Columbus Blue Jackets minor-league affiliate deep on both offense and defense

By Chris Roberts
Photo: Among the top rookie forwards in all of the AHL, Matthew Calvert has been a very bright spot for a young Springfield Falcons team that has struggled to play consistently. (Photo courtesy of Holly Gunning/HF)

After a dismal 2009-10 season in Syracuse, the Blue Jackets minor league affiliate, now the Springfield Falcons, have been mired in mediocrity for much of the 2010-11 season. They currently sit sixth in their division with a 14-15-1-1 record; though, perhaps more important to the organization, they have gotten solid contribution from several of their rookies, specifically Matthew Calvert, John Moore, and Tomas Kubalik. Despite solid offensive contribution, defense and goaltending (as it was last season) continues to be a problem for the Blue Jackets’ minor league affiliation. The Falcons have given up the fourth most goals in the league, and many of their highly-touted prospects on the blue line boast a minus rating.

Nikita Filatov, LW, 20

Filatov, as expected, began the season in Columbus, but after struggling with his offensive consistency for a second straight season, he has been demoted to Springfield to regain his confidence. He has only played in four games since being demoted so it is far too early to tell what type of impact he’ll have at the AHL level or how long he’ll be there, but he has been getting significant minutes both at even-strength and on the power play. He’s recorded two assists in those four games, and if he can put up the point-per-game pace at the AHL that is expected of him, he’ll likely find himself back in Columbus sooner than later.

Maksim Mayorov, LW, 21

Maksim Mayorov‘s offensive production has been stagnant since entering the AHL over two seasons ago. He has proven to be an effective AHL player, but has yet to prove himself consistent in a top-six role. Scoring 32 and 31 points respectively in his first two seasons, the Russian winger is on a similar pace this season with 13 through his first 28 games. His defensive game remains questionable at best, as he is currently among the team worst with a minus-seven. Mayorov’s contract is due to expire at the end of the season, and unless he can find his niche as forward, a contract extension may become unlikely; not to mention the lure of the KHL.

Matthew Calvert, LW, 21

Unquestionably the biggest positive for the Blue Jackets on the Falcons roster this season has been rookie Matt Calvert. He not only leads the team in both points and goals, but currently sits fifth in rookie scoring throughout the league. He had a decent start to his season; but, since the beginning of November, the 21-year-old has been scoring at a point-per-game. He has been the team’s most effective forward and has already emerged as a first line AHL player. More than that, he has also been used on the power-play quite prominently. Calvert would probably benefit more from a full season in the AHL, but it wouldn’t be a shock to see him spend time in Columbus this season.

Tom Sestito, LW, 23

Though he has been one of the most productive forwards for the Falcons this season, injuries have again become a problem for the rugged winger, who has 17 points in 17 games with the club. He missed ten games due injury in November, which is concerning due to the fact that he’s missed time because of significant injuries in each of his previous three seasons. He’s recently seemed to emerge offensively at the AHL level; however, after recently being called up to Columbus (where he has two goals and one assist through seven games), it may be very likely that, providing he stays healthy, he doesn’t return to Springfield in the near future.

Michael Ratchuk, LW, 22

The transition to the wing hasn’t exactly been smooth for Ratchuk, who’s managed to dress in just 12 games this season while scoring just one goal, which, in fact, came about a week ago against the Providence Bruins. He’s been in and out of the lineup since the beginning of the season, getting minimal ice-time.

Tomas Kana, C, 23

After splitting time between Columbus and Springfield, Kana’s season has been interrupted by a wrist injury that will likely keep him out until after the New Year. The nine games he did play in Springfield had been rather uninspiring, and through those nine games, Kana has just one assist, while sporting a minus-two rating. He was expected to one of Springfield’s top offensive players this season, and will likely be given that chance upon returning from injury as the club looks for added offensive support.

Mike Blunden, RW, 24

It had appeared Mike Blunden had found himself a permanent job in the NHL after spending most of the season with the Blue Jackets in 2009-10; however the former Blackhawk draft pick has once again found himself beginning the season in the AHL. He did, to his credit, begin the season on a great offensive pace, scoring 13 points in his first 14 games, but has since gone cold, registering just 5 points in his last 15 games. He has continued to be impressive on the power-play, however, scoring five of his 11 goals this season with the man-advantage.

Tomas Kubalik, RW, 20

Along with Matt Calvert, rookie Tomas Kubalik has made an impact for the Falcons this season. After a solid training camp, the Czech Republic native has recorded nine goals and nine assists for 19 points in 30 games. He began the season struggling to find the back of the net, but after recording a point-per-game in November, he’s settled in quite well. Kubalik has shown chemistry with many of his teammates, playing on a number of line combinations, though normally on what is the team’s first or second line. He has been paired with fellow rookie Matt Calvert often.

