Blue Jackets Top 20 prospects

By Aaron Vickers





Jackets Top Twenty (Begin 04-05)


With yet season and another Entry Draft passing
by, it is time once again to evaluate the Blue Jackets prospects current position within the organization. While no year is
without its ups and downs for each prospect, the group as a whole
developed nicely as Columbus depends on for the growth of the organization.

The August 2004 edition of the Columbus Blue Jackets Top 20 List boasts a
lot of familiar faces, as well as a plethora of new talent cracking the
list. Among new names cracking the list include Russian scoring
sensation Sergei Mozyakin, freshly signed Steven Goertzen, and a
plethora of talent from the 2004 NHL Entry Draft crop. Making things
even more interesting is the fact that it isn’t outside the realm of possibility
for the Columbus Blue Jackets to have their top five prospects
under contract and on the ice for opening night.

Blue Jackets Top 20 at a Glance



1. Danny Fritsche, C
2. Pascal Leclaire, G
3. Alexandre Picard, LW
4. Aaron Johnson, D
5. Sergei Mozyakin, LW
6. Adam Pineault, RW
7. Ole-Kristian Tollefsen, D
8. Joakim Lindstrom, C
9. Kyle Wharton, D
10. Tim Jackman, RW
11. Arsi Piispanen, RW
12. Dan LaCosta, G
13. Dimitri Kosmachev, D
14. Greg Mauldin, C
15. Andrei Plehanov, D
16. Tim Konsorada, RW
17. Peter Pohl, RW
18. Steven Goertzen, RW
19. Philippe Dupuis, C
20. Rob Page, D



Click here to see the previous rankings.

1. Danny Fritsche, C

Birthdate: 07/13/1985

Height: 6’1

Weight: 198

2003-04 Club: Sarnia Sting
(OHL)/Columbus Blue Jackets (NHL)
Selected 46th Overall in the 2003 NHL
Entry Draft

After the roller coaster season of Sarnia
Sting standout Danny Fritsche, it would be hard not to smile at his
hard work, perseverance, and dedication. After making the Columbus Blue
Jackets straight out of camp in 2003-04, Fritsche struggled to find
both success and minutes on the ice. After totaling a meager one goal
through 19 games, the Columbus Blue Jackets released the Parma, Ohio
native to Team USA to participate in the 2004 World Junior
Championships.

“It was a great situation to send him to the World Juniors,” explained
MacLean in a March interview with Hockey’s Future. “He was a real
important player on their team, and became a very important player as
the tournament went on.”

It was at the World Junior Championships in Finland that Danny Fritsche
recorded two goals and two assists through six games, including one
goal in the gold medal final against Canada. After achieving an
ultimate high, it would be days later that Fritsche would feel an
ultimate low.

Instead of being returned to the Columbus Blue Jackets, General Manager
Doug MacLean decided to return Fritsche to his junior club, the Sarnia
Sting of the Ontario Hockey League. In retrospect, decided MacLean, it
was a good move.

“It was decided it was best to send him back to Sarnia and let him
really play a lot,” said MacLean. “It was a good move for him and
for us in terms of development. It was a no-brainer to be quite honest."

Fritsche handled the demotion like a professional, and found his
offensive flair with the Sarnia Sting. In fact, Fritsche finished the
season with 29 points in 27 games, including being named the MVP of
Team West in the OHL’s annual All-Star Game.

If there is an NHL
season in 2004-05, Columbus Blue Jacket fans may see Danny Fritsche in
an expanded role, one definitely more suited for the offensively gifted
center then the fourth line duty received at the beginning of the 2003
journey. If MacLean’s words are any indication, Fritsche will certainly
be given every opportunity to contribute to Columbus once again.

2, Pascal Leclaire, G


Birthdate: 11/07/1982

Height: 6’2

Weight: 190

2003-04 Club: Syracuse Crunch (AHL)
Selected 8th Overall in the 2002 NHL
Entry Draft

Although there weren’t any spectacular events to refer to in
talking about Pascal Leclaire’s 2003-04 AHL season, there was certainly
a lot of encouragement from the progress made over the course of the
year. In his second professional season, Leclaire was able to post
career highs in every conceivable category, including both games and
minutes played.

