directory Light the Lamp - a Columbus Blue Jackets blog: #1 center still up for grabs

Countdown to Rick Nash's contract expiration:

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

#1 center still up for grabs

Asked yesterday if he were any closer to finding one, he shrugged his shoulders and shook his head.

"We are still looking at things right now," Hitchcock said.

That pretty much sums up the article this morning in the Dispatch regarding where the #1 center position stands.

This much we know. Sergei Fedorov will either be the #1 or #2 center. Michael Peca will most likley play in the 3rd hole with Jason Chimera on his left wing and either Gilbert Brule or Dan Frtische on his right.

What we don't know is who plays in that other top 6 center position and who will round out the lineup in the 4th hole.

The candidates:

Derick Brassard: The hot shot rookie and former #1 draft pick (#6 overall) in the 2006 draft has had a very good start to his pro career and has impressed in his first camp. He's rung up 4 point, all assists, in 3 games and certainly has the the team's best playmaking skills at the center position. The dilemma though is if his body can withstand the grind of an 82 game season and can he continue to perform against men when the season starts? He is AHL eligible so there are options for the 19 year old.

Jiri Novotny: Signed as an unrestricted free agent this past summer to a two year deal and being a former #1 selection himself (#22 overall) in the 2001 draft, Novotny is also in consideration. Novotny is young at age 24 but has only managed a career high of 19 points in 68 games played. He does have a big NHL type body at 6'2" 194 lbs and as the Dispatch says, protects the pucks well. He is definitely primed for a breakout season. He'll be on the team for sure, just not sure where quite yet.

Kris Beech (pictured right): He's another former 1st round overall pick (7th overall in the 1999 draft) who played 64 games last year for the Washington Capitals tallying 8g 18a for 26 points. He signed a one year two way deal as an unrestrictied free agent this past summer. Beech is a 6'2" 209 lber who is best known as being the key part to a trade that himeself to the Pittsburg Penguins and sent Jarmir Jagr to the Capitals back in the 2001-2002 season. Beech is a 26 year old and so far this preseason has shown some promise. He was recently promoted to center the line between Nash and Vyborny which means the coaches are taking a good hard look at this kid.

So those three appear to be the candidates. Brassard has the best skill set out of the three but is a rookie and may need some seasoning in the minors before assuming the #1 center role. Both Beech and Novonty are not ideal but have been around the NHL for a few years now, have NHL builds and play a solid North American style game. They probably aren't going to put up great numbers but may be serviceable to fill the gap until a guy like Brassard is ready.

Other outside candidates include Fredrik Modin who is primarily a scoring winger but if things get desperate he could be moved to center. Gilbert Brule and Dan Frtische were also drafted as centers but have been moved to wing - they could get looks as the season progresses especially if they show a scoring and playmaking touch and responsible two way play.

Its another team building day at camp. The players will practice at 9:30 and then are off to an undisclosed location in central Ohio for team building activities.

Next game is tomorrow against the Carolina Hurricanes. Its the final home game of the preseason.


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