Monday, July 23, 2012

30 Teams in 30 Days: Columbus Blue Jackets

Alright Columbus, you're up!

Boone Jenner - Oshawa Generals
While the Generals did not have a great season and were massive underachievers, I actually thought Jenner had a strong year. He was their most consistent player and wore his heart on his sleeve. As team captain, perhaps you can put some of the blame on the team's lack of success on his shoulders, but it sounds like that room was a bit of a mess last year and it was just his first year as captain. So I think he should get a pass. He looked way more confident offensively this year. Previously, he was kind of that grunt who did all the dirty work to make others around him better. This year, he still was fantastic along the boards and on the forecheck, but he also looked to take the puck to the net more and get himself in scoring positions. Sometimes it's not a bad thing to be a tad more selfish when you've got the puck on your stick. His skating looked improved this year, although I'd say he should continue to work on it moving forward to increase that extra gear. He was also way more physical this year. In his draft year, he was physical at times, but never really consistently aggressive. This season he really upped the intensity and was out there punishing people with hits and made himself very difficult to play against. With Jensen, Andreoff, and Christian Thomas out of the picture, it's going to be Jenner's show to run (along with Laughton and Lessio). I'd expect the Generals to have a better season and they've got a great shot at taking the wide open Eastern Conference if they can get good goaltending. My expectation for Jenner would be to crack the 70 point barrier, on top of playing yet again for Canada at the WJC's.

Dalton Smith - Ottawa 67's
After 2010-2011's incredibly disappointing season, Smith did have a bit of a mini-resurgence this year in Ottawa. The biggest change was that he learned how to play physical, and be mean, without being undisciplined. He also toned down the fighting a bit, which helped him see more ice time and focus on his offensive game a little bit more. The downside is that his offensive game, in particular his goal scoring ability, never really developed the way many anticipated it would (including myself). His skating also never really improved greatly over the course of his OHL career, which prevented him from being a power forward who could take the puck hard to the net. He remains a physical, forechecking winger who can cause havoc in front of the net and bang home the odd loose puck. The question is, are you OK with that from an early 2nd round pick? Smith's time in the OHL is likely done as I'm sure he'll suit up for Springfield this season. The big thing for Smith will be whether his skating holds up at the professional level, and whether he's still able to be a big factor on the forecheck in a faster paced game. I wouldn't expect too much from him this year in terms of offensive production while he gets his feet wet.

Josh Anderson - London Knights
With the likes of Knight, McKegg, Watson, and Namestnikov all leaving, Anderson has a terrific chance to make his mark with the Knights this season. He's a real hard worker with goal scoring potential. Even though he didn't see a ton of ice time in London last season, he was always visible for the right reasons and made the most of the action he did see. This coming season I think he's got a great chance to end up flanking a line with someone like Seth Griffith or Max Domi on one of London's top lines because of how well he works the boards and creates space for his linemates. He should also see a significant increase in powerplay time as they try to work him into the role of a crease disturber. Don't be surprised if he pots 25+ goals this year.

Gianluca Curcuruto - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
There's no denying that Curcuruto had a disappointing sophomore season in the OHL. He was one of my favourites as a 16 year old, but just didn't take that step forward this past year. If anything, he might have regressed a bit, especially on the offensive side of things where he often looked tentative with the puck. He's still got a lot of potential and I don't think anyone is giving up on him quite yet. However, it's going to be hard for him to make his mark in the Soo again this year. Ryan Sproul, Colin Miller, and Darnell Nurse are all ahead of him on the depth chart as offensive rearguards and powerplay QB's. There's a chance LA doesn't send Miller back for his overage year, which would open up some space. The Hounds also acquired Alex Gudbranson this summer too, which could leave Curcuruto on the outside of the top four looking in. This has led to a lot of speculation around the Hounds shopping his services for a solid forward. At this point, I think a change of scenery could do him well.

*of note, the Jackets did not sign 2010 pick Brandon Archibald, making him a free agent.

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