Perhaps the most encouraging statistics for Leclaire lie in comparing
his win-loss record, save percentage, and goals against average from
two seasons ago. Last season, Leclaire managed a very respectable
21-16-3 record, after a dismal 8-21-3 record in 2002-03. After posting
a 3.56 goals against average two seasons ago, Leclaire trimmed half a
goal a game off his record, posting a 3.06 mark in 2003-04. His most
impressive stat, however, may lie in his save percentage. A mark of
.915, was up drastically from his dismal .890 from his previous season.

“(He had an) unbelievable year,” boasted General Manager Doug MacLean.
“He looks like he’s going to challenge for a job next year, and I think
he’s got a very good chance to make our team.”

The accolades came not only from MacLean and the Columbus Blue Jackets,
but media outlets as well, including Hockey’s Future, who named
Leclaire in their February 2004 Top
Fifty Prospects List, ranking him 28th, ahead of other puckstoppers
Ilya Bryzgalov, Ray Emery and Maxime Ouellet.

Pascal Leclaire is returning to the level of play that made him the
eighth overall selection in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, something that
certainly has Columbus brass and fans alike drooling at the potential
of not only Leclaire, but this hockey club as well.

3. Alexandre Picard, LW


Birthdate: 10/09/1985
Position: LW
Height: 6’2
Weight: 190
2003-04 Club: Lewiston MAINEiacs (QMJHL)
Selected 8th Overall in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft

Alexandre Picard was the latest edition to the Columbus Blue
Jackets prospect corps after being selected eighth overall in the 2004
NHL Entry Draft. Picard, the anchor of Lewiston’s offense, was selected
after the Blue Jackets traded down in the draft, passing on the likes
of Andrew Ladd.

Picard, who was ranked third among North American skaters by Central
Scouting, was clearly who the Columbus Blue Jackets had targeted
heading into the draft. In fact, it has been rumored that not only
Director of Amateur Scouting Don Boyd had to be talked into the
selection, but General Manager Doug MacLean as well. MacLean, always
one to trust his scouting staff, appeared pleased with his selection.

The 2003-04 campaign was nothing short of a success for Picard, who
lead all 2004 draftees in goals scored, totaling 39. Totaling 80
points, Picard lead the expansion MAINEiacs in points.

Picard’s season and talents did not go unnoticed by any stretch of the
imagination. Not only was he honored as a top ten selection in the 2004
NHL Entry Draft, but he was among the 44 players invited to Canada’s
National Junior Team Development Camp, held in Calgary, Alberta from
August 12th to 19th.

4. Aaron Johnson, D

Birthdate: 04/30/1983
Height: 6’2
Weight: 197
2003-04 Club: Syracuse Crunch (AHL)/Columbus Blue Jackets (NHL)

Selected 85th Overall in the 2001 NHL
Entry Draft

QMJHL graduate Aaron Johnson, in his first professional season,
had a year to remember. After signing a contract last off season,
Johnson has seen his career take off. After making the significant
adaptation from junior hockey to the professional ranks, Johnson saw
his season take off.

As a rookie defenseman, Johnson nearly averaged a point-per-game pace
after registering 21 points through 49 games. His highest accolade may
have came with being named to the AHL’s annual All-Star Game. As
amazing an experience that was for the Port Hawkesbury, Nova Scotia
native, his first NHL game was something he wont soon forget either.

"I don’t know if it is possible to put into words," Johnson told
Hockey’s Future in February. "It’s something that I’ve dreamt about for 20
years now. Just to get on the ice was a dream of mine."

It was a dream Johnson made the most of. Unlike many Jacket youngsters
who only received a taste of action at the National Hockey League
level, Johnson managed to enjoy 29 games for the Columbus Blue Jackets,
a rarity for any defenseman in his first professional season. Johnson,
always known to excel offensively, managed to total 8 points during his
tenure with the Jackets, and played with a poise that impressed even
Doug MacLean.

“Well, Aaron Johnson is a former third round pick who’s come in,”
explained MacLean. “He just has tremendous heart and character, loves
to play the game. This kid has a good chance to be a very good hockey
player.”

