Defense, depth forwards populate Columbus Blue Jackets minor-league system

By Chris Roberts
Photo: Cody Goloubef is one of several talented young defensemen in the Blue Jackets minor league system. (Photo courtesy of Ken McKenna/HF)

The Springfield Falcons are off to another mediocre start this season, having gone 14-15-1 through 30 games, but there have been some positives. For the first time since Dan LaCosta was putting up decent numbers in Syracuse, the Blue Jackets have had decent goaltending in the minor affiliate this year – Manny Legace has been a stabilizing force between the pipes. The team also has more veteran firepower up front than they had in years prior. Yet, with a young defensive core and a slow start to the season, the team currently sits outside of the playoff picture.

AHL

Matt Calvert, LW, 22

After finishing the season with Columbus last year – and looking as though he belonged – Matt Calvert looked as though he had secured an NHL position. Though, after an overhaul in Columbus, nothing was guaranteed, and after playing 13 games with the Blue Jackets in October and November of this year, Calvert has since been stationed in Springfield.

He got off to a slow start in Columbus this year, and things haven't been much different in the AHL. In 17 games with the Falcons, he has just three goals and four assists and has been a minus-three. He continues to be an offensive presence on the ice, averaging over two shots a game, but hasn't had the same finish that earned him an early call-up to Columbus last season. So far in Springfield, he has been overshadowed by another diminutive winger, Cam Atkinson, who is scoring at the same pace Calvert was as a rookie last year.

Maksim Mayorov, LW, 22

Mayorov, a big-bodied Russian winger, seemed to finally get his break this October, making the Blue Jackets out of training camp after three full seasons in the AHL. Yet, with the new year approaching, he once again finds himself in Springfield amidst concerns and speculation that he may eventually return to Russia where he can make quite a bit more than he does in the minors.

In his eight games with the Falcons, he has gone pointless. He has been battling an injury and likely still isn't at 100 percent, but there is no doubt that he has the ability to score in the AHL, and will certainly need to if he is going to be back in Columbus.

Tomas Kubalik, RW, 21

Like fellow second-year forward Calvert, Tomas Kubalik has struggled early on after an impressive rookie season in which he was one of the Falcons most consistent offensive threats. He has just nine points in 20 games this year, and has particularly struggled as of late, having gone pointless seven games and goalless in 13.

His play in the defensive end has been decent, but of course, his offensive numbers are discouraging. He has the makeup of a power-forward with a nose for the net, and he needs to continue to use his size to be an effective winger. Currently, he needs to play his way back on to the top line in Springfield before getting a look as an NHL call-up.

Cam Atkinson, RW, 22

An undersized, but speedy winger, Atkinson made an impression on the Blue Jackets in October, cracking the team's 23-man roster to start the season after three years at Boston College. Though he scored one goal in five games, he has since been a regular among the Falcons top six forwards. He has 22 points in 26 games, including 14 goals, and has been playing at a point-per-game pace since the beginning of November.

Atkinson is a plus-seven on the year with Springfield, and has been effective in all areas of the ice. And despite his size, he is a feisty competitor who doesn't mind mixing it up along the boards and in the corners. He has been one of the more impressive AHL rookies this season, and if he maintains his pace, he is likely to earn another NHL call-up.

Cody Goloubef, D, 22

After a mediocre rookie season in the AHL, Goloubef started the 2011-12 season in a similar manner: in 21 games, he has yet to score a goal, and is a minus-seven, but has assisted on eight goals. He has the ability to be an all-around defenseman, and in this, his second pro season, he is expected to more of a force on the ice for the Falcons.

Unfortunately for the team and Goloubef, he is currently sidelined after an arm injury that took place in a game early December against the Connecticut Whale. He is likely to be out for another few weeks.

David Savard, D, 21

Savard continues to flourish as a defenseman since being selected in the fourth round in 2009. After emerging as one of Springfield's best offensive defensemen last season, he turned in an impressive effort in September and was able to crack the Blue Jackets 23-man roster. Though he played just seven games before being sent down, he didn't look completely out of place.

Since being returned to Springfield, however, the 21-year old has been one of the team's most consistent defensemen and, in all likelihood, will finish the season back in the NHL. In the meantime, he leads the team in by a defensemen with 12 points in 22 games.

Theo Ruth, D, 22

The physical defenseman out of Notre Dame seems to settling in on the blue line in Springfield this season. After a shaky first season in which he was a minus-18, he is only a minus-one through 19 games this season. He has also recorded two assists.

Playing primarily with Brent Regner when he's in the lineup, he provides a physical stay-at-home presence for the undersized, smooth-skating blueliner. He has been using his size more effectively this season and seems to be maturing into a steady defenseman. He'll never put up many points at any level, but could still be effective in a shut-down role.

Brent Regner, D, 22

Regner is currently on pace to have a similar offensive season as his first two in the AHL – he has seven points in 27 games – but there has been considerable improvement in his defensive zone consistency. He finished October with a minus-two rating, an even rating in November and is currently a plus two in December.

He has been playing on the third pairing for much of the season, while being used on the power-play, which is where he is most effective. He's also been effective at taking away chances without taking penalties as he has just one minor penalty all season. He's an RFA after this season, and with similar, but young defensemen coming up in the Jackets system, he'll need to have a strong second half to earn another contract.

Dalton Prout, D, 21

In the mold of a physical, shut-down defenseman, Dalton Prout is having a decent start to his professional career. He has just one point in 24 games and is a minus-two, but has shown impressive physical play all season long and provides a bit of nastiness to the Falcons back-end.

Prout has been able to get into as many games as he has had due to injuries to Theo Ruth and Cody Goloubef, and will likely sit outside the top six when the Falcons blue line is healthy, but as of now, he looks to be a decent bottom pairing AHL defenseman with room to grow.

Anton Blomqvist, D, 21

Despite being a sixth round selection, many were excited to see what the 6'4 Blomqvist would do in his first full season in North America. He skated in five games at the end of last year for the Falcons and looked fairly comfortable, but has just played in three games this season due to injury.

He was a positive player in those three games, and when he is healthy once again, he'll likely slide back into the team's crowded top six.

ECHL

Steven Delisle, D, 21

The 6'6 blueliner missed nearly his entire rookie season with an injury last year, and it has shown. He was unable to stick with Springfield out of training camp and has looked decent at best with the Chicago Express of the ECHL. He has an even plus/minus rating with just one point in 16 games. He also has just six penalty minutes, and hasn't been as physical as he should given his size. After missing a year of hockey, it will likely take a full year in the ECHL for Delisle to get back on track.

Allen York, G, 22

York has bounced around this season, splitting time with Columbus, Springfield, and now Chicago of the ECHL. He looked out of place in his short stints in the NHL and AHL, but seems to be settling in now that he's earning regular starts in the ECHL.

In seven games, he has gone 4-2-1 with a 2.98 goals against average and a .903 save percentage. If he continues to gain confidence and consistent starts between the pipes, he'll likely find his way back to Springfield splitting time with Manny Legace.