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CBJ Today: Players to watch down the stretch

A look at some of the Jackets who could take on bigger roles in the last 12 games

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

Each weekday this season, BlueJackets.com will post CBJ Today, a look at news, notes, analysis and fun stuff from around the Blue Jackets world. It's everything you need to know if you're a fan going into the day. 

The Daily Buzz 

If it's Thursday, it's a CBJ gameday. For the 14th Thursday in a row, the Blue Jackets are on the ice for game No. 45 of 56, taking on Dallas on the road to continue a season series that's been dead even this year. 

Youngsters to Watch 

First off, an apology for not having a CBJ Today yesterday. I had a bout of PDE -- post-deadline exhaustion -- but now with some PED's -- performance-enhancing drugs, which for a journalist like me are Tim Hortons iced capps -- we're back with a mega edition. 

First, we'll start by taking a look at some of the young players that will be in the spotlight down the stretch. With the Blue Jackets trading veterans Nick Foligno, David Savard and Riley Nash, there will be some chances for players to take on new or expanded roles here, and head coach John Tortorella has said he'll consult with general manager Jarmo Kekalainen quite a bit down the stretch to give the GM a chance to see who he wants to see. 

Here are some guys who fit the bill: 

Josh Dunne, 22: The center will make his NHL debut tonight, so he's a great place to start. A self-described banger at 6-4, Dunne did show some scoring touch in college, including 27 goals his first two years at Clarkson University. This year, he played just 14 games with the Golden Knights because of Covid, but he has shown a little scoring touch at the AHL level with a pair of goals and an assist in seven games with the Cleveland Monsters. The big center from St. Louis and a hockey family -- all five of his siblings play -- should be fun to watch. 

Alexandre Texier, 21: Can you believe Texier hasn't scored a goal since January? He does have six assists in the last 10 games and is starting to put together one of his best stretches at the NHL level. Perhaps most importantly, Tortorella trusted him to play center against Patrick Kane's line Monday vs. Chicago, to the point he skated a personal-best 23:15. He's looked like he's been shot out of a cannon in some recent games and even used his skill and tenacity to create multiple shorthanded chances Monday, and it seems like scoring will soon follow. 

Emil Bemstrom, 21: This will depend on whether he gets healthy enough from a lower-body injury to return to action, though he is back skating in recent weeks. After Bemstrom had 17 points in 16 games in Finland before the NHL got back on the ice, the hope was that the Swedish forward with a great goal-scoring pedigree would find his touch at the highest level, but instead he has zero goals in 15 games. He created chances but couldn't finish them, and it would be nice to see him at least erase the bagel in the goal scoring department if he can return. 

Kevin Stenlund, 24: The one thing that has eluded Stenlund thus far in his NHL career is consistency. He'll have some games where he looks like a high-level NHL center at both ends of the ice, and some where he maddens Tortorella with his game. His shot makes him someone the Jackets would love to have in the lineup, but even with a 5-5-10 line in 28 games this year, Stenlund will likely be out of the lineup tonight in Dallas as the team tries to get a look at Dunne. It's up to him to earn his way back in. 

Kole Sherwood, 24: Sherwood looked to be on the cusp of a run of NHL games last year, as he got in early in the campaign but then suffered an oblique injury that pretty much ended his campaign at the highest level. This year, he's battled through some things and has impressed with his feistiness, not to mention three goals in nine games in Cleveland, and he is still a tantalizing combination of skill, size and speed. The New Albany native got his first NHL point Monday and is an intriguing player if he ever gets a chance to run with things. 

Andrew Peeke, 23: The defenseman has had an up-and-down campaign, with some bright moments at the NHL level and some tough ones. In all, he's skated in just six games so far at the NHL level, having been sent to Cleveland for a while to try to get some seasoning. It looks like he might return to the lineup tonight, and he projects as a smooth right-shot blueliner (teams can always use those) whose calling card is his defending but with a smart first pass out of the zone. With the Savard trade, he could be a huge part of the team next year, so seeing him now will be informative. 

Liam Foudy, 21: Here's one player you might not see the rest of the year in Cleveland. Tortorella recently said the 2018 first-round pick wasn't ready, and he's been sent to the Monsters to work on his game. Foudy has played 18 games this year with the Jackets but has zero goals and three assists. It appears as of now, the plan is for him to play big minutes with Cleveland. 

Local Hockey 

Speaking of Sherwood, the last two games for the Jackets against Chicago presented a bit of history when it comes to Columbus hockey that might have slid a bit under the radar with all the trade news. 

With Sherwood, Jack Roslovic and Chicago defenseman Connor Murphy all in the lineup, that meant three Columbus products were on the ice, as all three grew up here and came up through the AAA Blue Jackets program. 

It was the first time three of the 40 guys on the ice in games at Nationwide Arena were local products, and it yet again drives home the message that central Ohio is producing not just NHL players but those who can make a big impact at the highest level. 

It's also a cool chance for Sherwood, who gets to play with childhood friend Roslovic down the stretch here.  

"Jack is obviously my best friend since I was 3, 4, 5 years old," Sherwood said. "I don't know when it was, but it's pretty cool, pretty special. It's something I'll never forget for the rest of my life." 

Monsters Get A Win 

Cleveland extended its winning streak to five games Wednesday night with a 5-3, comeback win in Rochester against the rival Americans. 

The biggest news from the game was the first-ever AHL goal from defenseman Ole Bjorgvik-Holm, the Norwegian blueliner the team selected in the fifth round of the 2020 draft.

Tweet from @monstershockey: Proof: pic.twitter.com/w4sjNUljWF

Also of note, goalie Daniil Tarasov got his second win in as many tries with the Monsters, with the highly touted prospect stopping 17 of 20 shots to get the victory. Tarasov also notched an assist in the game.  

Cleveland also got two goals from Dillon Simpson as well as tallies from leading scorer Tyler Sikura and Tristan Mullin, a University of Vermont product who recently signed a tryout offer with Cleveland and also notched his first AHL goal. 

Now second in the AHL's Central Division with a 10-5-1 record, Cleveland is slated to return home to take on the Amerks on Saturday in Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. 

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