There is no doubt that Columbus plans to have him suit up full-time for
the Blue Jackets. With MacLean projecting eight draftees on the
Columbus roster, Johnson may very well find himself with a regular role
on the blueline as soon as next season.

5. Sergei Mozyakin, LW


Birthdate: 03/30/81
Height: 5’10
Weight: 165
2003-04 Club: HC CSKA (RSL)
Selected 263rd Overall in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft

Columbus’ last selection in the 2002 National Hockey League
Entry Draft may turn out to be the biggest surprise of the entire draft
class. Mozyakin, drafted as an overager, excelled in the Russian Super
League in 2003-04, exploding for 40 points in 45 games, including
finishing 3rd in goals behind Eduard Kudermetov and Andrei Kovalenko,
who each tied with 23.

While Mozyakin may have finished third in goals scored, he finished tops
in the league in goals per game. Playing in only 45 games, Mozyakin
missed only 15 games due to a broken tibia suffered in December.
Mozyakin’s ability to recover from the injury was uncanny, and allowed
him to finish tied for eighth in the league in points.
The events in Mozyakin’s season didn’t end with on-ice activities
however. Mozyakin and fellow Columbus prospect Dimitri Kosmachev were
conscripted into the Red Army, shortly after HC CSKA lost youngster
Nikolai Zherdev overseas to Blue Jackets. While the decision to
conscript the two certainly was a direct result of the Nikolai Zherdev
incident, General Manager Doug MacLean took it in stride, and even
suggested that Mozyakin may be in the blue, white and red sooner then
expected.

“Mozyakin is a little older,” explained MacLean, “So he’ll have a
chance.”

Given the lack of scoring on the Blue Jackets squad, the addition of a
proven scorer like Mozyakin could do wonders for the offense of the
club, though it remains to be seen if Mozyakin will find himself in
North America in the near future.

6. Adam Pineault, RW

Birthdate: 05/23/86
Height: 6’1
Weight: 193
2003-04 Club: Boston College (H-East)
Selected 46th Overall in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft

Adam Pineault had a disappointing season to say the least, but
the addition of the Holyoke, MA native to the Columbus Blue Jackets
prospect pool couldn’t have the organization any happier. Pineault, who
was selected 46th overall in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, struggled
greatly as the youngest player in Division I hockey. Finding ice time
for Boston College was something Pineault struggled with, as his stock
quickly plummeted from a sure-fire first round selection to a rather
large question mark. After both being denied a roster spot for Boston
College’s playoff run, as well as not being able to participate under
the American banner at the World Under-18 Championships, Pineault’s
relationship with his school came into question.

Pineault, in an attempt to restore the luster attached to his name, has
opted out of college for the 2004-05 season, and will spend his on-ice
time with the Moncton Wildcats of the QMJHL.

7. Ole-Kristian Tollefsen, D

Birthdate: 03/29/1984
Height: 6’2
Weight: 200
2003-04 Club: Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)
Selected 65th Overall in the 2002 NHL
Entry Draft

Ole-Kristian Tollefsen had a season he couldn’t ask for in 2003-04. After struggling to stay healthy one season prior, the
Brandon Wheat King rearguard skated in a career high 53 games. While a
Western Hockey League season lasts 72 games, Tollefsen missed a fair
chunk of games representing his country, Norway, in the World Junior
‘B’ Championships. Tollefsen, captaining his club, was representing
Norway for the third consecutive season.

After setting a career high in not only games played, but assists and
points as well, Tollefsen signed a contract in June, along with fellow
Wheat King teammate and Blue Jackets prospect Tim Konsorada. MacLean,
obviously a big booster of the hard-hitting Tollefsen, made it clear
that OK will have a future with the Columbus organization.

 “(He’s a)
gritty kid,” MacLean said in running down Tollefsen’s attributes.
“(He’s) shown a lot of character coming to the Western League and
playing hard. Looks like he’ll have a chance to play.”

Tollefsen is likely to suit up for the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL next
season, but should he impress in camp as he did last season, he may
find himself suiting up for a few games with the 2004-05 edition of the
Columbus Blue Jackets.

