Four Blue Jacket Rookies See Opening Night

By Bill Drake

The most notable rookie to make the Blue Jackets is Rostislav Klesla, a Czech defensman drafted fourth overall last year. Klesla is an early Calder finalist. He could win the hardware but it must be noted that young defenseman take longer to mature than forwards, see Chris Pronger and Ed Jovonovski. Klesla played only 9 games for Columbus before returning to Brampton. In the Juniors, Klesla improved his game and point total, from 45 to 54, and really improved during the postseason, scoring two goals and adding 9 assists. Klesla might, and hopefully will, improve the team PP, something Petteri Nummelin could never do last year.

Another defenseman looking to improve the PP is Radim Bicanek, another Czech who was claimed from Chicago in the Expansion Draft. After floating around the minors for a few years, Radim scored 22 goals and lead AHL defensemen with 65 points.

Up front another two young players made the final team: Chris Nielsen and Jody Shelley. Both bring qualities that Columbus needs, but both are totally different players.

Nielsen is a hard working, two-way forward, who plays both center and left wing. He played in 29 NHL games last year and figures to increase his icetime from the 10 minuted he played last year. Nielsen has a shot to see time on the PK, although he was not used in that role last year.

Jody Shelley is a player who knows his role, a fighter. Last year, Shelley fought and battled his way to 357 PIM with Syracuse of the AHL. In his one NHL game last year he managed 10 PIM. Shelley brings added toughness to Columbus, an intangible lost since the trade of the troubled hulk, Krzysztof Oliwa.

A few players that didn’t make the team were Brad Moran, a final cut, Matheui Darch, a potential power forward, and Martin Spanhel, a solid LW.