Kyle Neuber, RW, 21

Neuber was expected to be the Falcons go-to fighter this season. He was just that for the first six games of the season before enduring a knee injury that has kept him out of the lineup since then. In those six games, he engaged in three fights and was a physical force, recording penalty minutes in every game
. He is expected to be out another few weeks and will return sometime in the New Year.

John Moore, D, 20

The smooth-skating American defenseman’s transition to the pro game hasn’t been without its bumps, but all-in-all, John Moore has been an integral part of the Falcons defense core this season. He leads the team in points from a defenseman with two goals and 13 assists, and is a mediocre minus-three. One of the main concerns for Moore this season is how his defensive game progresses. The rookie started the season looking rather comfortable in all situations, and was a plus player up until the beginning of December. However, he’s been rather shaky in the last few weeks, highlighted by a -4 performance in a 7-2 loss to the Manchester Monarchs.

Cody Goloubef, D, 21

Due to a glut of young promising defenseman, ice-time has been sparse for those patrolling the blue line in Springfield. Goloubef, however, when he’s been inserted into the lineup, has played an effective all-around game. He’s managed to successfully transfer his sound defense-first style of play from the collegiate level to the AHL, and has even been performing just as well, if not better, offensively. In 18 games, the former Canadian World Junior defenseman has two goals and six assists, and a minus-three. He’s recently seen a surge in offensive production as well; in the past six games, Goloubef has one goal and three assists. If he can continue to combine consistent production with steady defensive play, he’ll certainly be a fixture in the Falcons lineup in the New Year.

David Savard, D, 20

Coming off of an impressive season with the Moncton Wildcats in which he posted 77 points in 64 games, David Savard has fit in nicely on the Falcons blue line. He’s earned steady ice time, playing in 25 games this season, while being a minus-four. His offensive production, especially since the third game of the season, has not been as expected; in fact, after posting four points in the first two games of the season, he has only managed to add six points in the next 23 games. His plus/minus has also taken a bit of a hit in December, finishing four of six games with a negative rating. Savard will have to continue to fight for his ice time in the New Year.

Theo Ruth, D, 21

As expected, Ruth has not contributed much offensively, but the former Capitals second round pick has provided a sound defensive game. That said, he has experienced a fair amount troubles and definitely needs more grooming at the AHL level. He’s managed to get into just 17 games this season, scoring one goal and has been unable to register an assist. His -5 is about the norm for Falcon defensemen, and he has been able to provide physicality without spending much time in the box; the rookie has just four penalty minutes.

Brent Regner, D, 21

With an influx of young defenseman, many knew it would be tough for sophomore Brent Regner to earn a consistent spot in the lineup, and it has been just that way thus far for the twenty-one-year-old defenseman. Defensive consistency has always been a problem for Regner, while his offensive upside has been unquestionable. However, with key additions of Moore, Savard, and Goloubef, all of whom provide better two-way play than Regner, ice-time has been sparse. In just 17 games, he’s managed five points while being a minus-four. He’ll likely be given the chance to gain momentum, however, as he’s been a constant in the lineup since mid-November.

Nick Holden, D, 23

Holden has been one of the Falcons steadiest defenseman. The undrafted free agent has been providing consistent play the past two seasons, and now in his third season in the AHL, has emerged as one of the leaders on the back-end. He was even awarded a five game stint in Columbus at the end of October. Lately, the offensive side of his game has been picking up as well; he’s managed five points in his last eight games, and it certainly would not be a stretch to imagine him playing again in Columbus this season. More importantly, Holden’s impressive play has given the Blue Jackets insulation for many of their promising young blueliners.

Steven Delisle, D, 20

Delisle has only managed to appear in six games for the Fort Wayne Komets of the CHL this season, but from all accounts the 6’6 defenseman has been a stabilizing force for the club. However, plagued by a shoulder injury that occurred during Blue Jackets training camp, it is likely that his entire season may be in jeopardy.

Grant Clitsome, D, 24

Clitsome’s defensive game remains questionable at times, but the third-year pro has become one of the Falcons most potent offensive forces on the blue line. In 26 games he’s already equaled his career high of five goals and has also managed seven assists. Much of his offensive production, as seems to be the case for many of the Falcons defensemen, has come in December. In just four games, Clitsome has managed four goals and two assists, including two power-play goals. This production has come on the heels of an 11 game stretch in which he was held pointless and was a minus-seven.

Gustaf Wesslau, G, 25

Wesslau missed October due to injury, and as a backup, had a mediocre month of November, going 2-3 with a 3.17 goals against average and an .893 save percentage. His percentages really took a hit in his only start in December when he allowed seven goals on just 33 shots in a loss to Manchester. David LeNeveu has earned the majority of the starts for the Falcons, and it will likely remain that way until Wesslau can put together a string of good starts.