It was the big story coming into the Traverse City Prospect’s Tournament for the Columbus Blue Jackets. How would the duo of Yegor Chinakhov and Cole Sillinger fare in their first games in a Blue Jackets’ sweater?
After two games, the answer seems quite obvious.
Chinakhov has three goals in the two games while Sillinger has a goal and four points in the two games. Players who come in with this much hype should perform well in this setting. They’ve done nothing to disappoint. Chinakhov has even added a wow factor to his performance.
On Thursday afternoon down 3-2, Chinakhov netted his first of the tournament to tie the game. He found himself alone down the right wing. From inside the circle, he made no mistake on his shot. The Blue Jackets would go on to win the game in overtime thanks to a goal by acting captain Josh Dunne.
Then on Friday night, Chinakhov wasted no time by opening the scoring just 25 seconds into the game. He got open in the circle in almost the same spot he scored on Thursday and surprised Stars’ goalie Remi Poirier with how quickly he shot it. But he wasn’t done.
In the third period with the score 3-3, Chinakhov found himself with the puck and open, you guessed it, in the circle. He once again beat goalie Poirier clean in what became the game-winning goal in a 5-3 win.
The book on Chinakhov was simple coming in. He has a plus shot and is always looking to shoot if given the chance. But what also stands out about him is his playmaking ability. Although it won’t hit the scoresheet, Chinakhov has made some nice passes in order to create chances. Two things I was wondering coming in were could he help create space for teammates if opponents overplay him and does he have more than just his shot?
At least after these two games, the answer is yes on both. That will give him every opportunity to make the Blue Jackets out of camp.
Sillinger Showing Well
As for Sillinger, you can see why he is thought of as a potential top-six center of the future for the Blue Jackets. He has the size. He has the ability to finish and make plays. He’s a very smart hockey player. He put all on display especially on Friday night.
His first goal of the tournament tied the game at three. He won the race from the blue line in against three Stars’ defenders and beat Poirier with his shot. Earlier in the game, Sillinger got to a puck near the wall and fed Chinakhov to open the scoring.
Sillinger has many of the tools you like to see for someone his age. His relentless work ethic will rub off on teammates and help create energy when the team needs a lift. When his line with Chinakhov and Tyler Angle were on the ice, they were dangerous.
The concern many had coming in about him was his skating. Two games in, he has looked fine. He created a goal by racing down the ice against three defenders. But if he hopes to make the NHL roster after this camp, he will need to show that he can consistently keep up against better competition. It really is just a matter of time before he plays for the Blue Jackets. But the progress of his skating will determine when that will start.
No matter how their last two games in Traverse City go, Chinakhov and Sillinger have already showed why the future for the Blue Jackets is looking bright. They have the tools to make an impact for a long time.
- Goalie Jet Greaves gave up three goals in each of the two games so far but has looked good regardless. He’s had to make great saves in order to keep the games close. Each time, the Blue Jackets overcame a deficit in order to win. The Blue Jackets signed him to an AHL deal to presumably backup Daniil Tarasov in Cleveland. In both games he got better the later the game went. I would imagine he plays once more in the tournament with two games left.
- Stanislav Svozil has been steady in the two games. He stood out in game one showing his willingness to jump into the play when given the chance.
- Two injuries of note. Carson Meyer did not play Friday with an upper-body injury. And Tristan Mullin got hit up high on Friday. The team has Saturday off so we’ll see Sunday what their statuses are.
- The Blue Jackets finish Traverse City with two games. They play Detroit Sunday night at 6 P.M. and Toronto Monday afternoon at 1 P.M. before heading back to Columbus in advance of training camp.