Led by a trio of defensemen, the Columbus Blue Jackets have six prospects playing junior hockey.
Three of the six players are in the QMJHL, including defensemen David Savard and Steven Delisle. Winger Tomas Kubalik has been scoring up a storm for the Victoriaville Tigres in his rookie season. John Moore, the Blue Jackets top prospect in junior hockey, is a member of the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL. Matt Calvert, who opted to return for his overage year and a chance to hoist the Memorial Cup, is the Jackets’ lone WHL prospect.
David Savard, D – Moncton Wildcats
Acquired: 4th round (94th overall), 2009
22 October 1990, 6’1", 200 lbs
While his team, the Moncton Wildcats, have not exactly lived up to expectations this year, Savard has been no slouch. The Quebec native is continuing the torrid pace that he set last year.
Savard is second in scoring on the team with 21 points in 21 games this season and has been the anchor on the Wildcats’ blue line. He is the quarterback on team’s first power-play unit and is a solid +6 thus far.
Drafted with a future as an offensive defenseman, the six footer has added some size to his frame and has steadily grown his defensive game. His stock continues to rise.
Steven Delisle, D – Gatineau Olympiques
Acquired: 4th round (107th overall), 2008
30 July 1990, 6’6", 209 lbs
The Blue Jackets took their first chance on a Quebec-born defenseman in the fourth round a year earlier in 2008 – 6’6” Delisle.
Size is obviously Delisle’s biggest asset, but that is not to say that he lacks in other areas. He posted 30 points in 63 games last season from the back end and is on pace to match that again this season with 11 points in 21 games. Delisle needs to use his size to his advantage much more than he does in terms of physical play, however, the 19-year-old does use it to cover as much of the ice as possible, employing a sound defensive game.
Tomas Kubalik, RW – Victoriaville Tigres
Acquired: 5th round (135th overall), 2008
1 May 1990, 6’2", 189 lbs
Kubalik has been the surprise of the Blue Jackets’ prospect pool so far this season. In his draft year, the right winger scored just three points in 20 games in the top tier of the Czech Republic league. Kubalik would only register two points the following year in 32 games. This year he decided to come to North America to play for the Victoriaville Tigres – the team that drafted him as an import player in 2007.
Kubalik has certainly taken the adjustment to North American life in stride as he leads his team with 33 points in just 23 games. He is also currently tied for sixth in league scoring. He has gone from playing against men to playing against juniors, though, so an improvement in scoring was to be expected.
Kubalik had a career night on Oct. 30 in which he registered eight points in a blowout, eclipsing the previous season high from one player in one game by three points. Kubalik had seven assists that night.
But despite his junior scoring prowess, Kubalik is not an elite prospect as his skating is not up to par, and he doesn’t consistently do the little things.
John Moore, D – Kitchener Rangers
Acquired: 1st round (21st overall), 2009
19 May 1990, 6’2", 189 lbs
It has been a slow transition for Moore as he adjusts from the USHL to the OHL. The encouraging sign: Moore leads the Kitchener Rangers defensemen in scoring. With 15 points in 20 games, Moore has been able to contribute effectively on the offensive side of the blue line. Moore’s smooth skating and positioning has helped bring his plus/minus to +3 on a team that has several defensemen in the minus category.
The struggles have been there, however. Though scoring two goals in his first career OHL game, Moore would go goal-less for the next 17 games. The talent is obviously there and Moore has plenty of time to work out the kinks in his game. In his last game, he had three points.
Kyle Neuber, RW – Sarnia Sting
Acquired: 7th round (197th overall), 2009
22 March 1989, 6’2", 215 lbs
Born in ’89, Neuber was a surprise selection for the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. It was not his career high of 12 points last year that led him to be drafted, rather the 135 penalty minutes. Neuber, if he pans out, will be a sparingly-used fighter at best. Heavyweights are becoming much more valued commodities these days and Neuber fits that bill the most in the system.
Neuber was traded to the Sarnia Sting in the off-season and has put up four points and 54 penalty minutes in 18 games thus far. He has five fighting majors to go along with those four points.
Matt Calvert, LW – Brandon Wheat Kings
Acquired: 5th round (127th overall), 2008
24 December 1989, 5’10", 182 lbs
Calvert is making the most of his overage season with the Brandon Wheat Kings, especially in the month of November. He has 37 points this year in 24 games, good enough for second on the team behind Brayden Schenn (LA). Calvert’s +16 is the highest on the team. The peak of his season came last week as Calvert was named CHL player of the week.
Calvert made a somewhat controversial decision prior to the season, opting to return to the Wheat Kings to compete in the Memorial Cup rather than competing in the AHL or perhaps ECHL. He has been showing thus far that he made the right decision, and it looks that with another year of seasoning in the WHL, the Blue Jackets may have a hidden gem on their hands in Calvert.