2022 second round pick Luca del bel Belluz highlights what should be a strong third line, alongside two late-round picks from this year’s draft. LDBB is another player we should have a keen eye on as a future Blue Jacket; he’s solid at both ends of the ice; and has the hands and finish to be a solid secondary producer in the NHL. Tyler Peddle brings the requisite size and physicality that you would like to see from a late round pick – but also, high end goal scoring ability. I’m interested to see him play in this kind of tournament; he could be a late round gem. Luca Pinelli is undersized, but similar to Malatesta in that he can score some goals and surprise you with his all-around game.
Martin Rysavy is a player we’ve kept our eye on for quite some time. After earning an ELC with another strong year in the WHL, the physical two-way winger will play with the Cleveland Monsters this year. He’s joined by a UFA signing from this summer, Cameron Butler – whoever centers this line will have plenty of time and space with the puck. Both of these guys like to play in the tough areas of the ice, and both have the size to do so.
On defense, the team returns their top pairing from last year’s tournament: Denton Mateychuk and David Jiricek. It will be interesting to see how they have both progressed over a full year of hockey. Jiricek has a track to playing in the NHL this year, so standing out in this tournament could be a kick-starter to a big year for him. Mateychuk is still at least a year away, but if you can watch the games, you’ll be very entertained by his ability to hold onto the puck and make passes all over the ice. Aside from Fantilli, I’m more excited to see how these guys play than anyone else.
2021 first round pick Corson Ceulemans makes his debut at the tournament this year. The “toolsy” defenseman is a really good skater with size, who could be an eventual middle pairing guy in the NHL. He’s joined by another future middle pairing guy: 2021 third round pick Stanislav Svozil, who finished last season with the Blue Jackets. This should be another fun pair to watch; both of these guys can chip in offense and Svozil loves to throw the body around.
Samuel Knazko is the last CBJ drafted player on the back end. He also spent some time in Columbus at the end of last season, and quietly, I think this guy is a really good prospect with NHL upside. Most likely, I think big right-hand shooting UFA invitee Ben Roger joins him on the third pair, which should help prevent the smaller Knazko from being bullied around the ice. In goal, the Jackets bring UFA signees Pavel Cajan and Nolan Lalonde to the tournament. If the team in front of them performs up to their ability, their jobs will be relatively easy.
The tournament kicks off on Thursday as the Jacket prospects will play the Toronto Maple Leafs prospects at 3:30 Eastern Time. They also play prospect teams from Detroit (Saturday, 3:30 Eastern), and Dallas (Sunday, 11:00 Eastern). The games are usually streamed on the team website; and if you can watch, I highly recommend it – you’ll get to know the names of some future NHL stars.