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Jackets, Moore weigh their options

Friday, 09.18.2009 / 3:00 AM / 2009-2010 Season Preview

By Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

A lot was going through the mind of defenseman John Moore when he made his approach to the puck with the game on the line during a shootout at the Traverse City Prospects Tournament earlier this month.

Moore, the Columbus Blue Jackets' first-round pick (No. 21) at the 2009 Entry Draft, needed to score to extend the game against the Atlanta Thrashers prospects in the battle for seventh place at Center I.C.E. Arena.

The smooth-skating Moore, who appears to be a natural at this game with his long stride and poise, fired his attempt wide left. It was disappointing, but Moore, 18, never admitted failure; rather, what he must do to improve.

"The ice was really bad, so I knew I wanted to shoot it and it actually started to roll a little bit on me but there's always tomorrow, so that'll be the first thing I begin working on in practice," Moore told NHL.com. "You can't really dwell on it. It's over and in the past. I gave it my best shot."

Moore would notch an assist in his first NHL game, a preseason game, against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sept. 15 -- an indication, perhaps, that the 2009 United States Hockey League Defenseman of the Year has forgotten all about falling short in Traverse City.

"I don't know if I felt relaxed," Moore told the Columbus Dispatch following his team's 5-4 overtime loss to Pittsburgh at Mellon Arena. "It was pretty much a whirlwind for 60 minutes out there."

But if he continues at this rate, the Blue Jackets brass will have some tough decisions to make. The plan right now is to have Moore spend a year in the Ontario Hockey League with the Kitchener Rangers, the club that drafted him last May.

Still, there's also the option of having him suit up for Columbus' American Hockey League affiliate in Syracuse this season despite being so young. Since Moore was drafted right out of the USHL, he retains the option to play in the AHL. That wouldn't be the case had he been drafted out of the Canadian junior leagues.

While Moore is open to all options, Blue Jackets management would like to see him in a situation where he's eating plenty of minutes and gaining valuable experience. He signed a three-year entry-level contract with Columbus in July and instead of attending Colorado College in the fall, was preparing to join a loaded Kitchener squad that finished 26-37-3-2 in 2008-09. The Winnetka, Illinois native won a gold medal with Team USA at the 2008 World Junior "A" Challenge, posting two assists in five games. In 113 career games with the Chicago Steel of the USHL, Moore collected 18 goals, 54 points and 76 penalty minutes.

While the decision to bypass his college scholarship to play for the winningest coach in the program's history in Scott Owens was difficult, Moore believes it will ultimately accelerate his progression.

"I just felt more games would be more beneficial to my development," Moore said. "I felt really comfortable with the coaching staff and players that Kitchener has produced, especially on defense the last couple of years."

Some of the more notable Kitchener defenders in recent seasons, who also happen to be NHL first-round draft picks, include Matt Lashoff of Tampa Bay, Jakub Kindl of Detroit and Boris Valabik of Atlanta. Additionally, the major-junior program has produced Hockey Hall of Famers Paul Coffey, Al MacInnis, Larry Robinson and Scott Stevens.

Moore is grateful to have spent two seasons in the USHL with Chicago.

"Playing in the USHL did everything for me," he admitted. "I went in there unpolished and, in two years, improved tremendously. I'm grateful for my experience in that league. The USHL is a tremendous opportunity for kids trying to attain their goals by developing to achieve whatever their avenue is after the USHL."

Contact Mike Morreale at mmorreale@nhl.com


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