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Columbus Blue Jackets Development Camp Preview

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It starts today. The future of the Columbus Blue Jackets organization will be on display for the fans, and the young players will have their chance to try to earn a spot on the Jackets roster for the upcoming season. So what can we expect from this year’s development camp?

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Last year, the Jackets had 3 first-round draft picks, and we got to meet them at development camp. Alexander Wennberg, Kerby Rychel and Marko Dano took the ice in front of the Jackets loyal and showed team management what they could do. However, none of the three players made the team. They were young, just drafted, and they needed some more time in the minors to develop.

Throughout this season, though, the Jackets signed all three draft picks to entry-level contracts, officially making them part of the club. That brings a whole new light to their time at development camp this year. It means they have a very good chance of making the NHL if they succeed in camp. This year, we can expect all three to bring everything they have, because it is a real possibility that they could be vying for a spot on the Jackets roster this season.

The players should also be heartened by the Jackets losses in free agency. The loss of fourth liners Derek MacKenzie and Blake Comeau means there are potential openings in the roster, on the fourth line. Not signing any big players or resigning any of the older fourth-liners shows that the Jackets are ready to  turn the club over to the young guys, which makes this development camp that much more important, especially for last year’s draft picks.

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Development camp is also the first time we will get to see this year’s draft picks play with the Jackets organization. Sonny Milano is already a viral video star, showing off his puck skills all around the internet. When he comes to development camp, though, we’ll get to see him put those skills to the test.

We’ll also get to see recent Jackets signee Daniel Zaar join his fellow prospects and see where he might draw into the lineup. When he was first signed, I wrote this article about where he might fit in. As a right wing, he would likely fit in a line with center Wennberg and left wing Rychel, and they would be a formidable line. But it remains to be seen if these players have the right chemistry, whether they can play together or not, and whether they are ready for NHL action. That’s what development camp is for.

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The depth of this team goes further than skaters, however. In goal, the Jackets have four prospects: 2011 pick Anton Forsberg, 2012 pick Joonas Korpisalo, last year’s draft pick Oscar Dansk, and this year’s draft pick Elvis Merzilikins. Safe to say there will be some competition in net in the coming days as all four goalies strive to bring their best play to show the Jackets management.

It isn’t likely that the goalies will be making it to the NHL this season, as the Jackets are pretty safe with goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky and backup Curtis McElhinney. They are however, likely to be vying for the starting goaltender spot on the Springfield roster, and their performance at development camp will go a long way toward that.

The Falcons relied on starting goaltender Mike McKenna this season, and McKenna was even recalled by the Jackets during Bobrovsky’s injury. McKenna, however, signed a one-year, two-way contract with the newly renamed Arizona Coyotes on the second day of NHL free agency this year. The Jackets have already signed Forsberg and Korpisalo to entry-level contracts, and the other two picks will be vying for the same offer. Whichever goaltender does end up landing the top spot in Springfield also has a chance to be called up to the NHL if there is an injury to Bobrovsky or McElhinney.

Overall, this development camp is bound to be a tough competition, as the Jackets are giving their prospects a good chance to earn their spot on the roster this season. With all of last year’s first round picks signed to entry-level contracts and free agency leaving some holes in the roster, we might well be getting the first glimpse of the newest Columbus Blue Jackets.
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