Reflections Of The Blue Jackets Preseason

Three Takes is a column that explores the world of the Columbus Blue Jackets and offers strong insights into the team and what to watch for. Have a strong take to share? Feel free to leave your comments below or tweet me anytime @THWMark.

Take One: The Kids Are Alright

Especially Friday night against Buffalo, the Blue Jackets prospects have put on a show. Although most are a year or more away from making noise in the NHL, the talent and potential are certainly there.

Led by a group including Kerby Rychel, Oliver Bjorkstrand, and Sonny Milano, the future of the Blue Jackets is very bright. The good part is, management doesn’t have to rush the youngsters to the NHL thanks to the talent in Columbus. They will have time to properly develop.

Rychel is the closest to making the roster. Bjorkstrand and Milano each could use a full season in Lake Erie. Bottom line is, they are not that far away from making an impact.

Others have impressed, including 6-foot-7 defender Oleg Yevenko. His performance at camp led him to earning a new two-way contract. He demonstrated a level of effective play given his stature. He’s a name to watch over the next year or two.

Take Two: The Battle For Roster Spots

From the beginning, the Blue Jackets had most of their roster decisions figured out before the start of camp. If a player made a real impression in camp and deserved the chance, management would make room for them.

Now the question becomes who takes the last roster spot or two? Will the Blue Jackets carry 14 forwards or eight defensemen? Did Friday’s game in Buffalo separate anyone in the battle for the last spots?

I think it did. William Karlsson had himself a game Friday night in Buffalo. He had a goal and three assists. He’s been one of the best forwards this entire camp. Now the question is, does he make the roster and become a scratch, or do they decide to assign him to Lake Erie to play top minutes? This is not an easy decision for management.

Jared Boll has also had a nice preseason for himself. He has worked hard this offseason on his speed. It was on display Friday in Buffalo.

Against most of the Sabres first team, Boll did not look out-of-place. He displayed his usual physcial play. What was different this time though was his speed. The game was no longer too fast for him.

Boll has taken his share of heat for his play in recent seasons. Management challenged him to improve this offseason. He took the challenge to heart. You can tell in his demeanor. He has a look of confidence that I haven’t seen in several seasons. This improvement will help the Blue Jackets meet their goal of rolling four lines every game, without having to worry about shortening the bench most nights.

Others that are in the conversation for the last roster spot are Rychel, Andrew Bodnarchuk, Dean Kukan, and Michael Chaput. Todd Richards said Friday that decisions were not made yet. A variety of outcomes are still possible. Stay tuned. The roster deadline is Tuesday at 5pm. The Blue Jackets have one more game Saturday against Nashville. For what it’s worth, William Karlsson is playing in that game for an injured Matt Calvert. Does that show he made the roster? We’ll see.

Sonny Milano could force the issue next season for the Blue Jackets (Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports)
Sonny Milano could force the issue next season for the Blue Jackets (Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports)

Take Three: The Blue Jackets Have a Good Dilemma

Let’s go beneath the surface for a minute. Let’s look at the Blue Jackets organization in terms of their roster. Most of the forwards, sans Rene Bourque and Boone Jenner (for now), are locked up beyond next season. Hmmm?

What does this mean? This means that the potential exists for some really hard decisions leading into next season and beyond. What if the youngsters, including Rychel, Bjorkstrand, and Milano, are ready for the NHL? Now what do you do? Yep, trades are in play. Does the name Marko Dano ring a bell?

To have this kind of depth is a good dilemma. It forces competition for precious, few roster spots. This season’s camp was good, to see if any of the kids could make an impact. Next year’s camp could decide which youngsters are a part of the long-term plan in Columbus. With just 13 or 14 forward spots available, and up to 16-18 players vying for those spots, someone’s not gonna make it.

To make the Blue Jackets means you beat out really good competition. This is a good team now. They’ll improve in future seasons. They are hard decisions coming, but it’s for the better of the team. Sit back and enjoy this dilemma. It’s a sign that the team’s direction is a positive one.