We'll have to wait a couple months longer, but development camp gives us a sneak preview of what's in the pipeline for the Blue Jackets. Spoiler alert: there's a lot of young talent on the way, and perhaps very soon.
After undergoing fitness testing and a fun day at the track on Sunday, the full group convened at Nationwide Arena this morning for the first on-ice session. Under the direction of Springfield Falcons head coach Jared Bednar, his assistant Nolan Pratt, Blue Jackets development coach Chris Clark and goalie coach Ian Clark, the prospects went through a thorough practice that featured a heavy dose of skating.
I will spare you a comprehensive breakdown of practice, but here are some notable items from this morning's session:
- The first player who jumped out was Alex Wennberg, and for many reasons. He looks a touch bigger and stronger than he did a year ago (adding 10 lbs. of muscle will do that), but he's still a tremendous skater and a very intelligent player. You can see his hockey-brain-computer-thing working when he's on the ice; he thinks the game extremely well and is almost always on the right side of the puck.
- Sonny Milano? Tons of skill, that much is evident. He's elusive, creative, skates well and has the look of a dynamic offensive player. It was fun watching him in the "small area" drills today, weaving his way in and out of trouble and showing off his puck skills.
- Dillon Heatherington strikes me as a guy who could, one day in the near future, be one of those "low maintenance, stay-at-home" defensemen that keeps a low profile and just gets the job done. He's got the ideal frame and despite being a big guy, he skates pretty well and can move the puck.
- I have absolutely no idea how competitive the Asia League is or how it compares to any other level of hockey, but Ryo Hashimoto kept up just fine today and made a good account of himself. Really nice kid, too.
- Ryan Collins and Mike Reilly, both students at the University of Minnesota (Todd Richards' alma mater), are flying into Columbus later today and will get their physicals tomorrow before taking the ice. They had prior class commitments and had to stay on campus through Monday, according to Chris Clark.
- Between the pipes, once again, I really like watching Anton Forsberg. He's got an edge to his game, competes for every puck (the Blue Jackets love his work ethic) and has a very athletic style. He's my front-runner for the No. 1 job in Springfield this fall.
- Markus Soberg is a guy I'm interested to watch this week. He's got a real solid game, makes good decisions with the puck, and could be headed to North America to play major junior in the fall. The Windsor Spitfires drafted him in last week's CHL Import Draft, and they'd really like to get him in the fold. It's definitely a possibility.
We'll have plenty more coverage coming later in the week.