Columbus Blue Jackets minor league system features scoring line wingers and depth on defense

By Richard Greco
Jonathan Audy-Marchessault - Eastern Conference AHL All-Stars

Photo: In his first season with the Springfield Falcons, winger Jonathan Audy-Marchessault ranks second on the team with 28 points. (courtesy of Bill Streicher/Icon SMI)

 
Everything is going right for the Springfield Falcons, the AHL affiliate for the Columbus Blue Jackets. They are at the top of the Northeast Divison and rank fourth in the AHL with 39 points through 30 games. They have flourished under the play of goaltender Curtis McElhinney who has registered a league-leading six shutouts.

Cam Atkinson is third in the AHL in scoring and Jonathan Audy- Marchessault is tied at 19th. Springfield’s undersized players have been using their agility to excel in the AHL, but none of their potential power forwards have been stepping up. Defensively Springfield has nothing but depth and has had three prospects cycle between the ECHL and AHL midway through the year.

AHL

Cam Atkinson, RW, 23

The Falcons are at the top of Northeast Division and Cam Atkinson is the main reason why. The 5’8 forward is third in the AHL in scoring with 35 points. The only players with more points are Edmonton Oilers prospects Jordan Eberle and Justin Schultz. The undersized winger has shown his prolific goal scoring ability with 16 goals in 30 games.

Not only has Atkinson reached the expected success in his goal scoring numbers, the former sixth round pick has shown a glimpse of his playmaking ability with 19 assists. The 23-year-old posted a career high four assists in a November 11th victory over the Norfork Admirals. His improved success in the assist column has shown the winger developing a more consistent offensive game.

Atkinson was Springifield’s only contestant in the 2012 AHL All-Star game and it looks as though he has already solidified himself in that role this season.

Jonathan Audy-Marchessault, RW, 22

Jonathan Audy-Marchessault sits behind Atkinson in Springfield’s team scoring leaders with 28 points. The Quebec product is a pure playmaker who has found success on the power play with Matt Calvert and Cam Atkinson. He has tallied a team-leading 20 assists and is in the AHL’s top 20 in scoring.

The 5’9 winger plays a physical game, but often turns the puck over in the offensive zone from trying to make an extra move. Audy-Marchessault signed a three-year contract with Springfield this season after scoring 64 points in his first professional season with Connecticut last year. This season, he has a team high eight points in five games against his former team and the division rival of the Falcons.

Tomas Kubalik, RW, 22

Tomas Kubalik has benefited from playing with former fourth overall pick Ryan Johansen and has a plus-12 rating midway through the year. The Czech product has not played extraordinary well but has shown a balanced game with six goals and five assists. He plays timid for a 6’2 frame and has not been developing as a future power forward should. He uses his big body to get into high traffic areas, but needs to improve his skating in order to be a force at higher levels of the game.

Jake Hansen, RW, 23

Jake Hansen has only played in 14 games with the Falcons and may not see too much more time this year. He plays a gritty style at 6’1, but does not have the offensive upside to make an impact on the game. In his limited playing time, the former Golden Gopher has only scored a goal and set up two others.

Matt Calvert, LW, 23

Matt Calvert is the definition of a well-rounded forward. He has netted ten goals and just as many assists to leave him slotted at sixth on Springfield in points. The 5’10 winger has seen success playing on both the Falcons’ penalty kill and power play units. Calvert has scored a shorthanded goal for Springfield’s penalty kill, which is ranked seventh in the AHL, and has netted four goals on the power play.

Dalton Smith, LW, 20

At 6’2 and 203 pounds, Dalton Smith is not on the ice to score goals. The physical winger is a role player on Springfield and cracks the lineup because of that skill. His willingness to drop the gloves is uncanny, and he is the first player to get into someone’s face when things get chippy. Smith leads the Falcons with five fights on the season.

The Ontario product scored his first professional goal on October 13th against St. John's and has found the net two times since. In 22 games, the 20-year-old has racked up five points and 33 penalty minutes. Smith should not find himself climbing Springfield’s depth chart any higher than the third line.

Michael Chaput, C, 20

With just 27 professional games under his belt, Michael Chaput is still adjusting to the fast paced AHL style. He has not exploded onto the scene, but really has not done much wrong either. The Montreal product has a plus-1 rating and has recorded six points on the year. He has been strong on his skates and has won 50-50 battles along the boards for loose pucks. As long as he does not fall too much into the crowd, Chaput could develop into a solid two-way forward.

Sean Collins, C, 24

In his second year with Springfield, Sean Collins has already surpassed the amount of AHL games (eight) he competed in last year. The 6’4 forward takes up a lot of space on the ice and can change the momentum of the game by throwing around his mammoth frame. He has 10 points (six goals and four assists) and a plus-three rating this season. He does not have too impressive of a skill set and looks like he could be a career AHL player.

