While the majority of Columbus Blue Jackets prospects missed out on post-season play this season – the Springfield Falcons, where the bulk of the organization’s prospects play, missed the playoffs – there were a few that did make enormous contributions to their teams' playoff fortunes. Goaltender Mathieu Corbeil helped lead the Saint John Sea Dogs to a QMJHL Championship, while Michael Chaput was named the Memorial Cup MVP. After the most disappointing season in the club’s history, the Blue Jackets, at the very least, received some rays of hope with the performances of select prospects.
All four of the Jackets QMJHL prospects made significant contributions to their teams' post-season runs. After a solid season for the powerhouse Sea Dogs, Mathieu Corbeil picked up his play in the post-season, recording a 2.18 GAA and a .917 save percentage. Even more impressive, Corbeil lost just one game in the playoffs, though that is more of a reflection of the team in front of him than his own skill – the Sea Dogs, for the past two seasons, have been one of the CHL’s top teams. Regardless, Corbeil more than held his own and did what he was expected to do. The 6’6 goaltender struggled in the Memorial Cup, however, and was unable to make the key saves required to lift his team to the final.
On the other side of the coin, Shawinigan’s Michael Chaput certainly elevated his play in the Memorial Cup, earning the tournament MVP with 12 points in just six games; this, after a lengthy layoff after the team was eliminated in the second round of the playoffs. Chaput was far-and-away the best player in the tournament, and looks to have a solid future in front of him.
Rimouski’s Petr Straka has had sub-par seasons for the past two years, barely registering over 0.5 points-per-game, but he exploded in the playoffs, finishing third in team scoring with 22 points in 21 games. The Czech was one of the team’s go-to offensive players and seemed to elevate his game to the level the Blue Jackets had anticipated he’d consistently play at when they selected him in the second round of the 2010 NHL Draft.
Chicoutimi’s Lukas Sedlak had a fantastic first season in North America posting nearly a point-per-game, but his production decreased quite a bit come playoff time. In 18 games, the Czech native posted just eight points. He’ll get another shot at a championship next season with Chicoutimi, where he’ll be expected to be one of the team’s top point producers.
All three of the Blue Jackets' Ontario Hockey League prospects made a significant impact in the playoffs.
For the Ottawa 67s, hard-nosed Dalton Smith contributed on the score sheet and brought intangibles that helped the team advance to the league semi-finals. In 18 games, Smith scored four goals and added four assists, while recording 48 penalty minutes. He provided a spark to the team throughout the season and playoffs, and he’ll have to continue playing that style if he is to become an effective pro.
For Oshawa’s Boone Jenner, though he only played in six games due to the team’s first-round playoff exit, he nearly single-handedly carried the team onto the second round with 11 points (four goals, seven assists). Jenner is eligible to return to Oshawa next year, but with the intangibles he brings, he appears to already be ready to turn pro.
Fourth-year defenseman Brandon Archibald also turned in an impressive performance for the Saginaw Spirit. Through 67 regular season games, the American defenseman scored just one goal, while in just 12 post-season games, he scored three goals and added four assists. He’s eligible to turn pro next season, but it won’t be with the Blue Jackets, as the club has elected not to tender him an entry-level deal.
Last year’s free-agent signing, Oliver Gabriel, saw his production decrease in the playoffs. A key member of the Portland Winterhawks during the regular season, posting over a point-per-game, Gabriel scored just six goals in 17 post-season appearances as the Winterhawks bowed out to the Edmonton Oil Kings. Considering he was an overager, Gabriel’s production is a bit disappointing. He’ll turn pro next year, but isn’t necessarily guaranteed to play for the Falcons of the AHL.
Defenseman and fifth-round selection in 2010 Austin Madaisky had seven assists in nine playoff games, anchoring the Kamploops Blazer’s blueline as well. The 20-year-old also was one of the team’s best defensemen in the regular season. A light-footed, smooth-skating defenseman, Madaisky has progressed immensely since joining the Blazers midway through the 2009-10 season, and it is no surprise that he was one of the team’s top defenseman throughout the first two rounds of the playoffs.
A fourth round selection from last year’s draft, the undersized, offensive-minded defenseman Mike Reilly seemed to have a fairly disappointing post-season given how well he played throughout the season. The eighteen-year-old was by far the top-scoring defenseman for the Penticton Vees, scoring 83 points in 51 games; for comparison's sake, Troy Stecher was second with just 42 points. However, competition was much more fierce in the post-season, and Reilly still led the team’s defense with 10 points in 15 games. More than that, he was a key cog in a team that not only won the league championship but the RBC Cup. Reilly will suit up for the Minnesota Golden Gophers next season.
The Blue Jackets signed team Canada forward Boone Jenner to a three-year entry-level deal, which wasn’t a surprise, though they could have waited until next year. The signing was likely to reward his solid season with Oshawa, and it also allowed him to play in five games for Springfield near the end of the season. There’s also the possibility that he makes the Blue Jackets next season; having him signed already makes that process much easier. Michael Chaput, Austin Madaisky, and NCAA defenseman Will Weber also signed entry-level deals. After a career year with the University of Minnesota in which he posted 38 points in 43 games, former third-round pick Jake Hansen signed a two-year entry-level deal. Perhaps more surprising, Sean Collins, a former seventh-round selection was tendered a two-year deal. Like Hansen, he also had a career year in his fourth and final season, but doesn’t appear to have too much offensive upside.
The most surprising news in terms of prospects came from the non-signings of goaltender Mathieu Corbeil and winger Petr Straka. Corbeil had excellent numbers the past two seasons for the powerhouse Saint John team, but the club believes the numbers he posted in Halifax prior to coming to the Sea Dogs are a better reflection of his talent. Regardless, given the lack of goaltending depth in the organization, it is a bit of a surprise that Corbeil wasn’t tendered (editor's note – the Blue Jackets did address some of these goaltending issues at the NHL Draft, after this article was written). The other surprise was former second-round pick Petr Straka; since being drafted he was in and out of the Rimouski lineup with injuries, and saw his offensive production plummet. Despite that, it looked as though he had found an extra gear in the post-season, producing at over a point-per-game. It wasn’t enough to earn a contract, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see a team take a flier on the Czech winger. Defenseman Brandon Archibald was also left without a contract; like Straka, he had a fairly impressive playoff performance, yet it wasn’t enough to earn a contract.