Not much has gone right for the Columbus Blue Jackets this season. Last place was the last thing anyone within the organization thought would happen by Christmas.
Although things on the big club haven’t gone according to plan, there is something going on that is a real bright spot for the Blue Jackets. They are well represented at this year’s World Junior Championships in Helsinki, Finland.
More specifically, the Blue Jackets are well represented by Team USA at this year’s championships. Their last two first-round picks, Sonny Milano (2014) and Zachary Werenski (2015), are once again playing for Team USA.
Milano plays this season for Columbus’ AHL affiliate, the Lake Erie Monsters. In last season’s world championships, Milano recorded two goals and two assists in five games played. He also helped Team USA win gold at the under-18 world championships in 2014, recording 10 points in seven games.
Werenski is playing his sophomore season at the University of Michigan. He was also named the captain of Team USA. In last year’s championships, Werenski recorded on goal and one assist in five games played. The year before, he helped Team USA win gold at the world under-17 hockey challenge.
Both Milano and Werenski are used to playing on the big stage. They are also used to success on the big stage, as shown by their performances in winning the under-18 and under-17 respectively.
Both players are a big part of the future plans of the Blue Jackets. This year’s world junior championships will give fans a glimpse of what is in store for the Blue Jackets in future years. Milano is considered one of the better forward prospects from the 2014 draft. Werenski is regarded as not only one of the best defensemen in last year’s draft, he’s considered one of the best players of that draft.
We could very easily see Milano in Columbus as soon as next season. There’s even an outside chance of him playing a couple of games in Columbus this season at the end if the season is lost. The Lake Erie Monsters are doing well in the early going. We could see an AHL playoff run led by Milano if the Monsters keep up the pace.
Werenski does not have a contract with Columbus yet. He is still at Michigan. He is expected to sign with the Blue Jackets in the summer, and could make the roster out of camp.
Another Blue Jacket Represented
Team Sweden will also have a Blue Jackets prospect on it. Columbus had two first-round picks in 2015. The other pick was Gabriel Carlsson. He is playing this season out in Sweden for Linkopings HC of the Swedish Hockey League. He has experience in various international events, such as the under-17 challenge and the under-18 world championships. Carlsson was ranked second on Central Scouting’s list of European skaters coming into last season’s draft. He is a stay-at-home defenseman with sneaky offensive upside. If he realizes that offensive potential, he could become one of the steal’s of this past draft.
The Blue Jackets almost had four players represented. The Blue Jackets second-round pick from 2014 Ryan Collins was one of the last cuts from Team USA’s roster. Pretty good to have this kind of representation in the World Juniors.
The Blue Jackets season might not be going so well. But this year’s World Juniors gives fans something to very much look forward to. They certainly can use the good news. It will be fun to see how they do on the big stage.
Fans will also get the chance to see likely 2016 first-overall pick Auston Matthews play on Team USA. The Columbus Blue Jackets are now in last place and would hold the highest chance of obtaining the number one pick in the draft if the season ended today. Could the Blue Jackets win the right to draft Matthews in June? If so, he’d join a group that would consist of his Team USA teammates Milano and Werenski. What a trio that would be.
Regardless, don’t miss these championships. We will get a nice look into what the Blue Jackets could look like in future seasons.