Scoring forwards headline group of junior players for Columbus Blue Jackets

By Chris Roberts
Photo: Standout forward Ryan Johansen will get an extended look in the Blue Jackets NHL training camp this upcoming fall. (Photo courtesy of Ken McKenna/HF)

Despite having several junior graduates over the past two seasons, the Blue Jackets still have a total of nine prospects playing in the CHL, two of which – Oliver Gabriel and Michael Chaput – were acquired during the 2010-11 season, while the other seven were all drafted by Columbus.


QMJHL

Michael Chaput, C, Lewiston MAINEiacs
Acquired: Trade with Philadelphia


The Blue Jackets acquired Chaput at this year’s deadline after shipping out oft-injured forward Tom Sestito (PHI), who had been on the cusp of securing an NHL job for quite some time now. Chaput was originally a third round selection of the Philadelphia Flyers, drafted in 2010 after a breakout 2009-10 campaign with the MAINEiacs in which he recorded 55 points in 68 games – 28 goals and 27 assists. He has continued to be a dual offensive threat this season, scoring 25 goals and accumulating 34 assists for the potent Lewiston team. He has also developed a grittier game over the past three season in the league, experiencing a rise from 60 penalty minutes to 97 this past season. Currently, he’s been leading the charge in the playoffs for Lewiston, registering sixteen points in ten games as the club currently battles the Montreal Junior in the second round.


Petr Straka, RW, Rimouski Oceanic
Acquired: 2nd Round, 55th overall, 2010

Perhaps in large part due to injuries, Petr Straka was unable to improve, let alone keep pace, with his production from last season – the 64 points in 62 games that made him a second-round selection. In just 41 games this season, Straka managed to score just ten goals and combined for just 25 points in total. Certainly, he did not meet many expectations within the Blue Jackets’ organization had for him, but it is still early in his development process, and thus, there is still plenty of time before it’s appropriate to worry; in fact, despite a first round playoff elimination, Straka was second in playoff scoring for Rimouski, and he’ll enter the 2011-12 campaign completely healthy and with valuable experiences to learn from.


Mathieu Corbeil-Theriault, G, Saint John Sea Dogs
Acquired: 4th Round, 102nd overall, 2010

Early indications seem to suggest that a change in scenery was all Corbeil-Theriault needed to become a successful QMJHL goaltender. After a dismal 2009-10 campaign, in which he was drafted in the fourth round with his size playing a vital role, he got off to an even worse start this season. In 25 games with Halifax, he recorded a career worst .867 save percentage. After getting traded to the top team in the league, Saint John, Corbeil-Theriault was given ample opportunity as the team’s backup. Not only did his record improve drastically – 13-1-1 in 15 games – but his save percentage was .908 while he recorded a goals against average of 2.17. His previous struggles, then, either seem to reflect the team that was in front of him, or suggest that perhaps he is finally beginning to tap into his potential.

OHL

Dalton Smith, LW, Ottawa 67s
Acquired: 2nd round, 34th overall, 2010

Much like the Blue Jackets other second round pick from 2010, Petr Straka, Dalton Smith has noticed a severe regression in point totals this season. He retained his role as the Ottawa 67s agitator this season – registering 124 penalty minutes – but experienced a point decrease of 15 from last season, scoring just 29 points in 64 games. In fact, his point-per-game pace was even worse than in his rookie season of 2008-09. He did, however, register four points in four first round playoff games in which the 67s were swept by the surprising Sudbury Wolves. Smith will return to Ottawa next season, but with many potential impact players returning, there will be nothing given to him. His offensive production will certainly need to pick up if he is going to earn increased minutes.

Brandon Archibald, D, Saginaw Spirit
Acquired: 4th round, 94th overall, 2010

Archibald was a prominent offensive defenseman for the Greyhounds in Sault St. Marie, thus, taking a diminishing role on the playoff-bound Saginaw team was more than a challenge for the recent fourth round selection. In 29 games with Saginaw, he was held scoreless and managed just three assists. More than that, his plus/minus was an atrocious minus-13, especially given the fact that the majority of defensemen to suit up for the Spirit this season were all well above the even mark. Despite that, he continues to be a fixture in a strong Saginaw lineup, most recently having returned from an injury suffered in the first round.


Dalton Prout, D, Saginaw Spirit
Acquired: 6th round, 154th overall, 2010

Prout was another mid-season pickup by the Spirit, and despite being less highly touted than Archibald, has been more central to Saginaw’s success. Prior to the trade, he was averaging near a point-per-game with Barrie, albeit as an overager; though he has noticed a drop in ice-time on the superior Saginaw team, he still managed to register ten points in 29 games. He has also appeared in all nine playoff games thus far, scoring one goal. He has always been a physical force on the back-end, and has been even more so since joining the Spirit, providing the club with a tenacity and toughness that they had been lacking. He’ll turn pro next season, and will almost assuredly earn a pro contract with the Blue Jackets organization, especially given his recent play.

WHL

Ryan Johansen, C, Portland Winterhawks
Acquired: 1st round, 4th overall, 2010

Johansen had a good start to the season; but, by his and the Blue Jackets organization’s standards, it was not quite equal to what had been expected. The turning point, by all accounts, seems to have been his play at the World Junior Championships, in which he led Canada to the gold medal game. Since then, Johansen has climbed the ranks of leading WHL scorers at a rapid pace. He finished the season with 41 points in his final 20 games, accumulating a total of 92 in just 63 games throughout the season. He continues to lead the Winterhawks in the second round of the playoffs, most recently having scored a hat-trick in a 6-3 game two victory over Kelowna. All-in-all, he has dominated the league as expected, and given such, he will get an extended look in Columbus’ training camp next fall.

Oliver Gabriel, LW, Portland Winterhawks
Acquired:  Free agent, 2010

After a strong showing in Blue Jackets’ training camp as an undrafted free agent, Gabriel – a teammate of Ryan Johansen – played well enough to earn a contract. After being signed, he was sent back to Portland. Unfortunately, for Gabriel, his season was cut short in mid-January after a season-ending shoulder injury, but he had been quietly putting together an impressive offensive season on a deep and talented Winterhawks team. In 41 games – the same amount he played last season – the twenty-year-old scored 11 goals and added 21 assists for a total of 32 points. He could possibly play as an overager next season, but it seems more likely that he’ll begin his pro career in either Springfield or Gwinnett.


Austin Madaisky, D, Kamloops Blazers
Acquired: 5th round, 124th overall, 2010

Madaisky seemed to really find himself in Kamloops this season, registering 27 points in 55 games, and also recording 104 penalty minutes. His minus-15 seems concerning; but the fact that he logged his minutes on a Kamloops team that finished tied for last in the Western conference takes much of the brunt away from his individual play. The smooth-skating defenseman will return to junior next season.