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Prospect Report: Forwards showed growth for Blue Jackets this year

Columbus draft picks Foudy, Marchenko among those to impress

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider /

While the NHL and AHL are on pause, the rest of the leagues that feature NHL-level prospects -- including those drafted by the Blue Jackets -- are in a similar boat when it comes to being unable to take the ice.  

College hockey along with the rest of NCAA winter sports have called it for the season, meaning the four CBJ prospects in those ranks are done for the year. The three Blue Jackets draftees in the Ontario Hockey League are done for the year, as the league canceled its postseason Monday. European leagues also have either gone into a break or are done for the year. 

As unfortunate as it is, now is a good time to look back at how each Blue Jackets prospect fared throughout the year. Almost all of them had excellent campaigns and serve as the future of the Blue Jackets organization. 

For this exercise, we won't include the prospects who spent the season at the AHL level with the Cleveland Monsters. For one, many of those players ended up making cameos in Columbus given all the injuries the Blue Jackets suffered, so fans got a chance to see them in action. Also, we'll take stock of the Monsters at another point down the road. 

Today, we'll start with the forwards, with a coming story coming on the defensemen and goaltenders in the system. 

For each player, we'll take a look at his numbers and how his season went as well as project how that player could fit into the Blue Jackets' plans down the road.  

Liam Foudy (London Knights, OHL; first-round pick, 2018)

Blue Jackets fans did get to see Foudy when he played two games in February as the Columbus injury woes mounted, and he certainly looked like he belonged. Foudy had an assist in those two games and showed both the elite speed that he's known for as well as excellent offensive instincts. Foudy, who just turned 20, was also impressive this year when he appeared on the gold-medal-winning Canadian World Junior Championship team, posting three goals in seven games and impressing scouts with improved offensive instincts to go with his blinding speed and competitive nature. When he returned to the Knights, he was nearly unstoppable, finishing the season on an 18-game point streak that included 13 goals and 21 assists for 34 points. He completed the regular season with 28 goals and 40 assists for 68 points in 45 games, matching his point total from the season before in 17 fewer games.  

READ MORE: Foudy turns heads in NHL debut

Projection: Foudy had to return to London this year because of his age, but next season he'll have the ability to spend the whole season at the pro level. His cameo with the Blue Jackets showed he might be ready for the NHL, and he'll get the chance to make the big club in training camp next season. He was drafted as a center so time will tell if he starts there or at wing, but Foudy projects as a middle of the lineup NHL forward who can also play special teams; his speed, in particular, is a tremendous asset on the penalty kill.  

Tyler Angle (Windsor Spitfires, OHL; seventh-round pick, 2019)

The Blue Jackets have had some success when it comes to finding late-round gems, and Angle could be another one of them. He put together his best season at the OHL level this year in his fourth go-round, which isn't a huge surprise considering that's what is supposed to happen as a player gains more experience. But Angle made a big jump this season at age 19, posting point-per-game totals for the Spits. In 62 games, Angle finished with career-bests across the board with 29 goals, 38 assists and 67 points.  

Projection: It will be interesting to follow Angle's path from here, as he boasts a solid all-around game -- he can score, has some grit, can play center and can play special teams. But he also might not have the high-end skill in any one area that separates him, and he doesn't have great size at 5-10, 172 pounds as well. He'll add some bulk as time goes on and will battle for everything, so it's easy to see how he can make it to the highest level.  

Kirill Marchenko (SKA St. Petersburg, KHL; second-round pick, 2018)

If there's anything this season proved, it's that Marchenko is one of the elite offensive prospects in the world. He began the season playing for St. Petersburg's minor league team, SKA-Neva, but was simply too good to keep down there as he posted nine goals and 12 points in 14 games. The 19-year-old moved up to the big club midway through the season and had to earn his playing time, but he eventually did, finishing the regular season with seven goals and 16 points -- an SKA record for a teenager -- in 31 games before adding three goals and five points in first-round playoff sweep before the KHL suspended its playoffs. He also took part in the World Juniors, posting a 2-4-6 line in seven games for the Russian silver medalists. 

