The Blue Jackets sent a stacked prospects team to the annual Traverse City Prospects Tournament this weekend, helping them to a 2-1-0 record, good enough to win the whole thing.
It wasn’t a perfect weekend, but they were good enough to get the job done. On Thursday, they kicked off the tournament against prospects from the Toronto Maple Leafs. In a game that wasn’t really close, the Jackets took home a decisive 7-3 win after switching sheets of ice due to issues on the main rink. Unfortunately, this meant that we couldn’t catch the final ~50 minutes of play in this one.
Saturday brought a matchup with prospects from the Detroit Red Wings. The Jackets started off slowly, going down 3-0 before Adam Fantilli scored his first goal in a Blue Jacket sweater (highlight below), getting the team back to within 2 before the first intermission. An early Detroit goal in the second widened the gap to 4-1; before the Jackets were able to reel off seven consecutive goals, taking an 8-4 lead. They would go on to win an ugly contest by a 10-7 margin; led by Jordan Dumais and Adam Fantilli, who had six points apiece.
On Sunday, they played their final game against prospects for the Dallas Stars. The Jackets sat most of their high-end talent for this one, dropping a 6-3 game. Ultimately this didn’t matter though; as their 2-1-0 record was good enough for a tie at the top of the standings. They win the tournament based on a +4 goal differential (20GF, 16GA); better than the other two 2-1-0 teams (the Stars and Maple Leafs).
Who stood out?
Adam Fantilli. He was all over the ice in a good way, and when the team needed someone to step up and score a goal in that second game, he took all of the weight onto his own shoulders to get them on the board – then went on to score a hat-trick. He’ll be in Columbus this year, and if this tournament was any indication, he will be a huge difference maker for the Jackets. He was really, really good, in all facets of the game, and finished second in the tournament with 7 points (3g, 4a).
Jordan Dumais led the tournament in scoring with 8 points (4g, 4a), really in a quiet fashion. He’s an enigmatic player for me, in that you don’t really notice him on the ice at all; but the moment you do, it’s when he’s scoring a goal or dishing out an incredible pass to a wide-open teammate. Quietly, he gets the job done and just continues to put up gaudy numbers at every level. This guy is going to be a star.
Denton Mateychuk posted 7 assists in his two games played, but I thought aside from that, he was really solid. It seems almost impossible to take the puck off of his stick as he just continues to pivot and turn, buying himself time and space to make plays. He acted as team captain this weekend and showed the kind of poise and maturity that you would expect, on both sides of the puck.
Some other standouts: James Malatesta oozes goal scoring potential whenever he’s on the ice. And, he does not back away from any physicality. I think he’s going to be a really good bottom-six winger for the Jackets, and soon. I also thought Tyler Peddle was really solid in his role. He’s quicker than I expected, and his release is world class. Trading for the final pick in the draft to select him seems like a coy move, at least so far. David Jiricek was, as expected, a two-way rock on defense; including scoring a pretty goal in the second game off of a Fantilli feed. Samuel Knazko was quietly good as well; and Corson Ceulemans seems to be coming along nicely, even having a spirited scrap in the final game of the tournament. Finishing off the defense, Stanislav Svozil looks like he’s really close to competing for an NHL job. Keep an eye on him during main camp, he has improved a ton, and can still score pretty goals.
On the other side of things, I was hoping to see more out of Dmitry Voronkov. I won’t call his tournament disappointing, but his pace really needs to pick up if he’s going to play in the NHL this season. Still, he looks like he’s close to being that big bodied two-way center we’ve all been waiting for. Hunter McKown had some strong moments, but overall I thought he looked frenetic with the puck – even aside from coughing it up for a Dallas Stars goal yesterday. He’s an older player in the tournament, so I expected more. Luca del bel Belluz had a really quiet tournament; I think a year in Cleveland is going to be good for him. He’s still 1-2 years away.
Overall, I loved what I saw from the Blue Jacket prospects in Traverse City. The offense was clearly effective, scoring 20 goals in three games – but the defense was less than ideal, with a whopping 16 goals against. If you like high scoring games, they were definitely the team for you this weekend. The Jackets will now turn their attention to NHL training camp, which starts Wednesday in Columbus. As always, we’ll have plenty of content throughout camp and the regular season.