8. Joakim Lindstrom, C


Birthdate: 12/05/1983

Height: 6’1

Weight: 197

2003-04 Club: MoDo (SEL)

Selected
41st Overall in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft

Swedish prospect Joakim Lindstrom did not have much of a
2003-04 season to speak of. After having an extremely strong Columbus
Blue Jackets professional camp, he had General Manager Doug MacLean
wishing he was under contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

“Joakim had a real strong camp last year,” mentioned MacLean. “He’s a
skilled guy, so we’re excited about him. He’s a skilled guy, but he’s
also a big guy with great hands.”

Joakim also became a big guy with bad shoulders, as Lindstrom suffered
a separated right shoulder, his second on the right shoulder. It was
only five months before Lindstrom suffered his shoulder injury in
November, shoulder surgery repaired a similar injury to his left
shoulder. The good news, if any from Lindstrom’s season, is the surgery
he underwent to strengthen both shoulders, the same surgery fellow Blue
Jacket prospect Danny Fritsche underwent the season before his draft
year. The results of Fritsche’s surgery were a success, so the Blue Jackets are hoping to be able to say the same about their only
Swedish prospect.

9. Kyle Wharton, D

Birthdate: 03/03/1986
Height: 6’3
Weight: 185
2003-04 Club: Ottawa 67’s (OHL)
Selected 59th Overall in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft

If there was one goal the Columbus Blue Jackets were looking to
achieve through the 2004 National Hockey League Entry Draft, it was to replenish some defensive depth in their prospects. Heading into the
draft, defense was a position the Blue Jackets were looking to address,
and did so with the drafting of the Ottawa, Ontario native.

Wharton, the 13th ranked North American skater, was recognized in his
efforts twice this past season, both participating in the CHL’s annual
Top Prospects Game, and again when he was invited, along with fellow
Columbus Blue Jackets prospect and 2004 draftee Alexandre Picard, to
participate in the Canadian National Junior Summer Evaluation Camp in
August.

10. Tim Jackman, RW


Birthdate: 11/14/1981

Height: 6’3

Weight: 201

2003-04 Club: Syracuse Crunch
(AHL)/Columbus Blue Jackets (NHL)

Selected
38th Overall in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft

Tim Jackman’s stepped his game up a level over the course of the
2003-04 season, which earned him not only regular ice time with the
Syracuse Crunch, but also impressed the Blue Jackets
enough to dress for 19 games with Syracuse’s parent organization. The
most notable improvement in Jackman’s game was his offensive output,
which skyrocketed in comparison to his 2002-03 season, which saw him
record a slim 16 points over the course of 77 games. The 2003-04 season
saw Jackman start dominating his opponents in the offensive end,
registering 36 points, a 20 point improvement over the course of one
season, in 64 games, 13 fewer games then that of 2002-03.

The Minot, ND native also recorded three points in 19 games. Based on
his audition with the big club and his impression on General Manager
Doug MacLean, Jackman should expect to start the 2003-04 season not in
Syracuse, but with the Columbus Blue Jackets. “I look at…Jackman as
really challenging,” MacLean said.

11. Arsi Piispanen, RW

Birthdate: 07/23/1985
Height: 6’3
Weight: 163
2003-04 Club: Jokerit Jr (FIN Jr)
Selected 138th Overall in the 2003 NHL
Entry Draft

Arsi Piispanen, arguably Columbus’ most intriguing prospect, had
a successful campaign with Jokerit Jr in 2003-04. In fact, Piispanen
impressed so much, that he even earned a regular shift with the parent
club, including four playoff games. Piispanen’s ability to step up from
his junior club to the parent club was an impressive feat, and although
his point totals didn’t carry over, Piispanen made significant strides
in development, something that the Columbus Blue Jackets organization
will echo.

“(He’s) 6’5, 160lbs,” laughed MacLean when asked to explain Piispanen.
“But terrific, tremendous hands. Our guys liked him at the World
Juniors a lot. Our guys thought he took big steps this year.”

Piispanen, defined by the organization as a long term prospect, isn’t
expected to join the Blue Jackets family for a few seasons yet.

