It’s officially official.
Thanks to the NHL Board of Governors and NHLPA voting yes to the Return to Play protocol and MOU, we will have a Stanley Cup Qualification Round starting on Aug 1.
Phase 3 Camp Roster
Once the agreement was made public, the Columbus Blue Jackets released their Phase 3 training camp roster. It was broken down into two groups. In looking at the groups, it seems we have an idea of who will partake in Game 1 of their series against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Here’s who is in Group 1:
Forwards (12): Cam Atkinson, Emil Bemstrom, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Nick Foligno, Liam Foudy, Boone Jenner, Riley Nash, Gus Nyquist, Eric Robinson, Alexandre Texier, Alexander Wennberg.
Defense (8): Vladislav Gavrikov, Scott Harrington, Seth Jones, Dean Kukan, Ryan Murray, Markus Nutivaara, David Savard, Zach Werenski.
Goalies (2): Joonas Korpisalo, Elvis Merzlikins.
Now here’s Group 2:
Forwards (6): Nathan Gerbe, Ryan MacInnis, Stefan Matteau, Kole Sherwood, Devin Shore, Kevin Stenlund.
Defense (3): Gabriel Carlsson, Adam Clendening, Andrew Peeke.
Goalies (2): Matiss Kivlenieks, Veini Vehvilainen.
An important note before we dive into this. Based on how past camps have been run, it is very possible that players can switch groups based on performance. But for now, you have a general idea of how the depth chart looks.
In Group 1, you see 12 forwards. Unless there is an injury or a performance-related issue, these are the 12 that are expected to start Game 1. We don’t know exactly how the lines will look. So we’ll give you the names by position.
- Centers: Dubois, Wennberg, Jenner, Nash.
- Right Wing: Atkinson, Bjorkstrand, Bemstrom, Foudy.
- Left Wing: Nyquist, Texier, Foligno, Robinson.
The interesting name you’ll notice is Foudy. There have been indications all spring/summer that he was in line to play. His presence in Group 1 supports that. His speed can make a big difference especially in a short series. His improvement throughout the season in London was noticed. He won’t play a ton of minutes but could play big minutes on the penalty kill. He has a big fan in John Tortorella. You put it all together and yes, he’s going to play.
Two big names that are back and healthy are Bjorkstrand and Texier. On a team who at times had major struggles scoring goals, these are huge returns. Bjorkstrand was having a career season before breaking his ankle. And Texier has returned from a back injury. If the Blue Jackets manage to win this series, each player will have had a hand in the result with huge goals.
On defense, the top five seems set. Werenski will get Jones back on the top pair. The Gavy/Savy pair is set to reunite with Gavrikov and Savard. And Murray will be joined by one of Kukan, Nutivaara or Harrington. This is where the Blue Jackets hold an advantage in the series. Their defense is strong. They will have to ride that to victory by trying to slow down the high-powered Maple Leafs offense that can score in a blink. Expect them to be very physical and expect them to try to clog the neutral zone. If you can frustrate the Leafs, you’re off to a great start.
And in goal, the Blue Jackets have a choice to make. Both Korpisalo and Merzlikins can jump in and play. Both give the team a great chance to win. Will Tortorella turn to his All-Star in Korpisalo or go to the electric personality in Merzlikins? Camp may decide that. The one thing we do know is that the leash will be extra tight and extra short. One stretch of bad play and Tortorella will immediately bring the other on. Our Pete Bauer recently wrote why he thinks Merzlikins will get the call.
My Game 1 Lineup Prediction
As for my prediction overall that’s sure to go wrong, here are my lines, pairs and starting goalie for Game 1.
- Korpisalo (was the number-one to start season and was named to All-Star Game.)
Phase 3 camp opens on Monday July 13 with a full team meeting at 12 P.M. followed by Group 1’s practice at 1 P.M. Then Group 2 will practice at 4 P.M. Practice sessions for the remainder of camp are expected to begin at 11 A.M. with no practice sessions scheduled on Saturday, July 18 and Friday, July 24. All practices will be closed to the public.