The first real surprise cuts from training camp happened yesterday for the Blue Jackets, as they reassigned talented rookie Kirill Marchenko, and hard-working winger Carson Meyer to the AHL’s Cleveland Monsters; along with defenseman Jake Christiansen. They also released forward Victor Rask from his tryout contract. This set of moves leaves 29 players at camp for the club, who will have to get down to 23 before Monday. The final two preseason games will help management make their final roster decisions, in preparation for the opener next Wednesday night in Raleigh.
Not much surprise in Christiansen being sent down. He’s talented, but didn’t do enough to stand out from the other defensemen at camp. Rask was a longshot to earn a contract, even though he plays center – and likewise, he didn’t do enough to separate himself. But, we had Marchenko penciled into the third line in our August preview of the opening night roster, which makes him a bit of a surprise. He oozes talent and upside, but has had a sluggish camp and preseason that left management no choice but to let him season in the AHL for a bit.
Perhaps more surprising is the reassignment of Carson Meyer, who had a terrific camp and was one of the team’s most consistent players this preseason. It has to be difficult to cut a guy who has done everything asked of him, but Meyer finds himself on the outside due to the numbers game. I would be willing to bet that Meyer is one of the first call-ups this season, as soon as a position becomes available.
Fortunately, this set of moves makes the opening night roster a lot more clear. With just 6 players left to reassign (including 2 goalies), the first question here is, will the team keep 8 defensemen (13 forwards), or 7 defensemen (14 forwards)?
The forward battle likely comes down to 7 players battling for 4-5 spots: Justin Danforth, Liam Foudy, Mathieu Olivier, Joona Luoto, Emil Bemstrom, Yegor Chinakhov, and Kent Johnson. A quick glance at the team’s contract situation tells us that 3 of these players – Chinakhov, Johnson, and Luoto – can be sent down without having to clear waivers. I would be shocked if the team elected not to keep Chinakhov, who has been terrific all preseason long. The question here … does the team send down Johnson to start the year, or do they risk losing a player like Foudy or Bemstrom – or maybe both – for absolutely no return?
On defense, the situation is a lot more clear. There are 6 players who will be on the opening night roster, as their contracts pretty well dictate. This leaves us with 3 – David Jiricek, Ben Harpur, and Nick Blankenburg – battling it out for the final 1-2 spots. I don’t see Harpur earning a contract with the big club, unfortunately. Getting injured in the first preseason game probably ended his opportunity. I also don’t see Blankenburg being sent down, which means the team will have to decide if they want to hang onto Jiricek over keeping an extra forward around.
In goal, Elvis Merzlikins will either be joined by Joonas Korpisalo to start the year – or one of Jet Greaves or Daniil Tarasov. If Korpi is healthy and seems ready to start the season, expect both of the youngsters to be sent down after tonight’s preseason game against St Louis.
One has to believe there will still be at least one more surprise cut from this year’s team. It’s a good problem to have, with this many players vying for NHL time. One thing that’s been made clear this fall: this team will be harder to play against from both the skill and physicality perspectives this season.
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