Blue Jackets’ Chinakhov Biggest Standout of Training Camp

The Columbus Blue Jackets have set their opening roster for the 2022-23 season. After placing both Joonas Korpisalo and Joona Luoto on the injured/non-roster list and then sending both Emil Bemstrom and David Jiricek to the Cleveland Monsters, 23 players remain.

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While the Blue Jackets had many great performances throughout camp, the one player who took the biggest step was 2020 first rounder Yegor Chinakhov. When his training camp won him a spot in the top-six for opening night, he turned a lot of heads.

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We’ll discuss some other takeaways from the roster later on in this piece. For now, our focus is on Chinakhov. What he did this preseason is nothing short of amazing.

From Unknown to Top Six

Hockey fans remember the 2020 draft when the Blue Jackets made their pick. With Hendrix Lapierre sitting there available for them, many people thought that would be the pick. Instead, Jarmo Kekalainen announced the pick as Chinakhov.

Kekalainen was even seen cracking a little smile before the camera switched away from him. It was a shocking pick at the time. It even had noted draft experts scrambling for who this player was.

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The book on Chinakhov was simple. He could score goals. He could score highlight reel goals. Because of the pandemic, he got to play in the KHL when many other players didn’t get the chance to play at all. It helped him become a first-round pick. It didn’t take him long for the goal scoring to show once he arrived in North America.

At the Traverse City Prospect’s Tournament in 2021, Chinakhov dominated. He and Cole Sillinger were the stars of the show. His wicked shot was on full display for the scouts to see. Suddenly more folks were starting to get on board with this player.

Overcoming Challenges

As was to be expected, Chinakhov had his share of growing pains in his rookie season. He appeared in 62 games and scored seven goals and 14 points. What kept him in the lineup when the scoring wasn’t there was his defensive play. While it was clearly a work in progress, he showed signs of maturity.

Now coming into his second year, Chinakhov’s roster spot wasn’t even secured. Given the level of competition on the Blue Jackets, he was considered a bubble player coming in who had to win a spot outright over several teammates.

What does Chinakhov do in the preseason? He goes out and leads the NHL in goals during the preseason with six. You could see the work he put in during the offseason. He was stronger. He was more assertive. His confidence was high. When the opportunity to shoot came, he didn’t hesitate.

Yegor Chinakhov Columbus Blue Jackets
Yegor Chinakhov was the biggest standout of their training camp. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Chinakhov took full advantage of the situation with every opportunity presented to him. With Gus Nyquist injured near the end of camp, Chinakhov got a spot in the top six next to Jack Roslovic and Jake Voracek. He also got power-play time on the second unit.

When coach Brad Larsen said the players would decide who makes the team, Chinakhov’s situation is what he meant. He was the biggest standout of camp and the preseason. To crack the top six given the guys already on the team is a huge accomplishment. He might not stay there the whole season. However if he keeps up his play from the preseason, he could find himself a home in an important role.

This is to take nothing away from the performances of other camp standouts such as Justin Danforth, Kent Johnson and Nick Blankenburg. They all fully deserved making the team. But Chinakhov not only making the team but bringing it to another level has the potential to impact the overall team as the season goes on.

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The obvious question will be can Chinakhov sustain his success against the NHL’s best consistently. However we can’t deny that he’s stronger, he’s unleashing his shot more and he’s gaining confidence with every passing day.

Chinakhov went from bubble player to top-six standout in one training camp. Perhaps now the hockey world at large will now know who this player is. He could be coming to a highlight reel near you soon.

Other Quick Takeaways From Roster

  • Life comes at you fast. Emil Bemstrom got a new contract. Jarmo Kekalainen called him an important part of their future. Now he’s in the AHL. Coach Larsen said that other players won their roster spot. He even went as far as saying this could be a career-defining moment for Bemstrom. How will he handle the disappointment of not even making the team? He can still be a good player in time. But he must take the time in Cleveland to prove he belongs in the NHL. This will be something to watch as the Monsters’ season starts up.
  • How about Blankenburg’s camp? He got time at the end of last season? But this season he beat out other veterans to win a roster spot. His work ethic is on full display every shift. He doesn’t let his size bother him. He was even willing to block an Alex Ovechkin shot in a tough location. He was willing to put it on the line to win a spot. He might not play opening night, but we will see plenty of him this season.
Nick Blankenburg Columbus Blue Jackets
Nick Blankenburg’s camp also turned a lot of heads. (Photo by Ben Jackson/NHLI via Getty Images)
  • Larsen also said that Johnson belongs in the NHL. We wrote the other day we sending him to Cleveland was a good option. But when you’re one of the best players in camp, you win a roster spot. Johnson likely starts on the wing in the bottom-six. If they can find chemistry and consistency early, that could be a dangerous scoring line to go with the other established names.

Related: Blue Jackets Can Afford Patience With Kent Johnson

  • The Blue Jackets sent David Jiricek to the Monsters in one of the last roster moves they needed to make. He had a good camp. But he needs to play. This is a wise move to give him top minutes early on. We will hear and see plenty of him especially if injuries start to happen. Even at a young age, he did not look out of place during camp. He’ll be a star one day.
  • The other noteworthy decision was Liam Foudy making the roster. He would have needed waivers for the AHL. But he’s bigger and stronger now and has recovered from his upper-body injury that took him out of most of last season. He’s still an intriguing player who has speed and can fill a role. It will be interesting to see how they incorporate him into the lineup early in the season. We could see him play when they need speed and see Mathieu Olivier in when they need a physical presence.

Here is the Blue Jackets 23 to start the 2022-23 season. They have 14 forwards, seven defensemen and two goalies.

  • Forwards: Sean Kuraly, Johnny Gaudreau, Gustav Nyquist, Justin Danforth, Liam Foudy, Mathieu Olivier, Patrik Laine, Cole Sillinger, Boone Jenner, Eric Robinson, Yegor Chinakhov, Kent Johnson, Jake Voracek and Jack Roslovic.
  • Defense: Andrew Peeke, Vladislav Gavrikov, Zach Werenski, Jake Bean, Adam Boqvist, Erik Gudbranson and Nick Blankenburg.
  • Goalies: Elvis Merzlikins and Daniil Tarasov.

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