READ MORE: Marchenko turns heads at World Juniors

Projection: Marchenko signed a new two-year deal with SKA at midseason so he won't be able to play for the Blue Jackets until at least 2022, but his ability to score at such a young age in one of the world's top leagues showed his skill. He already has a high-level shot and doesn't need much room to get it off, and his production should increase at the KHL level as he plays more for the Russian power. He could end up being akin to Vladislav Gavrikov, a player who ended up being worth the wait for the Blue Jackets down the road. 

Dmitri Voronkov (Ak Bars Kazan, KHL; fourth-round pick, 2019)

The Blue Jackets had only three picks in last year's draft but appear to have gotten two good ones in Angle and Voronkov. A third CBJ draft pick to take part in the World Juniors, perhaps none saw his stock rise as much as Voronkov, who went from a presumed fourth-liner with the Russian squad to a key offensive piece who had three goals and seven points in seven games. At age 19, like Marchenko he spent the season cementing himself for one of the best teams in Russia, overcoming an early-season injury to post five goals and 12 points in 34 regular season games before adding two points in four playoff games.  

Projection: At 6-3, Voronkov has size, and he was noted for the sandpaper in his game before arriving in the Czech Republic for this year's World Juniors. What made people take notice, though, at the event was his offensive ability, which turned heads in the scouting community. Considering he played this year as a teenager, Voronkov has tremendous room to grow and is an intriguing prospect going forward.  

Carson Meyer (Ohio State University, NCAA; sixth-round pick, 2017)

By now, the story of Meyer is well know. The Powell native came up through the Ohio AAA Blue Jackets system, then began his college career at Miami University, where he was impressive as a freshman, posting 26 points in 32 games. But he struggled immensely a year later, only to find out a tapeworm was sapping him of his strength and energy. After recovering, he transferred to Ohio State, where he posted a 9-13-22 line last year before a strong finish this year as a senior. Meyer was red-hot in the second half of the NCAA season for the Buckeyes, capping his college career with a four-goal game in the first round of the Big Ten tournament against Wisconsin before adding another goal in the second game of the sweep of the Badgers. In all, he finished with 17 goals and 31 points in 35 games this year for OSU. 

READ MORE: Meyer finishing college career strong

Projection: Meyer said down the stretch of his college career that the Blue Jackets view him as someone who will have to use his grit and energy to make it as a pro, but his final few weeks as a collegiate player show he has plenty of scoring touch. The 22-year-old is viewed among those in the AAA Blue Jackets ranks as one of the most talented players to ever come out of the system, but Meyer will have to show in the minor leagues that he has what takes to be an NHL player.  

Kale Howarth (University of Connecticut, NCAA; fifth-round pick, 2017)

Howarth put up solid numbers in four years of junior hockey in the BCHL then headed to UConn for his college career, where he's been getting more and more playing time. After 11 points in 32 games as a freshman, he showed some goal scoring touch around the net this year, posting six goals and 16 points this year in 29 games. A big body at 6-4, Howarth earned power-play time for the Huskies this year and showed a good shot as well as the ability to play in front of the net. 

Projection: Howarth was drafted thanks to his physical skills that includes size you just can't teach, and his offensive game figures to get better as he plays more at the college level. At age 22, the Albertan is one of those players who is still coming into his game -- as taller players often do -- and his next few years at the college level will determine what his pro career will be like.  

Marcus Karlberg (Leksands/AIK, Sweden; third-round pick in 2018)

Karlberg is certainly an intriguing prospect who has scored in bunches at the junior level coming up in his native country. This year was a mixed bag for the 20-year-old, who started the year on loan with AIK in Sweden's second division, then returned to the Leksands system in which he came up. He showed his scoring touch at the international U-20 level and posted 32 points in 27 games with Leksands' junior squad, but he was scoreless in 13 games when playing with the big club in the SHL. 

Projection: Karlberg can score; of that there is little doubt. But he didn't exactly have a Bemstrom-esque first run at the SHL as he was unable to get on the board at age 20 at the top level, though it's worth remembering what Bemstrom did a year ago in leading the top Swedish league in goals was remarkable. Karlberg has great puck skills but given his stature at 5-7, he is going to have to work to figure out how to excel at the pro level like all players his size.  

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