The final day of Blue Jackets development camp can only mean one thing: the 4-on-4 tournament in the OhioHealth Ice Haus.
And much like last year, this year’s edition did not disappoint.
There was a twist, too: the three teams were coached by current Blue Jackets players Dalton Prout, Boone Jenner and David Clarkson – but that wasn’t without a plot twist in itself. Brandon Dubinsky was originally scheduled to be one of the three head coaches, but he was let go earlier in the day and Prout was his interim replacement.*
*This part of the story is not true.
In front of a standing-room only, four-deep-on-the-glass crowd in the Arena District, the Blue Jackets’ top prospects put on a great show. Leading the way was Sonny Milano, whose scintillating skill was on display in both 4-on-4 and the shootout, but there were a handful of other players who grabbed the attention of those in attendance.
But first, let’s get to the results: after round robin solved nothing, the three teams took part in a best-of-five, elimination shootout to determine which two teams advanced to the championship. Team Clarkson didn’t have much luck in the shootout (going 0-for-5 against Joonas Korpisalo), so it was Jenner and Prout, the two buddies, going head-to-head for the hardware.
And in this case, the hardware was the Stinger Cup. It’s a thing of beauty, friends, let me tell you.
Some observations from the 4-on-4 tournament:
- Korpisalo was solid. Real solid. At the top of the list was the aforementioned 5-for-5 effort in the elimination shootout, securing a spot in the final. He’s gearing up for his first full season in North America, and it’s a big one for him. He will be in tandem with Anton Forsberg, but as we all know, most coaches want a No. 1 guy to emerge. It’ll be interesting to see how it unfolds in Cleveland.
- Milano looks ready for training camp. He was flying today, shooting pucks from all over and utilizing the open ice to get creative on the rush, which is pretty much all 4-on-4 is. I know you won’t forget his name between now and September, but remember it. He’s my dark horse candidate to make management’s final roster decision a difficult one.
- The Sherwood boys, Kole and Kiefer, were not just happy-go-lucky participants this week. Not at all. Kole is on his way to Boston University, while Kiefer is headed for Oxford and Miami University, and after this week, they can leave feeling pretty good about themselves. Bob McElligott sat down for an interview with both of them before the 4-on-4 tournament, and we’ll have it available soon on Jackets TV.
- What a pair of hands on Alex Broadhurst, who was one of the pieces acquired from Chicago in the Brandon Saad deal. He showed off some serious skill on a couple occasions, particularly in the round robin. Broadhurst, entering his third year pro this fall, figures to be a top-six player for the Lake Erie Monsters after two productive seasons with the Rockford IceHogs.
- Seth Ambroz is another player headed to Cleveland in the fall, and like Broadhurst, another player who had a solid day today. He’s a big guy with good hands and hockey sense, and he had a two-goal round robin game to get Team Jenner off and running. Ambroz, a University of Minnesota product, signed a new AHL deal earlier this week.
- First extended look at Kevin Stenlund today and came away impressed. Yes, he’s got an ideal frame (6-foot-3, 205 lbs.) but there’s a lot of skill there, as well. He’s headed back to Sweden, where he’ll suit up for HV 71 in the fall.
- Third-round pick (2015) Keegan Kolesar did not participate in the 4-on-4 tournament solely for precautionary reasons.
- Mike Paliotta was traded Tuesday night, on a plane to Columbus Wednesday morning, and on the ice Wednesday afternoon, but based on his showing the last two days, you’d have never guessed it. Jarmo Kekalainen is a big fan of Paliotta and tried (unsuccessfully) to acquire him during the season, and the GM believes he can compete for a spot on defense in September.
-Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards offered a “nice coaching!” to victorious coach Jenner as they left the ice. Jenner, already in coach-media training, deflected the praise to his players.