Though they have 11 prospects playing at the AHL level, the Columbus Blue Jackets are without a big name in their farm system. With top defensive prospects John Moore and Cody Goloubef in juniors and college, respectively, and the Nikita Filatov fiasco in Columbus which led him back home to Russia, the Blue Jackets’ top prospect at the AHL level is Maksim Mayorov.
Maksim Mayorov, LW
4th Round Pick (2007)
With a successful rookie season in North America under his belt, Mayorov’s production has dropped off significantly this season, especially in terms of goal scoring. The big-bodied Russian winger netted 17 goals last season, but has just four in 34 games this season. Though much more was expected out of Mayorov, his struggles this season are not carried alone as the Syracuse Crunch are second to last in goal scoring in the league with just 76 goals in 32 games. They do not have a single player with double digits in goals.
What’s even more discouraging about Mayorov’s play this season is his -16 (second worst on the team). Given the fact that the Crunch sit last place in the league, the significance of Mayorov’s struggles can be somewhat overlooked, but there is no doubt that the Russian needs to pick it up in the second half.
Tom Sestito, LW
3rd Round Pick (2006)
Though most of the team is mired in offensive slumps, grinding winger Sestito had been on pace for his best season before suffering a hip injury that will keep him sidelined for up to three months. Injuries have been a problem throughout his career as they have kept him on the cusp of an NHL job. His 10 points in 19 games put him on pace to shatter his previous career high of 23 points in 66 games. Given the injury, Sestito may not be able to add to those totals as he may miss the remainder of the season. If he can get and stay healthy, Sestito may be in the mix for a roster spot with the Blue Jackets next season.
Alex Picard, LW
1st Round Pick (2004)
With 19 points in 27 games, Picard has continued where he left off last season. The former first rounder has been given plenty of chances to earn an NHL job early in his career, but has just recorded two assists in 59 career games. However, after scoring 22 goals in just 49 games last year with Syracuse, and his consistent play thus far this season, the winger has received another shot to thrive with Columbus.
Picard was recalled on December 27th after defenseman Marc Methot was placed on the IR. Picard will likely be given a fair shot with the Jackets as he is also quite responsible defensively, but will definitely need to make his mark on the score sheet in order to stay with the team.
Jordan LaVallee, LW
4th Round Pick (2005)
Acquired from Atlanta
LaVallee showed a bit of offensive promise in his first two full seasons at the AHL level with the Chicago Wolves, scoring a total of 76 points. His output dropped slightly last season, but after coming to Syracuse this season, it has dropped even lower.
The former Quebec Rempart has just seven points in 32 games this season, with only two goals. He has fallen to nothing more than a marginal prospect at this point, but with his size, he could be utilized as a checking forward at the NHL level.
Brent Regner, D
5th Round Pick (2008)
Regner is an offensive defenseman, and his numbers from the WHL testify to his style. His transition to the pro game of the AHL has not exactly gone smoothly, however. While he has 11 points in 27 games, the 20-year-old is a -11.
There will be ups and downs for a rookie defenseman at the AHL level, especially for Regner, who needs to work on his defense more than his offense. For example, Regner has been minus in seven of the past 12 games, and has just one point in his last eight games. Going into the second half, however, with the Crunch at the bottom of the standings, there is no reason not to give Regner, the club’s most promising young defenseman, plenty of ice-time.
Jonathan Sigalet, D
4th Round Pick (2005)
Acquired from Boston
Sigalet burst onto the AHL scene in his rookie campaign back in 2005-06 with a 36-point season. His production dipped every season following that, which forced the Bruins to deal him to Columbus last season. Sigalet fit in quite well in 19 games last season with Syracuse, recording 11 points, including five goals. So far this season, however, he’s netted just two goals in 31 games. His offensive struggles can be attributed to the entire team’s. Defensively, on the other hand, Sigalet has been quite solid, at just a -1 rating on a very minus team. Sigalet is one of the better defensemen on the Crunch, and would possibly be one of the first call-ups to the Blue Jackets, but this is perhaps his ceiling.
Grant Clitsome, D
9th Round Pick (2004)
It isn’t often that such a low pick gets signed to a pro contract, let alone makes a significant impact within the club’s system, but Clitsome has impressed ever since making his debut last season with the Syracuse Crunch. The rookie’s ice time steadily grew and he posted a respectable 19 points in 73 games from the back end. This season, statistically, he is on pace for about the same numbers as last year, but his most impressive stat is not in goals or assists. The former Clarkson University standout is a +1 on a team who has surrendered 50 more goals against than they have scored. Clitsome leads the team in this category and he has definitely been a bright spot for the Crunch.
Nick Holden, D
Holden is a big player who is quite capable of taking the body when necessary. He was signed as an undrafted defenseman from the Chilliwack Bruins of the WHL in 2008 and completed his rookie year with the Crunch last season, recording 22 points in 61 games. Like Clitsome, Holden’s ice-time and responsibility increased as the season went along. This season has been somewhat of a struggle for the whole team, but particularly for Holden. His numbers are mediocre with eight points in 24 games, but he currently sits at a team-worst -17. He has been a -3 twice in December and had what was likely a career-worst game on November 29th as he was on the ice for five goals against. Holden will need a much better second half defensively.
Michael Ratchuk, D
2nd Round Pick (2006)
Acquired from Philadelphia
Ratchuk, even more so than Holden, has been a disappointment this season. He has only gotten into 10 games with the Crunch and has been unable to make an impact on an already lackluster defense. He’s been a -9 through those 10 games, and has often been a healthy scratch. What’s even worse is as an offensive defenseman, Ratchuk only has one point. Again, with the Crunch all but out of the playoff picture heading into the second half of the season, Ratchuk should be given more of an opportunity as like Regner, he has quite a bit of promise.
Dan LaCosta, G
3rd Round Pick (2004)
The last two seasons, LaCosta had been exceptionally solid. He was even awarded with a call to the NHL, and posted a shutout there. However, this season, with a defense that has been poor and having to split time with Kevin Lalande, LaCosta has struggled. He has battled inconsistency all season long, recording a goals against of 3.96 and a save percentage of .886. Looking at his game-by-game log, one will find many more games with four and five goals allowed than two or three.
Kevin Lalande, G
5th Round Pick (2005)
Acquired from Calgary
Lalande may have surpassed LaCosta on the Syracuse depth chart and perhaps on the Blue Jackets’ radar, but hasn’t been exceptional himself. Lalande has been just mediocre, especially in the last month or so. His goals against and save percentage have gotten worse over the course of the season. Despite all of this, he holds a much better record than LaCosta at 7-8-1. His save percentage is .898 and GAA is 3.34.