The Columbus Blue Jackets had some tough decisions to make. On Sunday afternoon, we got to see their decisions in action as they worked their way down to the mandated 23-man roster by Monday’s 5 P.M. eastern deadline.
The Blue Jackets placed Kevin Stenlund, Gabriel Carlsson and Mikko Lehtonen on waivers for the purpose of assignment to the Cleveland Monsters. Since they have all cleared, they can be assigned to the Monsters.
In addition, the team sent Gavin Bayreuther, Justin Danforth, Liam Foudy and Daniil Tarasov to the Monsters. That leaves them with 24 on their roster including 15 forwards, seven defensemen and two goalies.
But don’t they have to get down to 23? Yes they do. Injured forward Trey Fix-Wolansky is still working his way back from a major leg injury. He’s expected to start the season on injured reserve. That will get them to the 23-man roster.
The Final Cuts
The Blue Jackets ultimately decided to waive two defensemen in Carlsson and Lehtonen. Each were given ample opportunity to show where they were at in their games. Lehtonen was even given a chance in the preseason finale. However he did not have a good game. Meanwhile, Andrew Peeke has shown a propensity to be more physical in this preseason. In the end, Peeke stays and the other two go.
Bayreuther also got to play in the preseason finale and was certainly under consideration to stay possibly as an eighth defensemen. But with Max Domi seemingly ready to play, someone got pushed out. We do not know who that last bubble player was, but Domi making the team certainly changed the plans of the team. They’ll start the season with seven defensemen including Scott Harrington and Dean Kukan.
You do have to wonder now about what Kevin Stenlund’s future might hold. His skill set is intriguing but has yet to find consistency. He could have been taken for free by Seattle but they chose to pass on him. Now he’ll likely start on the Monsters while waiting for his next chance. The question here is have we seen the best of what he can provide? I’m starting to wonder if we are. We’re not there yet but we are one step closer.
The other player here is Foudy. We talked about him in our evaluating the roster bubble piece. You do wonder what’s next for him. He certainly needs an opportunity playing top line minutes and he’ll get that now on the Monsters. But he has been passed on the depth chart. The question is what can he be and what is his upside still? I think we’ll see him on occasion with the Blue Jackets in a call-up situation. But now it’s time to prioritize his development and to give him every opportunity to play big situations in games. I still believe in the player. But there’s lots more work left to be done.
Related: Evaluating the Blue Jackets’ Roster Bubble
Sillinger/Chinakhov Made It
If you’ve been reading us for a while, you know that we expected this outcome. Both Cole Sillinger and Yegor Chinakhov made the final 23-man roster. Each earned it with their play on the ice. Especially in Sillinger’s case as an 18-year old, it’s truly impressive that they’re in this position.
GM Jarmo Kekalainen does not take these things lightly. Sillinger is the first Blue Jacket in the Kekalainen era to make the roster at age 18 and the first player overall under his watch since David Perron to do it. It just doesn’t happen often. That’s a true testament to how good Sillinger has been.
Now, will this be a whole season thing? Let’s not go there yet. The team can elect to keep them in the NHL before they reach the 10-game mark to evaluate them against the best competition. If they perform, they’ll stay. Otherwise, each have options in the AHL or in Sillinger’s case in juniors. Don’t discount the possibility of Sillinger getting a chance at the World Junior Championships.
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Sillinger and Chinakhov making the team is all about their preseason performance. But know that their development is of utmost importance. They need to be playing regardless of where they’re at. The Blue Jackets know that and will evaluate them daily up until that magic 10-game mark hits.
Personally, there’s nothing wrong with seeing how they handle themselves for a few games. That gives them a baseline of where they’re at. If they prove they should stay, their play will dictate that. Otherwise, send them to the best place for their overall development. It seems the Blue Jackets will be taking this approach.
Bemstrom/Hofmann Make It
Both Emil Bemstrom and Gregory Hofmann made the final cut. Each were squarely on the roster bubble but each made their own statement throughout the preseason.
For Bemstrom, we are seeing more confidence. He’s been able to finish some plays while showing he’s improved some away from the puck. He just has to consistently perform at that level. He appears to be in a fight for playing time but there is still a lot to like here. It’s a big season for him coming up.
As for Hofmann, his skating and his shot definitely stood out. This is his first time in North America after playing over in Switzerland. If the early lines are any indication, he will be in and out of the lineup based on injury and need.
How Did We Do In Our Projections?
I tried projecting the opening night roster. All things considered, it wasn’t a bad job. We projected 13-8-2. I was not expecting Domi to play opening night but he is ready. We did nail the other 13 forwards including Sillinger, Chinakhov, Bemstrom and Hofmann.
On defense, I had Carlsson/Lehtonen in based on waivers status. I also had Peeke out for the same reason. The Blue Jackets waived Carlsson and Lehtonen and kept Peeke. Having Peeke as a righty certainly did not hurt his case. We did get the other six right in Zach Werenski, Vladislav Gavrikov, Jake Bean, Adam Boqvist, Scott Harrington and Dean Kukan.
Add to that projecting both Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins and we got 21/23 right. We missed out on Peeke and Domi. So here is the Blue Jackets’ 23 come opening night.
- Forwards: Laine, Texier, Voracek, Nyquist, Roslovic, Bemstrom, Jenner, Sillinger, Domi, Robinson, Kuraly, Hofmann, Chinakhov, Bjorkstrand.
- Defensemen: Werenski, Gavrikov, Bean, Boqvist, Harrington, Kukan, Peeke.
- Goalies: Korpisalo, Merzlikins.