Brindley dev camp

Much of the NHL has retreated to cottage country, with the hectic period in which the league holds its draft and opens free agency now over.

Add in the prospect development camps that happen in the post-draft period and there’s not a ton of sleep for many in the game as June turns over into July.

That’s why some in the game have started to rethink development camps, with a handful of teams moving them deeper into July and others eliminating the on-ice work that traditionally happens.

So far, though, no such changes have happened in Columbus, and CBJ director of player development Rick Nash is happy with the current setup.

“I put value in it, me personally,” he said. “I think it’s great to get the draft picks in here right away that we drafted – No. 1, to meet everyone, and No. 2, to start to get to know Columbus and the city and the arena, how you get around, what the feel is. A lot of our draft picks have never really been to Columbus, Ohio, and I think that part of it is important.”

For the impact of that, look no further than Cayden Lindstrom. The fourth overall pick in the 2024 draft hails from Chetwynd, British Columbia – more than 12 hours from Vancouver, and a lot further away from Columbus. As such, Lindstrom had never been to Columbus, but he got a crash course on the city during this past week’s camp.

Lindstrom is rehabbing an injury and was able to skate in only one of the four days of camp, but his presence was still beneficial. He didn’t turn down a chance to take a picture or sign an autograph from the CBJ faithful, he threw out the ceremonial first pitch at a Columbus Clippers game and also had a chance to explore a little bit of the city with his teammates.

“They’ve treated me really well,” Lindstrom said at the conclusion of the camp Friday. “They’ve told me everything I really need to know about the city and about the team. It was just fun to be here and learn about the culture. I’ve loved it so far. The city of Columbus is already growing on me a little bit.”

In fact, Lindstrom said he’ll likely be back later in the summer to continue preparing for the season, but in the meantime, he’s headed back to British Columbia for a little bit of downtime after the busy past few weeks. He’ll try to spend some time around the water – boating and hanging out at the beach are personal favorites – while staying in the gym, then he’ll ramp up his workouts near the end of the month.

Through it all, he’ll use the time to prepare to try to make the team when camp begins in September. There’s no need to rush Lindstrom – who had 27 goals and 46 points in 32 games last season with Medicine Hat of the Western Hockey League last season before missing the second half with injury – to the NHL, but the competitor in him will be focused on putting his best foot forward.

“It’s basically tryouts, so I’m going to come and try to do that,” Lindstrom said. “I’m going to do the best I can over the summer to get to that level and get to the top level. I’m a really competitive person, so I’ll do basically anything.”

His introduction to the Blue Jackets organization didn’t just include the city; he also had the chance to start to get to know the players who might be his future teammates. One player who tried to make Lindstrom feel comfortable was Gavin Brindley, the 2023 second-round pick who was the only player in camp with NHL action under his belt after his one-game cameo at the end of last season.

That made Brindley a bit of a natural leader at dev camp, a role he said he took seriously.

“I hung out with Lindstrom quite a bit and helped him out,” Brindley said. “It was good to be with all the guys, all the new draft picks, free agents and the familiar faces that I’ve played against growing up. It was great to see all the guys.”

Brindley is just 19, making him younger than a fair number of the 28 other prospects at camp, but his hockey résumé made him stand out. After finishing in the top 10 of college hockey this past season in goals (25) and points (53), he made his NHL debut with Columbus at the end of the season, and he also had two tours of duty this past season with Team USA by skating at both the World Juniors and World Championships.

Getting the chance to play with and against pros at the NHL level and at the Worlds gave the wing some important perspective on the game as he heads back to Florida to train the rest of this offseason.

“I think just knowing where I stack up against other guys and what I need to improve on going into the summer is huge, right?” he said. “It’s just taking little things that I can and improving as much as I can this summer.”

With everyone headed to their respective homes now for the rest of the offseason, development camp was a chance for the Blue Jackets prospects to continue to get to know each other and the city. Along with on-ice work, the youngsters took in the Clippers game, visited and trained at the Columbus police academy, heard from a guest speaker and shared meals and laughs throughout the week.

“I thought it was great,” Nash said. “The practices were high-paced. I thought (development coaches) Derek Dorsett and Tommy Cross and Jarkko Ruutu did a great job on the ice with the drills and making sure we worked specifics with the D and the forwards.

“I thought the off-the-ice stuff, the guys had a lot of fun with going to the police academy, we did some educational stuff with a guest speaker, and the Clippers game (Thursday). I thought it was a great camp, and the feedback I got from the players is they had a good time, learned a lot. That’s all you can ask for.”


Luca Pinelli, left, and Luca Marrelli hold the Stinger Trophy after the prospects game at Blue Jackets development camp Friday.

Luca At That

Luca Pinelli and Luca Marrelli needed little introduction at development camp, and it’s not just because of the shared first name.

Pinelli, a 2023 fourth-round pick, and Marrelli, the Jackets’ 2024 third-round choice, have played plenty of hockey against one another, from the Greater Toronto Hockey League all the way to the Ontario Hockey League the past few years.

Considering Pinelli is a high-scoring forward and Marrelli is a defenseman, they’ve had plenty of battles. Marrelli even joked about it at the draft, noting Pinelli probably wasn’t the biggest fan of his considering how often they've faced off over the years.

But with the two now in the same NHL team, the Lucas are like peas in a pod. The team put together a couple of TikToks featuring the two, and by the end they joked they should have a Luca and Luca podcast.

“When I saw he got drafted, I was obviously happy for him,” Pinelli said. “I sent him a text and we saw each other right away the first night, so I think we clicked pretty well. Now we’re really good buddies. I think when we go back, we’ll be a little bit of enemies on the ice but friends off the ice.”

