While the Columbus Blue Jackets are tied for 29th place in the NHL and have sole possession of last place in the Metropolitan Division, focusing on the future is the organization’s best option. The 2023 prospects like Conor Bedard, Adam Fantili, and Matvei Michkov are exciting names to consider, but looking at the franchise’s prospect pipeline is the best gauge of the future.
The upcoming IIHF World Junior Championships present a unique opportunity to see some future Blue Jackets, but continuing to observe the franchise’s NCAA prospects is important as well. This is the second edition of the Blue Jackets’ NCAA prospect report, and some of the defensemen analyzed previously have seen an uptick in production while others have continued on pace. These four are playing important roles in their premier collegiate program and are making a case to wear a Blue Jackets sweater in the near future.
At the November check-in with Ceulemans, the sophomore defenseman had one goal and four assists through eight games while playing an important role for the University of Wisconsin Badgers. He has improved his production, contributing four goals and 11 points through the team’s first 13 games. The six additional points across five extra games have catapulted Ceulemans to second in team scoring.
His production has helped the Badgers win five of their last six games as the squad improves to 7–9–0 on the season. Despite the impressive play, Ceulemans was left off the final roster for Team Canada at the World Juniors, so fans will not get a chance to see him in the upcoming tournament.
At the November check-in, Stucker had two points through six games. He has continued along a similar pace, with two additional goals and six points for the University of Vermont Catamounts.
Vermont has stumbled to a 5–11–1 start while playing in the highly-competitive Hockey East conference, so they will need Stucker to produce if they intend to compete for a shot at a conference title. All teams in Hockey East make the conference tournament, but Vermont is in second-to-last place and would have an uphill battle to succeed in the tournament.
At the November check-in, the second-year defenseman had a point in seven games for the Providence College Friars. In the following 10 contests, Richard has contributed three additional points, falling far behind his numbers from last season.
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The positive here is that Richard continues to find himself in the lineup for a Friars team that sits in third place in the Hockey East and is undefeated in conference play. He is also known as more of a shut-down defenseman, so this experience of playing in highly competitive games is critical for his development.
At the November check-in with Hreschuk, the young Boston College Eagle had not scored a point through his first six games. The point-free season has now continued through 14 games for Hreschuk. Despite his struggles, he has dressed for every game in the young season.
The former product of the U.S. National Development Team Program is in consideration for the Team U.S.A squad at the World Juniors, but until then, he is eating minutes for a 5–5–4 team in the Hockey East. Given his young age, there is still time for Hreschuk to improve his production.
Overall, the Blue Jackets’ NCAA prospects have seen some improvements since early November, yet nobody besides Ceulemans truly stands out. It will be worth keeping an eye on the players who step up while others are at the World Juniors and who will benefit from a short break before the season really picks up in January.
Jack is a Columbus Blue Jackets writer at THW and will provide NCAA coverage as well. He is a graduate of Northwestern University and Ithaca College. He enjoys covering Hockey, Baseball, Football, Golf, Tennis and many other sports.