12. Dan LaCosta, G


Birthdate: 03/28/86
Height: 6’1
Weight: 186
2003-04 Club: Owen Sound Attack (OHL)
Selected 93rd Overall in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft


As expected, the organization took the opportunity to
select a goaltender in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, after finding their
prospect pool depleted at that position. LaCosta, ranked as the sixth
best North American goaltender by Central Scouting, has yet to take
over full goaltending duties for the Owen Sound Attack. The Labrador
City native had been passed up in favor of a more experienced
goaltender for the Attack’s playoff run, but make no mistake about it,
the Owen Sound squad will be Daniel LaCosta’s club next season.

With the drafting of LaCosta, he immediately falls second on the Blue Jackets depth chart behind former first round selection
Pascal Leclaire. LaCosta, who has exceptional skating for a goaltender,
is said to handle the crash-the-net style of opposing offenses
extremely well, and will be a project that the Blue Jackets
keep an extremely close eye on, given their lack of depth at the
netminding position.

13. Dimitri Kosmachev, D


Birthdate: 06/07/1985

Height: 6’3

Weight: 205

2003-04 Club: HC CSKA (RSL)
Selected 71st Overall in the 2003 NHL
Entry Draft

Dimitri Kosmachev had a season to forget for HC CSKA. Despite
this, however, he is still very much in the future plans for the Blue Jackets. Kosmachev was expected to step up for his club
team, but was unable to take his game to another level. Off-ice
problems may have contributed to the on-ice product for Kosmachev, who
was quickly and abruptly conscripted into the Red Army shortly after
teammate Nikolai Zherdev fled his club and home nation for the comfort
of the Columbus.

The plan for Kosmachev appears to develop him slowly, a plan that
General Manager Doug MacLean appears to be willing to stick to.

“Kosmachev,” explains MacLean, “we’re going to leave over there for a
year or two and see what happens.”

Although Kosmachev didn’t perform to expectations, all was not lost for
his season. Kosmachev set a career high in both games played in 2003-04
with 34, as well as in assists, with 2, and with penalty minutes, with
12.

14. Greg Mauldin, C

Birthdate: 06/10/1982
Height: 5’11
Weight: 180
2003-04 Club: UMass-Amherst (HEA)
Selected 199th Overall in the 2002 NHL
Entry Draft

Greg Mauldin has celebrated
graduation from UMass-Amherst by signing his first professional
contract. Mauldin, 22, signed on April
8th, 2004 and it was soon after that Mauldin dressed in his
first professional game, skating in not only two games for Columbus’
AHL affiliate Syracuse Crunch, but also in six games with the Columbus
Blue Jackets as well.

“He’s moved up our depth chart a long way,” said MacLean, “so we just
signed him.”

In fact, Mauldin has moved so far up the Columbus Blue Jackets depth
chart that he may even find himself a regular on the club for the
2004-05 NHL season. Mauldin, who possesses impressive speed, could
benefit greatly from having a player like Todd Marchant as a tutor,
someone who Mauldin has drawn comparisons to on numerous occasions.

15. Andrei Plehanov, D

Birthdate: 07/12/1986
Height: 6’1
Weight: 187
2003-04 Club: Nizhnekamsk-2 (RPL)
Selected 96th Overall in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft

Despite being ranked 111th among European skaters by the Central
Scouting Bureau, the Columbus Blue Jackets raised quite a few eyebrows
by selecting Andrei Plehanov with the 96th selection. Plehanov, a
native of Nizhnekasmsk, adds another Russian prospect to the Blue
Jackets fold, joining the likes of Sergei Mozyakin and Dimitri
Kosmachev.

Heading into the draft, Plehanov was said to be ranked so low simply
because of location. Plehanov, skating for Nizhnekasmsk-2, was
essentially ‘out of the way’ for most scouts to pay a visit to. It was
actually the same Columbus scout who had persuaded General Manager Doug
MacLean to select Sergei Mozyakin, as it was to select Andrei Plehanov,
who was rumored to be ranked 20th according to the club’s scouting
sheets.

16. Tim Konsorada, RW

Birthdate: 03/21/1984
Height: 6’1
Weight: 211
2003-04 Club: Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)
Selected 168th Overall in the 2002 NHL
Entry Draft

Konsorada’s season was put on hiatus when it was discovered that
he had suffered a shoulder injury over the course of the 2002-03
Western Hockey League season. The injury itself was unknown to
Konsorada, when it only became known when he had failed a physical
examination while at the 2003 Columbus Blue Jackets training camp.
Konsorada, who prior to the injury, was named captain of the Brandon
Wheat Kings, but wouldn’t suit up alongside his teammates until
January. Upon returning to the lineup, it took Konsorada a few weeks to
regain his stride, but managed to finish the season strong, recording
21 points, on the strength of an amazing 18 assists, in 25 games.

