games with Columbus in 2011-2012, currently sits with six points (3 goals – 3 assists) in seven games with the Falcons. The 2010 fourth overall pick by the Jackets played one season of his junior career with the BCHL’s Penticton Vees before spending two season with the Western Hockey League’s Portland Winterhawks, compiling 161 points in 134 games.
Johansen is not the only player on the Springfield roster who saw an extended period of time with Columbus in 2011-2012. Former Boston College standout Cam Atkinson has six points (3 goals – 3 assists) in seven games with the Falcons after registering 14 points in 27 games with Columbus a season ago. Other players who spent time with the Jackets last season who have taken the ice with Springfield to start the season include Matt Calvert, Tomas Kubalik, and Ryan Russell.
In net, the Falcons are lead by former Calgary Flames, Anaheim Ducks, Ottawa Senators, and Phoenix Coyotes goaltender Curtis McElhinney. McElhinney has 5 wins in six appearances and has registered a 1.51 goals against average and a .949 saves percentage, both stats ranking in the top six in the league. The other net minders on the Falcons roster are Paul Dainton and Allen York. Dainton is 0-0-1 in 1 appearance so far this season after compiling a 13-12-1 record with the Falcons last season. York, who is yet to play, went 3-2-0 in 11 appearances in the Blue Jackets crease last season, compiling a 2.30 goals against average and a .919 saves percentage.
Behind the bench, former Atlanta Thrasher and Colorado Avalanche left wing Brad Larsen took over the head coaching job after spending the last two seasons as an assistant. Larsen is joined by assistant coaches Nolan Pratt and Jared Bednar. Pratt, a former NHL defensemen, is in his second season at the position, while Bednar, a former ECHL champion and successful AHL head coach, is in his first season with the team.
As the NHL remains in the lockout, fans in Springfield will continue to enjoy the added talent that has propelled the Falcons to a great start, while fans in Columbus are left to wonder what kind of start the Jackets may have had.