Three Takes is a column that explores the world of the Columbus Blue Jackets and offers strong insights into the team and what to watch for. Have a strong take to share? Feel free to leave your comments below or tweet me anytime @THWMark.
Take One: Kerby Rychel Shines
Remember him? His name has been at the center of many trade rumors since the end of last season. In addition, most of the talk when it comes to Blue Jackets prospects has focused on the likes of Sonny Milano and Oliver Bjorkstrand. Rychel made a point to remind us how good a player he is.
From start to finish, Rychel was the Blue Jackets best player, at both ends of the rink. He drew penalties. He buried his scoring chances. He made great passes. He also saved his best for last.
In the final against the Red Wings, Rychel was the best player on the ice. Detroit had no answers for him or his linemates Bjorkstrand and T.J. Tynan. Given all the trade speculation, it’s easy to see why he played this tournament with extra motivation. He appeared in a couple of NHL games last season. With training camp opening Friday, he wants to do everything it takes to make his NHL stay last longer. This performance in Traverse City is a great first step toward making that happen.
For my money, Kerby Rychel was by far the best player on the ice in the final of Red Wings prospect tournament, which was won by Columbus.
— Ken Campbell (@THNKenCampbell) September 16, 2015
Take Two: Oliver Bjorkstrand’s Statement
Speaking of Bjorkstrand, he made just as big a statement in Traverse City as Rychel did. Even though he didn’t play his best overall game, Bjorkstrand still played great in spurts. This was on prominent display in the game against the Minnesota Wild.
With the Blue Jackets trailing going into the third period, Oliver took things into his own hands. By the time the dust had settled, Bjorkstrand notched four points in those 20 minutes, including two goals and two assists.
He plays a very deceptive type of game. He has a heavy shot that catches many goalies off guard, given his small stature. He also plays the game at a high-energy pace. It’s the kind of game that works well in the NHL, even though he’s one of the smallest guys out there.
His performance in this tournament, coupled with a strong showing at training camp, will make management’s decision very difficult. He’s proving he is ready for the next level. Traverse City only enhanced his chances to make the team out of camp.
CBJ wing Oliver Bjorkstrand plays every shift as if it were his last. Great energy. Having great tournament.
— Mike Morreale (@mikemorrealeNHL) September 14, 2015
Take Three: The Forgotten Man In The Brandon Saad Deal
Brandon Saad was the main attraction, but Michael Paliotta is showing us that he is just as important. Paliotta along with Alex Broadhurst were a part of the Saad deal that saw Artem Anisimov, Marko Dano, and two others go to Chicago. Paliotta asserted himself in Traverse City.
He was a force at both ends of the rink. Defensively, he was in good position to break up plays, while starting transition. He also had no trouble playing a very physical style. At the same time, he showed his play-making ability with his crisp passing and good decision-making. He played the point on the power play, and created many chances.
Training camp will give Paliotta an opportunity to make the roster. If he performs in camp like he did in Traverse City, Paliotta will make the team. There’s a lot of competition he must get over. But it’s not out of the question. Worst-case scenario, he starts in Lake Erie, and is one of the first defensive call-ups to the Blue Jackets.
Bonus: Keep your eye on Dante Salituro. He played a great tournament for the Blue Jackets. You’ll remember him as Travis Konecny’s teammate from the Ottawa 67’s of the OHL. Salituro played well in the limited time he was given in Traverse City. He was a free-agent invite. His name is now on many radars. Whoever gets him will get a good one.