It was alongside teammate Ole-Kristian Tollefsen that Tim Konsorada
signed his first professional contract in June, and is expected to
begin contributing to one of Columbus’ minor league affiliates next
season.

17. Peter Pohl, RW

Birthdate: 08/28/1986
Height: 5’11
Weight: 185
2003-04 Club: Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL)
Selected 133rd Overall in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft

On an extremely deep Gatineau Olympiques squad, Peter Pohl
struggled to find quality minutes in his rookie season in the Quebec
Major Junior Hockey League. Pohl, a Czech import, tallied an impressive
50 points in 70 games as a rookie in a new country, but those 50 points
were only good enough for 11th on the club in scoring. Pohl, averaging
the minutes of a third liner, certainly put his skills on display when
given the chance, whether it be with his patience and soft hands.

It will be up to Pohl next season, though, to provide the majority of
offense for the Olympiques, as the club will see top scorers like
Maxime Talbot likely to leave the club and Jean-Michel Daoust unable to
return. Pohl will take this opportunity to disprove those who think he
is too fragile to handle the rigors of top line minutes, as his tendency to shy away from physical play will be scrutinized.

18. Steven Goertzen, RW

Birthdate: 05/26/1984
Height: 6’2
Weight: 201
2003-04 Club: Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)
Selected 225th Overall in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft


Seattle Thunderbirds associate captain Steven Goertzen will not
be returning next season, as the 225th selection in the 2002 NHL Entry
Draft will be turning pro. Goertzen, who possesses great size and
impressive speed, will take his game to either the ECHL or AHL next
season after signing with the Columbus Blue Jackets in March. The
decision to sign him wasn’t a difficult one for MacLean.

“You know, we look at him as a good checking forward,” explained
MacLean. “(He) has a chance at that third of fourth line because he can
skate.”

He also has shown a lot of resilience as well. It was Goertzen,
naturally a right winger, who was doubling as a defenseman for the
Thunderbirds when injuries began to take their toll on Seattle over the
course of the 2003-04 campaign. While his offensive totals have yet to
explode, Goertzen certainly is on the right track to becoming a valued
member of the organization.

19. Philippe Dupuis, C


Birthdate: 07/13/1985

Height: 6’0

Weight: 192

2003-04 Club: Gatineau Olympiques (QMJHL)
Selected 104th Overall in the 2003 NHL
Entry Draft

Phillipe Dupuis, teammate to 2004 draftee and fellow Columbus
Blue Jacket prospect Peter Pohl, finished eighth among Olympique
skaters in points. Like Pohl, Dupuis struggled to find quality minutes
on the ice, but will most definitely see his role expand from that
which saw him net 18 goals and 55 points in 60 games in 2003-04.
Dupuis, who played much more of a secondary scoring role with the
Olympiques, will be thrust into the spotlight as he tries to keep the
reputation of the powerhouse Olympiques during the 2004-05 QMJHL
season.

Dupuis may have given Olympiques faithful a glimpse towards next
season, when he stepped up his play in the playoffs, recording six
goals and ten assists for 16 points in 15 games for Gatineau.

20. Rob Page, D

Birthdate: 07/09/1985
Height: 6’1
Weight: 186
2003-04 Club: Blake High School (USHS)
Selected 167th Overall in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft

Rob Page was one of three high school students the Columbus Blue
Jackets opted to take in the 2004 National Hockey League Entry Draft.
The Edina, Minnesota native has also excelled in both soccer and golf
as well, but those will become hobbies after recently graduating from
Blake High School in Minnesota. Page not only brought leadership to his
club after captaining his high school squad, but speed and puck
handling ability from the back end. Page, an offensive defenseman, has
the ability to control the play at both ends based on his skating
abilities alone.

It was just recently that it was announced that Page has committed to Yale University for the fall
of 2004.

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