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30 in 30

Jackets prospect Murray can make immediate impact

Wednesday, 08.08.2012 / 3:00 AM / 30 in 30

Davis Harper - NHL.com Staff Writer

At the NHL level, Columbus possesses two kinds of players in spades: tough, skilled defensemen and undersized, talented forwards. Not much changes when the focus shifts to the prospect pipeline. Ryan Murray, the No. 2 pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, leads a group of NHL-ready blueliners, and Jonathan Audy-Marchessault is a 5-foot-9 speedster with the ability to score in bunches.

With so much talent waiting in the wings and question marks at the NHL level, expect the Blue Jackets to be calling on players from their American Hockey League affiliate in Springfield early and often in 2012-13.

Let's take a look at the Jackets' top 10 prospects.

Blue Jackets' lineup lacks star power but has depth

Wednesday, 08.08.2012 / 3:00 AM / 30 in 30

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

Last season began with great expectations, but a disastrous start, injuries and another year of sub-par goaltending left the Columbus Blue Jackets in disarray. They finished with the worst record in the League, but the Edmonton Oilers won the draft lottery and the No. 1 pick.

General manager Scott Howson added goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky at the draft in a trade and potentially a franchise defenseman with No. 2 pick Ryan Murray. Eventually, Howson traded the franchise's greatest player, Rick Nash, to the New York Rangers.

In the aftermath, the Blue Jackets are lacking in star power but do have a lot of options up front and on defense. They are going to have to score by committee, but if Bobrovsky can play well behind what should be a decent defense, the Blue Jackets will be more competitive.

There are a lot of possibilities in Columbus, and training camp will likely be something of an open tryout.

Foligno could be impact addition in Columbus

Wednesday, 08.08.2012 / 3:00 AM / 30 in 30

Davis Harper - NHL.com Staff Writer

When the Columbus Blue Jackets made the move to acquire Nick Foligno from Ottawa in exchange for Marc Methot, general manager Scott Howson was making a calculated move.

Despite Methot's popularity among the Nationwide Arena faithful, Columbus had a glut of defensemen and a need for point-producing forwards.

By all accounts, that's exactly what the 24-year-old Foligno has become. The Buffalo, N.Y., native increased his point total over each of his four full seasons in Ottawa. In 2011-12, Foligno scored a career-high 47 points – 15 goals and 32 assists – despite playing mostly on the third line during the regular season and competing for minutes with prolific scorers like Jason Spezza, Milan Michalek and Daniel Alfredsson.

Goals, special teams among questions in Columbus

Wednesday, 08.08.2012 / 3:00 AM / 30 in 30

Davis Harper - NHL.com Staff Writer

A year ago, Columbus general manager Scott Howson acquired Jeff Carter, James Wisniewski, Nikita Nikitin and Mark Letestu and made it clear the Blue Jackets were done rebuilding.

This summer, it looks as if the rebuilding process has only just begun.

After kicking off 2011-12 with the worst start in franchise history, coach Scott Arniel was replaced by assistant Todd Richards. Months after arriving, Carter was shipped to the Los Angeles Kings at the trade deadline, and rumors of captain Rick Nash's trade loomed over the Jackets throughout the spring.

With Nash gone, Blue Jackets seek new identity

Wednesday, 08.08.2012 / 3:00 AM / 30 in 30

Davis Harper - NHL.com Staff Writer

Of all the roster moves made this offseason across the NHL, perhaps none will have a greater long-term effect on the team involved than the departure of Rick Nash from Columbus.

The Blue Jackets captain for the better part of the past five seasons and a member of the organization since being drafted first overall in 2002, Nash has been the face of the young Blue Jackets' franchise for nearly a decade. He holds team records for game players (674), goals (289) and assists (258).

Kadri, Holzer looking for Leafs' lineup spots

Tuesday, 08.07.2012 / 3:00 AM / 30 in 30

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

There was a strong start, but ultimately more disappointment for the Toronto Maple Leafs last season. After a 9-3-1 start, the Leafs slipped from playoff contention with a brutal February and missed the playoffs yet again.

Two years ago, the trio of Clarke MacArthur, Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin was one of the top scoring lines in the NHL. Last season it was Joffrey Lupul, Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel who piled up the points, while the other three, particularly Kulemin, regressed.

The addition of James van Riemsdyk augments what is already a potentially strong forward group, not to mention the possible promotion of some talented prospects. If the Maple Leafs are going to return to the postseason, there is going to have to be improvement from the defense corps and goaltending.

