Kole Sherwood is from New Albany. As a kid, he played with the AAA Blue Jackets and moved on to play with the Ohio Blue Jackets under-16 and under-18 teams. In 2015, he became the first locally born and developed player to sign with the Blue Jackets.
Now, fresh off a season with the Flint Firebirds of the Ontario Hockey League in which he put up 85 points in 60 regular season games and four goals in five playoff games, Sherwood has taken the next step in his hockey development. He was assigned to the Cleveland Monsters Apr. 2 and has played in two games since.
"It's great and it's a great example of the junior development (in central Ohio) making it all the way to the pros," Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said. "There are a few other (players from here) obviously, but Kole's had great success in the OHL. Now he's ready to take the next step and go to the American League and we'll see how it goes from there. But he's got all the ingredients to be successful."
Sherwood jumped right into the Monsters lineup upon joining the team in Iowa. That's not just exciting, it allows the 20-year-old to see how his current skills match up against the talent of players at the next level of hockey and identify where he needs to focus his own development.
"It's nice to get your feet wet at the next level and see what it's like," Sherwood said. "Just from the first game I noticed the big thing is strength. Some guys are 15 years older than me so they are a lot stronger than me. I have to work on my strength a lot over the summer."
Kekalainen said Sherwood's speed, size and "great shot" are assets that should help ease the transition for the young forward. As he adapts to the level of play in the AHL, he will be doing it alongside other Jackets prospects playing in the league for the first time including defenseman Gabriel Carlsson who was assigned to the Monsters Mar. 30 after finishing his second season in the Swedish Hockey League.
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But amidst the excitement of joining a new team and facing new challenges on the ice, it's not lost on Sherwood that he's the first locally grown hockey player in Ohio playing for the NHL organization that's always been right in his backyard.
"I definitely don't take anything for granted," Sherwood said. "It's even more special to be playing for my hometown team. There's a bunch of players rising up from Columbus and it's becoming more and more of a hockey city. Obviously, what the Jackets are doing helps a lot too and brings the hockey community together. It's great to see."