Tim Erixon, D, 21

Tim Erixon proved what he can do at the AHL level last year and now is just building on his solid rookie campaign. On a team that is stacked with defensive potential the first year Falcon will be the playmaker that ties it all together. At 6’2, he has the frame to play a physical game, but still has not been aggressively throwing his body. Instead, Erixon relies on his positioning to complete his two-way game.

Offensively is where the former first round pick is most dangerous. He has a keen recognition of when to join the rush and has crisp outlet passing. Through 30 games this year, he has 15 assists and four goals after finishing last year with 33 points in 52 games with the Connecticut Whale. There is no question that Erixon can play a solid two-way game at the AHL level, Columbus is waiting to see if his game can transfer over to the NHL.

David Savard, D, 22

The NHL lockout did not leave David Savard playing where he should be, but the 6’1 defender is making the best of a bad situation. He currently leads Springfield’s defenders with 21 points and went on an eight game point streak from November 11th through the 30th.

Savard uses his heavy slap shot to control Springfield’s power play from the blue line. Much like Erixon, the Quebec product likes to play an offensive minded game, but he can hold his own in the defensive zone as well. The two-way defender skated in 31 games with Columbus last year and his well balanced game transitioned well into the NHL.

Cody Goloubef, D, 23

With players like Erixon, Savard, and John Moore being forced to play in the AHL again, Cody Goloubef's playing time has been directly affected. In addition to a smaller role when he is in the lineup, he Ontario product has only skated in 11 games with Springfield due to broken hand. In his limited playing time, Goloubef has recorded three assists and 10 penalty minutes. Should any injuries occur to the team's top defensemen, Goloubef will be the first guy to step up once he is healthy, but as of now he has had a relatively quiet start for the Falcons.

Dalton Prout, D, 22

Prout got a taste of NHL action in five games with Columbus last season and is off to a quick start in 2012. Just a year after posting 13 points with Springfield in 62 games, Prout has already registered eight points (seven assists) in 23 games. Many scouts like Prout’s physical game, but the normally stay-at-home 6’2 defender is posting the best offensive production of his young career.

Theo Ruth, D, 23

Theo Ruth has been scratched from Springfield’s starting lineup just as many times as he has been given the opportunity to play. He has not had any standout performances in his 14 games this year and has only recorded two assists. The Illinois native is a defensive defenseman who is reliable in his own zone and is one of the last guys on the ice to join the rush.

Will Weber, D, 24

After being held scoreless in two games, Weber was reassigned to Evansville with Madaisky. In eight games with Evansville, the 6’4 defender played a physical game and was brought back to Springfield. The defensive defenseman has not registered any points in 12 games with Springfield, but has done a good job keeping opposing forwards out of the crease.

Allen York, G, 23

With 30-year-old Curtis McElhinney maintaining his starting job between the pipes for Springfield, Allen York really has not been given much of a chance to show what he can do in net. York was sent to the ECHL’s Evansville IceMen for five games where he recorded a 3-1-1 record and a 2.72 goals against average.

York’s three victories came in consecutive games as the IceMen were amidst a five game winning streak before he was recalled by Springfield on December 11th. As the primary backup in Springfield, the 6’4 netminder has a 2.35 goals against average and .915 save percentage in three games.

ECHL

Oliver Gabriel, LW, 21

Oliver Gabriel played in two games this year. Neither of the two were with the Springfield Falcons.

He was loaned to the Evansville IceMen at the beginning of the year and in his second game suffered a leg laceration that will have him sidelined for at least two months.

Austin Madaisky, D, 20

Columbus’ defensive depth pushed Madaisky down to the ECHL. He recorded five points (four assists) skating in eight games with Evansville, but underwent wrist surgery and is not expected to return until February.

Anton Blomqvist, D, 22

Anton Blomqvist has the size and mobility to be a force in his own zone. The 6’5 Swedish product loves to throw the body and muscle forwards off the puck. Unfortunately for Blomqvist, he has not had the durability to last a full season playing his bruising style.  Only a year after missing all but 24 games due to injury, Blomqvist is out again. After skating in just 14 games with Evansville, Blomqvist missed the Thanksgiving road trip with a lower body/back injury. The defender returned to the lineup on December 29th and registered his first point of the season.

Paul Dainton, G, 26

When Allen York was recalled by Springfield, it meant someone had to be assigned to Evansville. Paul Dainton was that player.

The former U-Mass (Amherst) goalie had a 2.22 goals against average and .930 save percentage in five games with Springfield. Despite his top-notch numbers, Dainton’s record did not reflect his performance as the Falcons only won a game with the 5’11 netminder between the pipes.

Dainton has yet to win a game through six ECHL appearances since joining the IceMen, earning a 3.58 goals against average and .888 save percentage.