Michael Chaput isn't afraid to reveal a bit of surprise when asked if he thought he would still be in Columbus with one week remaining until opening night.
It's not a stretch to say he has been a pleasant surprise at Training Camp (presented by OhioHealth), and the 21-year-old from just outside Montreal in Ile Bazard, Quebec is making a strong case to be on the Blue Jackets' opening night roster.
He opened some eyes last season - his first as a professional - playing a variety of roles for the Springfield Falcons during their division title-winning campaign, displaying the two-way game that was so often talked about when he joined the organization.
Blue Jackets vs. Hurricanes
Chaput, a third-round pick of the Philadelphia Flyers (No. 89 overall) in 2010, was traded to the Blue Jackets a year later in a deal that brought tough guy Tom Sestito to the City of Brotherly Love. The Blue Jackets were elated to get Chaput in the deal, and they watched him get better and better each year in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL).
Could his development continue this season in the NHL? It's absolutely a goal, Chaput said, but he's sticking to the athlete's go-to "day by day" approach until told otherwise.
"I just came into camp and I told myself I was going to work as hard as I could," Chaput told BlueJackets.com. "I try to play a solid game, a two-way game and be responsible on the ice. It’s nice to be here right now; the first cuts have been made and I’m still here and that gives me a lot of confidence. I’m just going to keep doing what I do.
"I’ve played a few preseason games now and I’ll probably play at least one more, so I’m hoping it keeps going well for me."
While final cuts are a few days away, Chaput is well aware of the opportunity that has unfolded in recent days. Derek MacKenzie, Jared Boll and Cody Bass are out of the lineup with injuries and there's a gaping hole on the Blue Jackets' fourth line, and Chaput knows he's still with the club for a reason.
Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards used Chaput in the third-line center spot on Monday night after MacKenzie left the game, and entrusted him with nearly 15 minutes of ice time - and they were minutes earned, not granted.
"For me, watching Michael Chaput right now it's about how he thinks the game. He's a smart, intelligent player; you can tell who's getting it right away when you can tell a player something and they go out on the ice and do it. He's a coachable kid.
"I think one of the worries you have with him is the speed of the game, but he looked fast enough and quick enough (on Monday) and I thought he played pretty well. He put himself on the map, on the radar and that's what you want as a young player."
Chaput has committed to get physically stronger and add muscle over the last couple of years, and there's no mistaking it now. He's not easy to knock off the puck and has improved his work in the face-off circle, as well, which led Brad Larsen to play him in all situations with the Falcons.
Richards saw some of that on Monday night, and Chaput is ready for more.
"It’s not fun to see guys go down with injuries, but I still have to keep focused on what I’m doing, take advantage of the opportunities I’m given and open some eyes around here," he said. "That shows that the coach has confidence in me, to put me out there for more minutes when a center (MacKenzie) goes down. He put me in that third spot and I played some penalty kill, too, and that gives you a bit more ice time and that’s always a good thing."