Columbus Blue Jackets have diverse mix of prospects playing at CHL level

By Richard Greco
Julien Pelletier - Columbus Blue Jackets

Photo: Forward Julien Pelletier has had difficulty being offensively consistent this season, and went through long cold streaks in October and November. Pelletier is a fourth round pick from the 2014 NHL Draft. (courtesy of Francois Laplante/FreestylePhoto/Getty Images)

 

The Columbus Blue Jackets have a good mix of high-end offensive talent and grinders competing in the CHL. Oliver Bjorkstrand and Sonny Milano lead the finesse forwards with high ceilings, while Blake Siebenaler heads a group of defenders that love jumping in on the rush.

WHL

Oliver Bjorkstrand, RW, Portland Winterhawks
Drafted 3rd round (89th overall), 2013

Oliver Bjorkstrand made Winterhawks’ history this season. He became Portland’s all-time scoring leader for an important player when he surpassed Joe Balej, who had 190 points playing from 1999-2002. He accomplished the feat when he had a goal and two assists in a 4-3 win over the Kamloops Blazers on November 8th. The shifty winger reached the 200-point plateau when he potted a second period goal to lead Portland past the Kelowna Rockets, 4-3, on November 22nd.

Bjorkstrand, who will represent Denmark in the World Junior Championships, is the spark of a balanced Winterhawks attack that has five players with 20 or more points. The 19-year-old has used his quick snap shot and keen positioning to lead the team with 19 goals.

Peter Quenneville, RW, Brandon Wheat Kings
Acquired: 7th round (195th overall), 2013

Quenneville is an extremely intelligent hockey player and has been in the right spots to produce for Brandon this season. Through 29 games, he has seven goals and 20 assists. His keen hockey sense makes him a big part of the Wheat Kings’ power play and he has potted four goals with the man advantage. While Quenneville may not have the high-end ability that most of Columbus’ forwards have, his awareness on the ice makes the players around him better.

Dillon Heatherington, D, Swift Current Broncos
Acquired: 2nd round (50th overall), 2013

Heatherington competed in the Subway Super Series for the WHL all stars for the second straight year and was held scoreless again through two games. The stay-at-home defender has a ton of size at 6’4, 205 pounds, which makes him a very difficult player to get around. He has never been much more than a big shot from the point on offense and this year is no different. He has 11 points, one goal and 10 assists, in 27 games. All of Columbus will be watching Heatherington when he leads Canada in the World Junior Championships.

OHL

Nick Moutrey, RW, Saginaw Spirit
Acquired: 4th round (105th overall), 2013

Moutrey started off the season as one of four alternate captains for the Spirit. After getting off to the best start of his CHL career, 29 points in 25 games, the Spirit named Moutrey their captain for the remainder of the season. While his work ethic and leadership may have earned him the captaincy, his stats have taken a huge increase this year. After back-to-back 40-point seasons, he is playing at over a point-per-game, which is a direct result of him developing into more of a power forward.

At 6’3, 208 pounds, Moutrey packs powerful punch and has learned to harness his size. He is a gritty player who excels in and around the goal crease. Moutrey was a long term project for Columbus, but after two developmental camps later, he is starting to show promise as a player that can have an impact on a third or fourth line.

Markus Soberg, RW, Windsor Spitfires
Acquired: 6th round (165th overall), 2013

Soberg is still trying to find where he fits on a Spitfires squad in the middle of rebuilding. He has 10 points, seven assists, in his first 24 games in the OHL. The Norwegian product is the type of player that excels with a lot of open ice. He has some moves, but mostly relies on his speed to beat defenders in one-on-one battles. In order for him to be successful, Windsor is going to need to get him space on the ice. Soberg does not have the strength to fight off over powering defenders, but is extremely dangerous on the rush. At the quarter point of the season, Windsor and Soberg are still trying to figure out how they can benefit from each other best.

Sonny Milano, LW, Plymouth Whalers
Acquired: 1st round (16th overall), 2014

Milano may not have taken the most orthodox approach to joining the OHL, first de-committing from Boston College, then suffering a facial laceration in Traverse City which sidelined for the first month of the season. However, upon his arrival there was no doubt that the 18-year-old is an elusive and talented playmaker. He has great hands and put them on display against top-notch defenders in the OHL. He has speed, puck control, and finesse which means he is a threat to make a play at any time. He sits second on the Whalers with 24 points, five goals and 19 assists, in just 15 games.

Blake Siebenaler, D, Niagara IceDogs
Acquired: 3rd round (77th overall), 2014

Siebenaler has played as expected in his second season with the IceDogs. His offensive-mindedness has been his forte and he is second among Niagara defenders with 10 points, four goals and six assists, in 25 games. The Ohio-product took strides of improvement in his own zone and that has carried over to this season. His positioning has been better as well as his decision making on the rush. Like most young offensive defensemen, Siebenaler needs to watch his turnovers, but that will likely come with more experience. As expected, he has been a force on the power play and has potted two goals with the man advantage.

QMJHL

Julien Pelletier, C/W, Cape Breton Screaming Eagles
Acquired: 4th round (107th overall), 2014

Pelletier has been a playmaker for a struggling team in Cape Breton. He has had trouble getting into a groove with the Screaming Eagles. He was suspended for a dangerous slew foot hit in the beginning of November. Then left the team to compete for the QMJHL All-Stars in the Subway Super Series, where he was held scoreless in a game. Pelletier is currently nursing a hand injury. On the season, he has five goals and nine assists in 21 games.

Olivier LeBlanc, D, Saint John Sea Dogs
Acquired: 7th round (197th overall), 2014

Good things have happened for Saint John when LeBlanc is on the ice. His success has made the Sea Dogs management look smart for naming the 18-year-old captain. He has upped his physicality this season and is second on the team with 49 penalty minutes. His offensiveness is his biggest asset and he has 16 points, three goals and 13 assists, in 25 games. Two of his three goals have come on the power play, which is where he is most effective.

Columbus Blue Jackets Top Performing Non-Junior Prospect: October

After spending the first quarter of the year in the NHL, Alexander Wennberg was sent down to Springfield. The playmaking forward left the NHL with three assists in 21 games. He was sent down to make room for fellow first rounder from the 2013 draft, Kerby Rychel, who had been holding his own in the AHL with 13 points and 30 penalty minutes in 22 games. His gritty work ethic should fit right in with the Blue Jackets.

Columbus Blue Jackets Prospect of the Month: October

Austin Madaisky - Columbus Blue Jackets Prospect of the Month, October, 2014Things finally seem to be clicking for Austin Madaisky. After only tallying eight points in 38 games with Springfield and being loaned to the Evansville Icemen of the ECHL last year, the 22-year-old has played with a purpose this season. He leads the Falcons with 20 points and a plus-11 rating in 23 games. On November 7th, he had his first professional three-point night, including the game winning goal, in a win over the St. John’s Ice Caps. He added a pair of two goal performances in wins over Providence on November 22nd and 23rd.