Another busy day at Nationwide Arena, but it was a blast.
We started a cool, crisp Saturday morning off with a crowd wrapped around the building waiting to get into the OhioHealth Ice Haus for on-ice practices and a scrimmage on the main ice. It was a great start to a fun day that saw a lot of storylines start to take shape - and we'll get more in-depth with those further down in the notebook.
TRAINING CAMP CENTRAL
First things first: the rosters are out for tomorrow's preseason opener against the Penguins, which is a 6 p.m. start at Nationwide Arena. Curtis McElhinney is the starting goaltender for the Blue Jackets and though a starter hasn't been named for Pittsburgh, the Penguins are bringing Marc-Andre Fleury (expected starter) and Jeff Zatkoff to Columbus.
There is a host of veterans dressing for the Blue Jackets, and you can find the entire playing roster at bluejackets.com/trainingcamp.
Alright, let's kick off the notebook...
- I mentioned yesterday that RJ Umberger has had a strong showing in the first few practices, and John Davidson also made it a talking point this morning. Umberger and Ryan Johansen skated with Oliver Bjorkstrand in the scrimmage and they were able to create a few scoring chances, but overall, the returns on Umberger to this point have been very good.
- Ryan Murray = still good. Very good.
- Nick Moutrey has stood to me, and especially so today during the scrimmage. He bounced around with a couple of different lines but always seemed to be around the puck and looking to make a play. I'll be watching him closely in junior this year because there's a lot to like about his game.
- Marian Gaborik had a few highlights during the scrimmage, including a sweet set-up for Artem Anisimov to bury the game-winning goal for the White team. It sure looks as if those two are going to be a pair to start the season, and we're likely to see them skate together tomorrow against the Penguins. Gaborik's got the jets back, too.
- Jack Skille had himself a nice day today, and one of the lines that caught my eye in the scrimmage included him along with Nick Foligno and Mark Letestu. That's three guys who can make a play with the puck and aren't shy about forcing pucks to the net, and they were one of the only lines for the Blue team to create chances in the scrimmage.
- Sergei Bobrovsky and Mike McKenna earned a 2-0 combined shutout for the White team during the scrimmage. Though they weren't really tested that much, both guys made some nice saves and got the legs going in a game situation - which is never a bad thing.
- Despite being on the losing side of the score sheet, Jeremy Smith had a solid performance in goal for the Blue team. He stopped every shot and one of his rebounds led to an odd-man rush for the offense. It'll be interesting to see how Smith will challenge McKenna for the starting spot in Springfield.
- I really took notice of the line combinations during practice, and my favorite of the day had to be the James Wisniewski and Ryan Murray D-pair during penalty kill and power play drills. Together, they shut down every offensive opportunity, connected every pass (including a few no-looks and one-timers) and generated offense of their own from the point. Murray still has to make the team, but we will probably see this pairing often in the preseason (and likely tomorrow vs. Pittsburgh) if they look the way they did today.
- Another line to watch for in the preseason? Artem Anisimov and Marian Gaborik with either Matt Calvert or Broc Little on the left wing. The Russian/Slovakian combo played with Little during the scrimmage and connected for a goal. The two also spent several minutes with Calvert in Group B's practice session post-scrimmage. We could see both of those line combinations against Pittsburgh tomorrow as well, as all four are in the line-up.
- Speaking of Broc Little, he is showing signs of confidence going into the preseason. He stepped right up to the challenge of playing with Arty and Gabby, keeping up with them stride-for-stride and crashing the net at every given opportunity. He could make a case for a mid-season call-up from the Springfield Falcons if he maintains a consistent performance day in and day out.
- Ilari Melart might not be making many friends at training camp, but he's caught the attention of Todd Richards and John Davidson. His physical presence is hard to miss on the blue line, as he is 6-foot-4 and 230 lbs., and even had a nifty goal for team white during the shootout.
- Traverse City standout Alex Aleardi has been impressive all week, and was no exception today during the scrimmage. He scored a goal from Jonathan Audy-Marchessault to put Team White up 2-0 and out of the Blue team's reach.
- Fedor Tyutin and Jack Johnson were reunited during the scrimmage as a defensive pair. The two of them were partnered for the last year's successful end-of-season stretch. Clearly Richards liked what he saw because they have played together for the last two full days of training camp and will probably be a set pairing for the start of the season.