You know the season's getting close when you get to face an actual opponent. A select group of Columbus Blue Jacket draft picks and rookie camp invitees laced up the skates, eventually falling 2-1 to the Minnesota Wild Sunday afternoon in the first game of the annual NHL Prospects Tournament held in Traverse City, Michigan.
Stefan Legein, the 37th overall pick by the Jackets in the 2007 Entry Draft, scored the only goal for Columbus, with Matt Calvert (drafted 127th overall in 2008) picking up an assist.
The young Jackets led 1-0 after two periods but couldn't hold the lead as the Wild prospects cashed in on a man advantage to tie the game before adding an eventual winner.
"We got a little bit sloppy in the second and third periods," said Columbus development coach and former Jacket Tyler Wright. "The goals we allowed were pretty much mistakes on out part as far as getting a couple of clears where we had possession of the puck in our zone.
"Unfortunately, we didn't get the clear and a majority of the time, it ends up in the back of your net."
Wright was pleased with the goaltending his team received from 20-year-old Andrew Loverock from Elmvale, Ontario and 18-year-old Jamie Tucker from Victoria, British Columbia. Loverock, a tall presence in between the pipes at 6-foot-3, turned away all 20 shots he faced, while Tucker stopped 19 of 21 shots.
"I thought our goaltenders played really well," said Wright. "Loverock played exceptionally well."
The game was delayed for several minutes in the second period because of a broken pane of glass. The final six minutes of the period were eventually tacked on to the third and the wait, combined with a lengthy bus ride the previous day, didn't help the prospects in terms of focus.
"I didn't think we played overly great," said Wright. "We ran around a lot, which is kind of to be expected.
"It's good to get the first one out of the way. We'll come back with a strong effort tomorrow." he Good: Legein’s goal, which came on a great set-up from Calvert, was particularly nice to see for the Columbus brass after the controversy surrounding the gritty forward last year. Based on his strong effort against the Minnesota prospects, you would never have known that Legein had lost his love of the game for a while, which prompted him to give it up for a short period. But he’s back in the fold and excited about hockey again. “We wanted to start him off in the right way,” said Wright. “He worked extremely hard, he played well and I thought he was one of our best forwards, so that’s encouraging.” Another player that caught the eye of the Jackets’ staff was 19-year-old Swede Anton Blomqvist, a big 6-foot-4 forward drafted 167th overall by Columbus this past June. After playing with Malmo in Sweden, the prospects game was essentially Blomqvist’s first taste of North American hockey and he fit right into the physical style. John Moore, the Jackets’ prize pick in the first round a few months ago, showed off his superior skating skills, though Wright suggested that the 18-year-old D-man may have overdone it a little by using those feet to skate right into trouble. The Bad: Coughing up a one-goal lead in the third period isn’t exactly how the Jackets wanted to kick the Prospects Tournament off. But they were certainly made aware of how to avoid a similar fate. “It was a good learning tool,” said Wright.