There are some players in the organization that seem to get overlooked on a regular basis. It’s easy to do with the talent Jarmo has acquired over the last three summers, but let’s not give up on any of these guys just yet.
Speaking of the bottom six … why not Liam Foudy? After scoring just three points through 35 games, he found his confidence towards the end of last season, scoring 7 goals and 11 points in the final 27 games. He’s probably in direct competition with Eric Robinson for the fourth line left wing job as we approach camp, and he brings basically every tool Robinson does, with a couple of caveats: he’s almost a million dollars cheaper; and there is still that “former first round pick” potential here. If Foudy shows up healthy, confident, and looks good; does the team have to make a decision with Robinson instead?
Which brings us to a trio of highly touted prospects for this team, each of whom should be part of the future core. Let’s assume you’re sending down all three defensemen (Berni, Blankenburg, Jiricek) so that you can keep four forwards. One of them is probably going to be Mathieu Olivier – then you can pick three of the following: Bemstrom, Danforth, Foudy, Cole Sillinger, Yegor Chinakhov, and Dmitry Voronkov.
Like Foudy, Cole Sillinger is probably in direct competition with one player for a job to start this season: Jack Roslovic. Suddenly, the Jackets have some depth down the middle after drafting Adam Fantilli. He joins Roslovic, Sean Kuraly, and Boone Jenner as the likely centers for this team; which means Cole has to beat one of them out. Now, they could move Boone back to the wing, but he’s a reliable two-way player who looked pretty good with Johnny Gaudreau last season. Until someone takes that job away from him, it’s his.
More likely, as much as it pains me to say it, I think Cole starts the season in Cleveland. They let him develop by keeping Roslovic around until the middle of the season; then he’s a deadline deal to a contending team. This will be Sillinger’s opportunity to step into a middle-six job for the long-term. Roslovic leaves us all wanting more, but in the end, he’s still a relatively consistently productive ~40 point center in the NHL. There’s decent trade value there on an expiring deal.
Yegor Chinakhov is so underrated by his own fanbase that it’s absurd. I almost put him in our list of “locks”, which should give you an idea of how I feel about him and his ability to make this team out of camp. Last season, he was quietly producing at the same pace as Gustav Nyquist, while being a reliable two-way player for this team until he went down with injury. At that point, I think the team decided to “punt” and send him to the AHL, where he could play meaningful games and keep his confidence high.
Much like Justin Danforth; Chinakhov is a guy that Babcock will love. He works hard on both sides of the puck, and at some point his shooting ability is going to make him a premier goal scorer in this league. Having a coach that can help the team get him the puck in the right areas, is probably going to open up shooting opportunities for Yegor. He can wire it.
Dmitry Voronkov finally makes the jump from Russia, and he’s probably one of the most NHL ready prospects in the system. Like the other guys in this section of the roster, he’ll have to win a spot; but he brings a different toolset to the table. He’s big, really strong, physical, and he can play center. At some point, he’s the heir apparent to Sean Kuraly in that third/fourth line checking role. But for now, they have Sean Kuraly, so I think it’s more of a mentorship.
One idea that comes to mind here: Voronkov might make both Eric Robinson and Liam Foudy expendable and start the season as this team’s fourth line left wing. If he has a strong camp, I think it’s very possible. If he has to start the year in Cleveland, that is an option – but it’s also worth noting that he has an “out clause” and can return to the KHL if he isn’t playing in the NHL this season.
On Friday, we’ll make these decisions ourselves and release our way too early roster prediction for the Jackets. As you can tell from this article, there are plenty of questions that need answering – and we might have some surprises. Stay tuned!