Another wave of Columbus Blue Jackets prospects poised for graduation in 2014-15 season

By Richard Greco
Michael Chaput - Columbus Blue Jackets

Photo: Michael Chaput is one of four rookies to start the 2014-15 season with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Chaput spent the previous two seasons playing for the Blue Jackets’ AHL affiliate, the Springfield Falcons. (courtesy of Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

 

The Columbus Blue Jackets have a well-rounded system. Although Alexander Wennberg and Marko Dano will likely graduate from their prospect status after opening the 2014-15 season in the NHL, Columbus concentrated on reinforcing its pool of young talent in the 2014 NHL Draft. From sizable, gritty players to smooth skating, offensive-minded skaters, the Blue Jackets have a good amount of depth throughout. They also have plenty of competition among their prospects in net.

Left Wing

Kerby Rychel is still getting his skates under him in Springfield. Through five games the 20-year-old power forward was held scoreless and registered two penalty minutes. Fellow left winger Jerry D’Amigo also had a slow start to the season. He has no points and a minus-two rating in five games for the Falcons.

Sonny Milano‘s debut with the Plymouth Whalers was put on hold after he suffered a facial fracture in Traverse City Prospects Tournament. He finally made his debut in late October, and registered three assists and a plus-two rating.

Julien Pelletier is off to a great start to his third season with the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles in the QMJHL. The 18-year-old playmaker has 12 points, five goals and seven assists, through 14 games.

Over in the OHL, the Windsor Spitfires named Markus Soberg their alternate captain in his first CHL season. The Norwegian forward has three assists and a minus-five rating in 11 games. The slow start is most likely Soberg adjusting to the North American game and he should come into his own as the season progresses.

Center

Michael Chaput has been centering Jack Skille and Jared Boll on the fourth line for the Blue Jackets. He has two assists and eight hits through seven games. He has been decent in the face off dot, winning 49 percent of his draws. Columbus has also been utilizing Chaput on the penalty kill. He played in 17 games with the Blue Jackets last season.

Lukas Sedlak, T.J. Tynan, and Sean Collins have been playing down the middle for the Falcons. None of the three have turned too many heads in the young season. Collins has three assists and minus-two rating in five games. The 6’1, 212 pounder has already dropped the gloves this season. Springfield has utilized Collins on the power play, where he registered two of his assists. He has developed some nice chemistry with offensive-minded defender Denny Urban. Tynan picked up his lone assist playing with Collins and Ryan Craig. Tynan has three shots on goal and is used as a penalty killer. Sedlak has two assists through five games in his second professional season. The 6’0, 207 pound forward has 14 penalty minutes, including a 10-minute game misconduct.

Peter Quenneville is fourth among Brandon Wheat Kings forwards with 15 points in 13 games. After spending the first 11 games of the season wearing the A, the Alberta native was named the team’s captain on October 21st.

Left Wing

Although they are natural centers,the Blue Jackets moved Wennberg and Dano to right wing. Wennberg earned a spot on Columbus’ second line alongside Artem Anisimov and Scott Hartnell. He has only tallied an assist thus far and has a minus-seven rating. Wennberg has not been shy on the trigger with 11 shots on goal. He is averaging just over 15 minutes of ice time per game, a good amount of that coming on the power play. Dano only competed in three games before he was sidelined with an undisclosed injury. The Austrian forward was off to a good start on the third line alongside Mark Letestu and Matt Calvert with a goal and an assist. He was only used during even strength hockey and was averaging just under 12 minutes per game.

Josh Anderson is the Blue Jackets only prospect at right wing in Springfield. The gritty forward has been held scoreless in three games, but has tallied nine penalty minutes.

Oliver Bjorkstrand picked up right where he left off following last year’s 109-point season with the Portland Winterhawks. Through seven games, he has 12 points, six goals and six assists, and a plus-three rating. He is ranked second on the Winterhawks in scoring. Over in the OHL, Nick Moutrey has dished out eight assists in 11 games with the Saginaw Spirit. He has continued his physical style of play and already registered six penalty minutes.

Daniel Zaar has enjoyed plenty of success in his first SHL season. The speedy playmaker has 11 points, three goals and eight assists, and a plus-five rating in 14 games.

Seth Ambroz potted a goal in the second game of his senior season as the University of Minnesota got off to a 3-0 start to the year. This season is going to be the most important of the power forward’s collegiate career with an entry-level contract opportunity looming. Tyler Bird and Brown University have not played yet.

Defensemen

Tim Erixon has finally had his name penciled into Columbus’ roster on a consistent basis. He has found himself on the Blue Jackets’ third pairing with James Wisnewski. The Swedish defender has an assist is averaging 16:46 of ice time through seven games.

The Springfield Falcons have three prospects on the blue line in Thomas Larkin, Austin Madaisky, and Will Weber. Just a season after being reassigned to Evansville, Larkin made Springfield’s opening night roster. The 6’5, 220 pound force had been held scoreless, but has a plus-three rating and 10 penalty minutes. Weber-standing at 6’4, 227 pounds–has been no stranger to the penalty box either. He leads Springfield with 21 penalty minutes and has a plus-two rating. Madaisky has brought more an offensive presence to the ice. He has three assists through five games.

After a solid camp, Dillon Heatherington returned to Swift Current with a head full of confidence. The 6’4, 205 pounder is second among Broncos’ defenders with five points in 13 games. For a 19-year-old, he is already showing a ton of discipline and is yet to take a penalty. He was named to team WHL for the 2014 Subway Super Series.

Over in the OHL, Blake Siebenaler has been on the second unit for a struggling Niagara IceDogs power play. Through 12 games, Siebenaler has four points and five penalty minutes. In the QMJHL, Olivier LeBlanc has put his smooth skating on display. The 18-year-old leads the Saint John Sea Dogs with a plus-16 rating and 31 penalty minutes. The team’s captain is second among defenders with eight points in 11 games.

Ryan Collins tallied an assist in his debut with the University of Minnesota.

Mike Reilly will return to Minnesota for his senior season. Reilly put up some strong numbers last year, posting 33 points in 41 games. He has two assists through two games so far this season.

Goaltending

Coming into training camp, the competition for the starting job in Springfield was up for grabs and both Anton Forsberg and Oscar Dansk had their eyes set on it. Forsberg won the job and through three starts has a 2.36 goals against average. His 1-2 record is more indicative of the Falcons lack of scoring rather than his own performance. Dansk has started two games and has a 4.47 goals against average. Dansk will likely take over the starting duties following the Blue Jackets recalling Forsberg to serve as their backup goalie after Curtis McElhinney was placed on injured reserve.

Joonas Korpisalo picked up right where he left of with Ilves in Liiga. Through four games he has a 1.91 goals against average and a .933 save percentage. It makes sense that the athletic netminder is off to a great start. Although he was loaned out four times last year, his longest and most successful stint was with Ilves. If Korpisalo can remain in the Liiga he should put together a solid season, which will be crucial in his development.

Elvis Merzlikins got his first taste of NLA hockey with Lugano last season and returned this year. Through nine games he has played okay with a 2.93 goals against average and a .899 save percentage. This will be his first full NLA season and should show just how durable the large framed, 20-year-old is. Merzlikins will also learn to read situations better because although his aggressiveness makes him standout, it can leave him out of position at times.