The Columbus Blue Jackets finished second out of eight teams in the recent Traverse City tournament. Whether it was a free agent invite or a first-round pick, the CBJ prospects showed out in the state up north.
After losing a few key players off of last year’s team, the Columbus Blue Jackets need some replacements. They didn’t sign any top-tier free agents, meaning some gaps will have to be filled with prospects.
This year’s roster will likely have at least three rookies. I see Pierre-Luc Dubois, Gabriel Carlsson and Sonny Milano making the team. Milano wasn’t at this year’s Traverse City tournament, but he has played well for the Cleveland Monsters the past two years.
Other prospects will be pushing to make the roster too, though. Josh Anderson is still unsigned, leaving at least one spot up for grabs as of now. I do think Anderson will sign before the season, but the prospects won’t give him his job back without a fight.
2016 seventh-round pick Calvin Thurkauf led the Traverse City tournament in assists with six, and Paul Bittner showed what he can do when he’s healthy. Vitaly Abramov is also on a mission, since he doesn’t plan on playing junior hockey this season.
Maybe not this year, but Abramov is going to force a tough decision to be made at some point. Here’s how the roster should play out by the end of camp:
Artemi Panarin – Alexander Wennberg – Nick Foligno
Boone Jenner – Brandon Dubinsky – Cam Atkinson
Sonny Milano – Pierre-Luc Dubois – Oliver Bjorkstrand
Tyler Motte – Lukas Sedlak – Josh Anderson
Zach Werenski – Seth Jones
Jack Johnson – David Savard
Gabriel Carlsson – Ryan Murray
- Scratched: Markus Nutivaara, Matt Calvert and Jordan Schroeder.
- Depending on Anderson’s contract, and how training camp goes, Vitaly Abramov could make a strong push for a roster spot. If a deal doesn’t get done before the first game, Anderson might have some trouble finding ice time in the near future.
- Two new left wingers will be regulars this year in my opinion, being Sonny Milano and Tyler Motte. Expect them to use experience as an advantage over other prospects.
- Carlsson gets a spot over Nutivaara because of his upside, but Nutivaara still plays a contributing role as a seventh defenseman.
- Bjorkstrand and Atkinson should get an opportunity to play as the top pairing RW. Foligno provides better balance with a stronger physical presence, giving him the edge to start.
- The Matt Calvert-era is nearing a close, especially after his antics in last year’s playoff series. He will, however, bring valuable experience as needed because of injury, slumps, etc.
- Vitaly Abramov will make his NHL debut at some point this year, but not in the opening game.