The two will battle again this upcoming season, as Marrelli is headed back to Oshawa for juniors, while Pinelli will return to Ottawa, where he just put together an impressive season at age 18. The 5-foot-9 forward with a lethal shot finished third in the OHL last season with 48 goals in 64 games, one of the most productive seasons ever for a CBJ draft pick in the league.

“I thought I had a pretty strong season,” Pinelli said. “You pick up confidence. I thought I did that and rolled with it, so that helps. I know what I expect from myself and I hold high standards for myself. I just want to come in and be a leader and let my coach know he can use me at all times.”

Henricks Arrives

When he was a kid, Tanner Henricks tried all the sports you might expect – he played baseball, football and even joined a club soccer team.

But the one sport that really took hold was hockey.

That might be a little bit of a surprise considering he hails from Mission Viejo, Calif., not exactly known for being a hockey hotbed. But the sport is growing in Southern California with the success of the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks – both Stanley Cup winners in the last 20 years – and there were two players who spent a lot of time in the state taken in the top 15 of this past NHL draft in No. 1 overall pick Macklin Celebrini (San Jose) and No. 12 pick Zeev Buium (Minnesota).

Henricks went 101st overall (fourth round) to Columbus, but he’s part of the hockey boom in the Golden State as well.

“It’s not the top sport, but it’s definitely growing,” the Lincoln Stars (USHL) defenseman said. “I tried different sports, but my brother actually suggested ice hockey. He skated at a rink right where we live. I was watching for the first one or two weeks, and then I got tired of watching and hopped on. I put the skates on and never looked back.”

He started skating at age 6 and it’s clearly worked out, considering Henricks is still just 17 and is an NHL draft pick. Like all of the defensemen the Blue Jackets drafted this summer, he’s big (6-4, 206 pounds), can skate and showed off a deceptively good shot at development camp. Henricks described himself as a two-way defenseman, though his USHL stats (no goals and nine assists in 59 games) show someone who makes most of his hay in the defensive zone.

He was also the lone CBJ draft pick of the six taken not to attend the event two weeks ago, but he was watching from his home. It wasn’t a huge surprise the Blue Jackets drafted him – he met with the team during the season and at the combine – and he’s happy it worked out.

“I was actually on my couch with my family just watching the TV, and my mom got a call from our agent the pick right before,” he said. “She stood up all excited. She said, ‘Watch! Watch!’ like screaming. I saw my name come up and I didn’t move. I was shocked. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t process it.”

Ashton Measures Up

The first thing that stands out about Luke Ashton is his height.

The sixth-round draft pick of the Blue Jackets in the 2024 draft measures in at 6-foot-7 – and that’s before he even puts skates on.

And it’s fair to say the defenseman comes upon that size naturally.

“My mom is 6-foot, my dad is 6-3,” Ashton said. “I also have a younger brother who’s going to be taller than me, too.”

That younger brother, Hunter, is also quite a hockey player at the family’s North Vancouver, B.C., home, with the 16-year-old notching nearly a point per game a season ago in prep hockey.

Not only is it a big family, it’s a competitive one. His parents played high school sports, and there’s a sport court in the backyard that you can imagine has been the site of plenty of spirited battles.

It’s all worked out for Ashton, who led British Columbia Hockey League defensemen with 18 goals a season ago while adding 18 assists in 53 games. After that successful campaign, the 19-year-old is now headed to Minnesota State University for his freshman season of college hockey. He’s already been in Mankato this summer starting classes and prepping for the season, which will begin at Michigan and fellow CBJ prospect William Whitelaw.

While Ashton hails from north of the border, he’ll fulfill a dream to lace up the states in the NCAA.

“I’ve been lucky enough that the program that I grew up in, Burnaby Winter Club, we did a lot of trips to the states for tournaments, and we were able to see a lot of college hockey facilities,” he said. “Ever since then, I fell in love with the NCAA route. Since I was younger, I always wanted to play college hockey. It grabbed me right away.”

Rysavy Parties On

Blue Jackets fans watched with interest all year as 2022 first-round draft pick Denton Mateychuk dominated the Western Hockey League, helping lead Moose Jaw to its first-ever league title and an appearance in the Memorial Cup.

The highly touted CBJ prospect picked up the nickname “Captain Serious” along the way for his unwavering focus on the ice, but there was another Blue Jackets draft pick on the squad. Martin Rysavy had his own nickname, too, as the “Marty Party” presented quite a different vibe than Mateychuk.

The nickname was the creation of Rysavy’s billet parents, and it was often a party when Rysavy was on the ice this season, as the big (6-2, 220) Czech forward posted career-high totals of 25 goals and 44 points in 63 games, plus a 6-10-16 line in the team’s 20-game WHL postseason run.

Considering he was both an import and an overager, he said he felt the need to perform, and that he did.

“I think I put it on another level,” said Rysavy, a 2021 seventh-round pick of the Blue Jackets. “At the end, I finished as the second highest-scoring European in Moose Jaw history, so I was happy about the whole season. I gave the trust back to them and to the coaching staff and to the GM. I’ve been happy with the season.”

Rysavy can’t return to juniors given his age, while the Blue Jackets retain his signing rights for one more year, so what will happen in the upcoming season remains up in the air. He knows down the road he can always go back to Moose Jaw, though, after the city feted the league champs with a postseason parade.

“That was the best part of winning the championship – winning it for the city and all of the people who have been around us for my few years that I’ve been there,” he said. “There’s a lot of people who are texting, like, ‘Any time you want to come back, come back. Just book a flight, we’ll figure out a place to stay. You’re always welcome here.’”

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