The defense corps going to Traverse City this year looks vastly different than the one that went up last year – in a good way. 2022 first round picks David Jiricek and Denton Mateychuk headline a talented group that includes third round picks Stanislav Svozil (2021), Samuel Knazko (2020), 2021 fifth round pick Ole Bjorgvik-Holm, and free agent signees Marcus Bjork and Cole Clayton.
Jiricek and Mateychuk will likely form the top pair; as they compliment each other’s strengths and weaknesses pretty well. To boot, management probably wants to see them playing against top competition, to gauge where they both are in their development. Jiricek brings a booming shot and physical two-way style, while Mateychuk will likely act as a rover on the ice, constantly moving around and creating offense from different angles.
Svozil returns to the tournament for the second time, after standing out offensively at last year’s event. He’s fun to watch, whether it’s making a smooth dangle or throwing a big hit. He and Knazko will probably compete for time on the second pairing, and will be joined by Marcus Bjork in that competition.
Bjork is an interesting player to watch; at 24 years old he comes over from Sweden, and could be a dark horse to make the big club out of camp. I think he’s the most likely defender of the Traverse City group to earn NHL time this season. Bjorgvik-Holm and Cole Clayton will round out the group, both bigger, stay at home type defenders who are still working on rounding out their games.
In goal, AHL signees Jet Greaves and Pavel Cajan will backstop the team, and will compete for the crease in the AHL this season.
While Marchenko and Johnson are the only two players heading up that you may see in Columbus this fall, I think this group could have as many as 11 future NHL players. If you have a chance to watch this tournament (streamed live for free via NHL.com), I recommend checking it out. You will get a glimpse into the future for not only the Blue Jackets, but also for the teams they’ll be facing off against. Read: Five Bold Predictions for the 2022-23 Season