The Columbus Blue Jackets are ready to kick off their 2022 Development Camp. It runs this Monday through Thursday. The camp agenda sees three mornings of on-ice sessions with media availability afterwards, and the main event will be the 3-on-3 tournament between the prospects on Wednesday. This camp will give coaches and management an idea of what shape these players are in, giving them some things to work on as the summer drags on, and even taking a closer look at some invites who aren’t under the Blue Jackets control but the team is interested in.
The roster has 25 skaters and four goalies who are all prospects, with most of them signed with the Blue Jackets and a few unsigned. Only two players have NHL experience in Kent Johnson and Nick Blankenburg – each with less than 10 games played.
The youngest is goalie invite Mathis Rousseau from the Halifax Mooseheads, who doesn’t turn 18 until Sept. 10, and the oldest is Owen Sillinger – older brother of Cole – who turns 25 this September. For anyone paying attention, there will be a lot of seeds sown in the Blue Jackets next season in this camp. Let’s have a look at some of the exciting pieces that will be on display.
The 2022 Draft Class
We’re only a few days past the 2022 NHL Entry Draft, but already getting a chance to see them in action is huge. Spearheaded by first-round defensemen David Jiricek and Denton Mateychuk, the camp roster features five of the seven players picked on July 7 and 8. The only players absent are the Russians, winger Kirill Dolzhenkov (4th round, 109 overall) and goalie Sergei Ivanov (5th round, 138th overall).
Getting a first peek at these pieces and a chance to hear more about them and how coaches perceive them will be a good litmus test that’ll give some insight on how the Blue Jackets’ organization views them in the short and long term.
First Looks of Players in a Blue Jackets Jersey
There are a few other players who are putting on a Blue Jacket jersey for the first time in a camp setting this week. Whether it be someone who was in the Jackets’ system pre-dating this year’s draft, but were under contract overseas, a new free agent signing or those camp invites.
In recent years, there may be no player as highly anticipated as Kirill Marchenko. Columbus’ second-round pick in 2018 has finally made his way over to the Blue Jackets, after spending four years seasoning in Russia. The forward became a valuable part of SKA St. Petersburg, a juggernaut franchise in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). He played in a couple of World Junior Championships and was on the roster of the Russian team at the Olympics this year. Despite playing no games in Tokyo, being named to the roster shows the esteem to which he is considered. He will definitely play in the NHL this year.
Mikael Pyyhtia is another exciting piece who lit up the Finnish league last year, scoring 21 goals through 56 games in a league where scoring is scarce. He’s still only 20 years old and already brings three seasons of experience playing against men. He’ll be an interesting piece to watch in his first North American season and should warrant at least a cup of coffee in the NHL this year – even if it’s just an injury call-up. Another European league signee from this summer is the big Swede, defenseman Marcus Bjork.
Of the free agent invites to camp, the highlights of the list include Evan Vierling and Liam Hawel. Vierling is coming off of a decent few seasons with the Ontario Hockey League’s (OHL) Barrie Colts. He’s a former 5th round pick of the New York Rangers who went unsigned. Hawel is a former 4th round pick of the Dallas Stars who had a strong end to his career in the OHL before the pandemic. He played last year in the Canadian university system where he led his division in scoring by a healthy margin. He’s 23, and at 6-foot-4, he brings a blend of size and skill that could be useful in Cleveland.
On the roster is only one defenseman with NHL experience, it’s the diminutive Nick Blankenburg, who at the time of this writing remains unsigned heading into the free-agent period. He has not racked up enough time in the NHL to be eligible for an offer sheet from another team, so assuming the team provides a qualifying offer, his only option is with the Jackets.
At 24 years old, Blankenburg is the second oldest on the roster. His attendance at camp shows that he and the Blue Jackets are looking to stay together moving forwards. Although Aaron Portzline of The Athletic has reported that Blankenburg will not be doing any on-ice work, his attendance in off-ice sessions further cements a mutual intention for a contract to be signed and how they view him in a leadership capacity.
There’s a lot to be excited about heading into Development Camp this week. The storylines above and even more will come to the forefront by the end. Some of these players we’ll never see in a Jackets’ uniform ever again, but some others may find a way to sneak into the main training camp in September. At the very least, it’s an opportunity to hear something about the prospect pipeline between the draft and the Traverse City Prospects Tournament this fall.