Editor's note: Martin Poston is a Blue Jackets fan who resides in Columbus and runs the Martini Hockey blog. You can follow him on Twitter @MartiniHockey.
Rise and shine.
Check, and check.
The Blue Jackets officially opened camp this weekend, cutting the ribbon on the 2015-16 campaign.
The 2014-15 season is a memory. Now, the slate is clean.
The shaky start? Forgotten.
The "man games lost" counter that seemed to give the National Debt Clock a run for its money? Gone.
The fire and determination from the torrid 15-1-1 finish that began Mar. 10 to close out the season? Very apparent on the ice.
The Jackets rolled out three groups on a 63-man training camp roster this weekend, each group featuring a mix of seasoned NHL veterans and determined prospects fresh off a second consecutive NHL Prospects Tournament title in Traverse City, Mich.
Fans packed the OhioHealth Ice Haus early Saturday morning, some of them returning after attending the opening of training camp on Friday, and others rising early on a Saturday morning to get their first glimpses of the new faces wearing the union blue sweater, alongside some of the established names who will continue to define the Blue Jackets for years to come.
The early risers got their first glimpse of the highly-anticipated top line of Ryan Johansen centering captain Nick Foligno and new acquisition Brandon Saad. They also got a good glimpse of newcomer and former Bruins center Gregory Campbell, the other major summer acquisition who adds a veteran presence and playoff experience to the Jackets' young roster.
While the preseason is only just underway, the gathered crowd got a look at how the rest of the lines in Columbus might look, with Brandon Dubinsky spending time with Boone Jenner and Rene Bourque, and Cam Atkinson taking the open wing spot with center Alexander Wennberg and Scott Hartnell. David Clarkson, acquired from Toronto in the spring before injury ended his season, skated with Campbell and Calvert.
Among the prospects, fans got a really good look at Sonny Milano, Oliver Bjorkstrand and William Karlsson, who figure to be a potential top line in Cleveland this year with the Lake Erie Monsters. However, looking at their play, it's hard to imagine any of them not getting a call-up if the Jackets need personnel down the stretch.
There were quite a few prospects making good impressions, pushing the veterans and setting the tone for a very competitive camp. Drills focused on puck movement, quick transition and setting up plays. The young guys held their own against veterans, not being afraid to throw bodies around and put in some hard work and the corners to come out with the puck. A pairing of Oleg Yevenko and Blake Siebenaler had some spirited drills against the Saad-Johansen-Foligno line that turned some heads. Keegan Kolesar, Paul Bittner, Peter Quenneville and Kerby Rychel also made some good impressions.
In net, the tandem of Sergei Bobrovsky and Curtis McElhinney looked impressive. McElhinney looked sharp, showing improved movement and remaining solid on follow-up chances, showing that he will continue to be an important part of this franchise in goal, as he has been for the last couple years.
It all made for an exciting opening weekend of camp -- not only to see how well the newest Blue Jackets are already jelling, but also to see the future of the franchise and how they will fit into the "brick-by-brick," winning culture of this team. And with the Blue Jackets' new affiliation with the Monsters beginning this season, it's a safe bet that there will be some road trips to Cleveland this year.
Overall, the opening weekend of Training Camp (pres. by OhioHealth) was intense, it was fast and it was fun to watch a lot of hard work come together, for veterans and prospects alike.
Whether watching the players from the stands or from ice level, you could see it: Grit, determination, and a lot of smiling faces.
On the ice, you could see how great it felt for the players to be back on the ice.
And in the stands, it felt good to be inside a chilly building watching another season get ready to unfold.