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Countdown to Rick Nash's contract expiration:

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

5 players to keep an eye on at camp

We know all eyes will be on the Nashs, Brassards, Voraceks, Masons at camp but here are 5 players vying for a roster spot with the big boys to keep you eyes on heading into the Jackets 9th training camp:

1. #28 Nikita Filatov
Age:
19
Position: Forward
Years pro: 2
2008-2009 stats: 8-4-0-4 (NHL); 39-16-16-32 (AHL)

Why?
I know.. obvious right? I can't start off any list of players looking to make this year's team without addressing Nikita.

The former #6 overall pick from the 2008 NHL draft was the #1 ranked prospect not playing in the NHL by The Hockey News last season. Although this kid is a lock for the big squad all eyes will be on him to see how he performs in his 2nd NHL camp (remember he was hurt a lot during last year's camp) and to see just where he fits into the Columbus lineup.

...and there is that KHL thing which will ultimately end up being a non-issue.

2. #47 Jonathan Sigalet
Age: 23
Position: Defense
Years pro: 5
2008-2009 stats: 19-5-6-11 (AHL)

Why?
Sigalet got off to a very nice start in Syracuse last season racking up 11 points in 16 games before suffering a season ending injury.

With the #7 spot on defense currently up for grabs Sigalet possesses an offensive acumen that could elevate him to the top of the callup charts when/if a Columbus regular goes down. Being a 5th year pro it will be interesting to see if he can separate himself from the callup pack in his second season in the Blue Jackets organization knowing full well there is a window of opportunity here for a player with his skill set that he must seize.

3. #44 Grant Clitsome
Age:
24
Position: Defense
Years pro: 2
2008-2009 stats: 73-4-15-19 (AHL)

The guy is the very definition of a long shot (9th round pick in the '04 draft) to make it to the NHL. After spending 4 seasons refining his game in the NCAA D1 ranks for Clarkson of the ECAC and putting in the work at prospect camps Clitsome earned himself a 2-way contract. Last year he spent his first season as a pro with Syracuse experiencing the typical ups/downs most first year pros experience while collecting a respectable 19 points in 73 games.

Clitsome is a guy I've been impressed with every time I've seen him. The part of his game that stands out to me the most is his poise with the puck -- the guy never seems to panic or make a bad play.

It will be interesting to see if he can continue to improve and climb that player development arch in his 2nd year as a pro. If he does he could find himself right in that mix for that 7th d-man position or on the short list of callups.

4. #21 Alexandre Picard
Age: 23
Position: Forward
Years pro: 5
2008-2009 stats: 15-0-1-1 (NHL) 49-22-10-32 (AHL)

Why?
This guy is like Sylvestor Stallone and just won't go away.

If you recall Picard turned in a solid camp last season as he looked to fill the role as a 4th line agitator. In fact he made the team out of camp but numbers on the wings eventually caught up to him and after he passed through waivers he was re-assigned to Syracuse.

That wasn't even the story of his year though.. the story was the torrid goal scoring streak this guy went on the final few weeks of the season where he notched the majority of his 22 goals. That streak opened a lot of eyes and after 4 years of trying to find the game that made his so successful in junior Picard seemed to finally find it at the AHL level.

The question now is can he translate that to the NHL level? What is working against him yet again are the numbers on the wings. What is working against the Jackets is that if he does continue to perform and they can't make room the chances of him clearing waivers this time are significantly less.

He will never live up to this 8th overall draft pick status but I look for Picard to make a strong case to make this team again. I like the idea of him playing on a line w/ Boll and/or Dorsett and really being a pain in the ass to play against with some ability to puts pucks in nets.

5. #12 Mike Blunden
Age: 22
Position: Forward
Years pro: 5
2008-2009 stats: 76-12-19-31 (AHL)

Why?
Word around the camp fire is that the Jackets will try converting a wing to a center to fill that 4th line center void. A name that has been mentioned is Mike Blunden.

Blunden was acquired last season for Adam Pineault. It was a "change of scenery" deal as both former 2nd round picks seemed to have leveled out in their development archs.

This camp will be my first chance to see Blunden play and I, like lots of scouts and mgmt types I'm sure, am intrigued by this guy's 6-3 size. He is said to have the tools to be a pro in this league.

He'll get a nice opportunity to strut his stuff and even if he doesn't make the team out of camp it's a tremendous chance to add his name to the short list.

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There are certainly some other names to keep eyes on like Matt Calvert whom I love but think no matter how he performs is still a year away from turning pro.

Nick Holden is a guy that would have made my top 5 if he wouldn't have been stricken with mono weeks before camp.

Mathieu Roy is a veteran brought in for added defensive depth but he's more of a bruising defensive player - his window opens up if injuries to our defending guys pile up.

Brent Regner will be a 1st year pro who absolutely lit up the WHL as a defensemen with 67 points in 70 games last season. He'll be a guy I'll watch but think he'll spend at least a year with Syracuse before making a push.

Of course we can't forget about the lessons learned from last season in terms of goaltending. Even though we look as solid as we ever have between the pipes with Mason and Garon the fact is we are just one injury away from seeing Dan LaCosta or Kevin Lalande. For that reason alone it's worth watching which of the two has the better camp.

Fire away - who will you be watching closely at camp this year?

-LTL

5 comments:

anml034 said...

LTL,

I may be wrong but I thought that Pic was signed to a two way contract that would exempt him from the waiver wire?

JM

LTL said...

Hey anml034.. thanks for the comments.

I'm pretty sure the rule is that once you're past your entry level deal you have to past through waivers. It's meant to keep teams from burying quality players in the minors.

The two-way term just means he'll get paid 'X' at the NHL level and 'X' at the AHL level.

-LTL

anml034 said...

LTL,

I think you are right. If I remember correctly a couple of yeras ago the CBJ signed Sheldon Brookbank to a two way contract and he was claimed.

the Jester said...

I can't believe Picard is only 23. It just goes to show how quickly a "young superstar" can be written off if he doesn't produce immediately (see Homer Bailey of Cincinnati).

I'd like to see how Blunden plays out. For all the talk i've heard, he better be good! I have a hard time letting anyone replace my boy Andrew Murray!

LTL said...

Another honorable mention I forgot was Stephan Legein. Big year for him in terms of climbing back up the depth chart. Will be interesting to watch how he performs since calling it quits last year.

-LTL