After a fun and exciting weekend at the NHL Draft in Buffalo, the hockey “offseason” rolls along with development camp officially beginning in Columbus.
It wouldn’t be development camp without going through some of the fun stories (they might not call them fun, but this is our website) for all the kids trying to get here.
Pierre-Luc Dubois took an early morning flight out of Buffalo on Sunday, changed planes in Detroit and got to Columbus before noon – just in time to join our friend Dave Maetzold’s radio show.
Peter Thome, selected in the sixth round last weekend, was en route to Columbus on Monday afternoon and should join the group for on-ice sessions on Tuesday. Elvis Merzlikins is here after a long, multi-part season with HC Lugano (he recently signed a new three-year deal with the club) and the Latvian national team, Keegan Kolesar is in town from Seattle after a terrific season with the WHL’s Thunderbirds.
But perhaps the wildest story is that of Calvin Thurkauf, the Blue Jackets’ seventh-round pick in Buffalo, who arrived in Columbus very early this morning and took the ice for the second group session.
We’ll cover this more in a feature story coming this afternoon/evening, but Thurkauf was on vacation in Spain when he got word that he’d been drafted. Vacation was cut short, but it was for a darn good reason. Life-changing.
Following breakfast and photo headshots this morning, the players split into their two groups and kicked off development camp. They skated, ran, worked out, met the coaches and staff, and took part in an improv class…and there’s plenty more fun stuff coming this week, as well.
Some notes to get us started:
- You’ll want to add the Blue Jackets on Snapchat this week (user: bluejacketsnhl). Paul Bittner, the team’s second-round pick a year ago, has taken it over and will give fans an inside look at development camp all week long.
- Further on Bittner: he will be doing controlled skating, mainly in separate sessions with the goalies, as a planned part of his rehab from hip surgery. He’s medically cleared for contact, but there’s no sense in going that far during summer development camp.
- One of the goalies you’ll see on the ice this week is camp invite Jeremy Brodeur. Yes, he is the son of Martin Brodeur.
- Merzlikins said one of the challenges he faced this year, aside from the schedule, was maintaining a high level of play for a long period of time. He worked hard on and off the ice and played quite well, highlighted by a ridiculous save you’ve probably seen from the World Championships against Russia.
- That save, if you recall, was against 35-year-old Russian forward Sergei Mozyakin, a ninth-round pick of the Blue Jackets way back in 2002.
- Dubois said he hadn’t skated in a while before today, and there were some nerves before taking part in his first Blue Jackets camp. More than anything, though, this is an educational week for the prospects and Dubois is one of the new guys; he’s spending a lot of time getting to know the facilities, the staff and his potential new teammates. He chatted with Seth Jones, Boone Jenner and Brandon Dubinsky in his first couple of days in town.
- London Knights forward and New Albany product Kole Sherwood – who signed with the Blue Jackets a year ago – skated with the second group. We’re not going to get into too much hockey analysis this early in camp, but the kid can shoot the puck.
- The Blue Jackets have three Swedes in this year’s camp: Oscar Dansk, Kevin Stenlund and Gabriel Carlsson.
- Dansk is back in Columbus after a year-long loan to Rogle in the Swedish Hockey League. Stenlund is the big, rangy center selected in the second round last year, and Carlsson is the steady, smooth defenseman chosen with the team’s second first-round pick (29th overall) in 2015.