Thursday, July 17, 2014

30 Teams in 30 Days - Columbus Blue Jackets

Columbus is the next team on our trip.

Kerby Rychel - Guelph Storm
As tough as it might have been for Warren to deal his son to Guelph, it ultimately proved to be great for his development and his game. Rychel was terrific for Guelph down the stretch and in the playoffs. Playing for Guelph really allowed him to show his strong vision and playmaking ability, as this is a part of his game which I felt has always been there, but never shown off. Playing with Robby Fabbri and Zack Mitchell was great because they're both very smart and well rounded offensive players and that allowed him to play a more simple game. His goal scoring numbers dropped a bit this year, but he still has good goal scoring potential at the next level. Even if the skating and power game with the puck never really develops at the next level, he's so good close to the net and in the slot, he should be at least a candidate to be a consistent 20 goal guy. The one thing that I did notice this year was the decrease in his physical game. He was still solid on the forecheck, but he didn't actively look to make big hits as much as he has in prior years. As he turns pro this year, I think he'll find instant success in the AHL. He's big enough and strong enough to hold his own in battles near the net and I think he's the type of guy who won't need much time in the minors before he's ready to make an impact on a checking line.

Nick Moutrey - Saginaw Spirit
The Spirit had a tough year and Moutrey didn't have a great one individually. His development appeared to hit a snag and next year will be a big one for him. All the things that I mentioned needing improvement last year, are areas that continue to hold him back. The main thing is consistency and confidence with the puck. He has skill and he has the ability to drive the net, but he doesn't do it often enough and is too often "just there" in the offensive end. Physically, his intensity level was a little greater away from the puck and I felt like he played with more "jam" in the traffic areas. But quite often this did not translate to a greater amount of offensive opportunities. He also remains more of a pass first guy and continues to need to improve his shot to make him more of a weapon coming down the wing. Next year is a big one for him, as I mentioned. His confidence should be high, but Saginaw will be undergoing a bit of a rebuild so he's going to have to really take the bull by the horns.

Josh Anderson - London Knights
Anderson had a good year in London, but not a great year. Truthfully, I didn't see much improvement from him, which is not necessarily a bad thing. He improved so much last year and this year he simply maintained that level of play. I think we know what we've got in Anderson now. He's a high energy, physically imposing winger who can chip in offensively depending on who he's playing with. I don't think there's top 6 potential, but he could certainly be a very valuable checker. With his speed and size, I don't think it's going to take him long in the minors. Unless of course the Jackets feel like his offensive potential is greater than I'm suggesting, then they may let him play down in the AHL for a while to gain confidence in his offensive abilities. Otherwise I expect him to advance and push for a roster spot pretty quickly. If anything, he might be MORE ready for the pro game and a checking line spot than Kerby Rychel is.

Oscar Dansk - Erie Otters
The wins and the GAA look good, but the save percentage (.909) tells more of the story. Dansk was good this year, but not great. He struggled with consistency at times this year and as such was not the starter for Erie in the playoffs. He's a big guy and he seems to have all the tools to be a good goaltender (quickness, agility, rebound control, etc), but he just hasn't put it all together yet. He still shows too many holes and can really fight the puck at times. He also has a tendency to overplay angles and will need continued coaching at the professional level. He'll turn pro next year and I think Columbus will be happy to have them in their hands after last year's difficulties. It appears that he'll have to fight it out with some other players at the AHL level, so hopefully he can perform there and continue to try and get better.

Blake Siebenaler - Niagara IceDogs
Loved this pick by the Jackets. He's such a raw player, but one who improved a ton over the course of the season. He hasn't played defense very long, but by the end of the year, he might have been Niagara's top defenseman. His skating is his greatest asset and he's only just learning how to use it to his advantage. As he gains confidence, I hope he begins to push the pace more as a puck rusher and takes more chances offensively because his skating ability will allow him to recover quickly and close gaps. I think the biggest thing I want to see him work on next year is his ability to run the point on the powerplay. The Dogs will need him to be their main guy there and he has some work to do in improving his shot (confidence using it, finding holes, etc) and the quickness with which he makes decisions when moving the puck. As I said, I really like him and I believe in his potential. I expect a 40 point season.

*Of note, 2013 pick Markus Soberg is set to play for Windsor next year. And there are rumours on the 'twittersphere' that suggest 1st rounder Sonny Milano is leaning towards playing for Plymouth.

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