James Reimer is a bounce-back candidate in net, but a lot of the focus could be placed on the guys in front of him being better defensively. Coach Randy Carlyle is in his first full season, and he'll be charged with getting the forwards to backcheck more attentively, while hoping a couple of the young defensemen can continue to improve.

Leafs could use return to form from Kulemin

Tuesday, 08.07.2012 / 3:00 AM / 30 in 30

Dave Lozo - NHL.com Staff Writer

Nikolai Kulemin broke out in a big way two years ago. After a 31-point season as a rookie and 36 points in his second season, Kulemin delivered 30 goals and 57 points in 82 games in 2010-11.

Nikolai Kulemin
Left Wing - TOR
GOALS: 7 | ASST: 21 | PTS: 28
SOG: 107 | +/-: 2
Last season, Kulemin regressed in every category. He had seven goals and 28 points in 70 games and as a result, averaged about two fewer minutes per game last season than he did during his 30-goal campaign.

The Leafs decided to put their faith in the 26-year-old forward this offseason, avoiding arbitration with the 6-foot-1, 225-pound Kulemin by signing him to a two-year, $5.6 million contract.

“What happened last year … who knows?” Leafs assistant general manager Claude Loiselle told the Toronto Sun. “Both he and (regular center) Mikhail Grabovski were going into contract years. Sometimes that works and sometimes the pressure gets to you."

Goalie, JVR's role lead Leafs' list of six questions

Tuesday, 08.07.2012 / 3:00 AM / 30 in 30

Dave Lozo - NHL.com Staff Writer

When a team hasn't reached the Stanley Cup Playoffs in seven years, there are always going to be more questions than answers surrounding the club.

That's the case for the Toronto Maple Leafs, who, thanks to the Florida Panthers qualifying for the playoffs last season, have the longest current drought in the NHL. The Leafs haven't had more than 85 points in a season since 2007-08 and enter the season coached by Randy Carlyle, who took over in March.

So far this summer, the biggest move has been to trade defenseman Luke Schenn to the Flyers for forward James van Riemsdyk. General manager Brian Burke may need to have another deal up his sleeve if the Leafs are to get to the playoffs.

Here are six questions that the Leafs will need to answer between now and the end of the 2012-13 season:

1. Who will be the Leafs' opening-night goalie?

As things stand now, James Reimer will be the man between the pipes with Ben Scrivens acting as the backup. But it's possible that not long after this paragraph is published, the Leafs could make a deal for a new No. 1 goaltender.

Colborne heads list of Leafs' top 10 prospects

Tuesday, 08.07.2012 / 3:00 AM / 30 in 30

Dave Lozo - NHL.com Staff Writer

It didn't take long for Jake Gardiner to make an impact in Toronto.

The defenseman was acquired in a trade with the Anaheim Ducks (that also netted Joffrey Lupul) in exchange for blueliner Francois Beauchemin in February 2011. After a brief stay in the AHL that followed three seasons at Wisconsin, the Deephaven, Minn., native made his NHL debut as a 21-year-old and acquitted himself well.

In 75 games, Gardiner had seven goals, 30 points and was minus-2 on a team that was outscored by 22 goals at even strength last season.

Do the Leafs have another prospect that can make an impact right away?

For the purposes of this list, players must have played fewer than 20 NHL games, so the likes of Nazem Kadri and Matt Frattin are not included. Here's a completely subjective look at the Leafs' top 10 prospects currently in their system:

1. Joe Colborne, C -- The 22-year-old played most of the 2011-12 season with an injured wrist that required surgery this summer. It kept him from participating in the team's prospect camp in July, but it shouldn't limit his potential upside.

Similar look as Maple Leafs seek to end drought

Tuesday, 08.07.2012 / 3:00 AM / 30 in 30

Dave Lozo - NHL.com Staff Writer

For a team that now holds the unwanted label of team with the longest playoff drought in the NHL, there wasn't a major move made by Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke this offseason.

At least, not yet.

After missing the postseason for the seventh time in a row, the Leafs acquired forward James van Riemsdyk in exchange for defenseman Luke Schenn in a trade with the Flyers. The move bolstered an offense that scored the 10th-most goals in the NHL, but depleted the defense corps of a team that allowed the second-most goals.

That's why the Leafs are reportedly interested in acquiring goaltender Roberto Luongo from the Canucks. Luongo has become expendable in Vancouver with backup Cory Schneider signing a three-year, $12 million contract this summer after taking the starting job during the postseason. Last season, the Leafs' goaltending duo of James Reimer and Jonas Gustavsson (who left for Detroit as a free agent) combined for a .902 save percentage in 76 games.

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