A couple of returning bottom-six forwards should be quite concerned about their jobs this fall. Both of them are great guys to keep around, but there is a lot of competition for jobs at training camp.
Eric Robinson has direct competition coming for his job, with some good prospects seemingly ready to fill that role. His speed and ability to kill penalties have made him a standout player for the Jackets over the last few seasons, but his lack of finishing ability has kept him buried on the fourth line – even as the team has struggled to fill out its lineup.
Former first round pick Liam Foudy brings a lot of the same abilities as Robinson, and perhaps a little bit more of a scoring touch. This may be easily broken down as a battle between the two of them for a job on the fourth line. But even if not, he could find himself fighting against different types of players such as Dmitri Voronkov, Yegor Chinakhov, or even returnee Alexandre Texier at training camp.
Still, as I’ve always said, until a prospect takes a guy’s job away, an NHL player is still safe over a prospect, so Robinson seems relatively safe. Either way you shake it down, I think he’s going to be on the team in some capacity – even if he spends a few nights in the press box this season. He’s inexpensive, works hard, and does everything he’s asked to do. Chance Robinson is on the team: 95%.
The final player on my list is scrappy 30 year-old Justin Danforth. He started last season in great favor with head coach Brad Larsen, and with good reason. He’s a guy who has worked his behind off to get to the NHL level, earning him immediate respect from his teammates and making him a fan favorite in the process.
All Danforth does is bring his lunch pail to work and play a blue collar style of hockey that all of us can get behind. He’s quick to the puck, willing to go into the tough areas of the ice; where he competes hard and physically. He does all of the little things well, blocking shots, throwing his body around, taking faceoffs, killing penalties … and he even chips in offensively. He’s everything you want in an energy line guy.
Let’s also not forget: he started out last season playing on the top power-play unit for the Jackets. There’s some skill here, and I would argue that he was a really underrated loss from last year’s team when he went down with injury. They needed a spark plug on a lot of nights, and that’s exactly what Danforth is. Like Robinson however, there are some guys pushing for jobs here – Chinakhov, Voronkov, Texier, and even Mathieu Olivier will be competing with Danforth for a job. But also like Robinson, I have a hard time seeing Danforth getting cut. He’s a great guy to keep around, even if he doesn’t play every night. His odds aren’t as high as Robinson, who is more established … but he’s cheap and they need that energy. Chance Danforth is on the team: 51%.
All of these players will have to work hard to retain their roles from last season. In the end, I think a trade – or maybe even multiple trades – will become necessary for the Jackets to free up roster space. A lot of that depends on the readiness of their prospects, several of whom look really close to being NHL ready.