During Blue Jackets training camp and into the preseason, fans in the crowd are doing more than just watching the players.
Make no mistake -- they’re evaluating them, too.
Which players will be on the Blue Jackets No. 1 power play unit? Who will grab spots in the top six forwards? Who, if anyone, will break through and earn a spot on the Columbus roster?
Those are the questions fans were asking themselves and others during the opening weekend of camp at the OhioHealth Ice Haus and Nationwide Arena.
Among those watching training camp were Paul and Bonnie Nyikes. The Nyikes’ have been season ticket holders for the past few seasons, and they identify as huge hockey fans.
Paul said he came to training camp to take a look at the team and, more specifically, some of the younger players.
One thing that struck his eye was the first line – Brandon Saad, Nick Foligno and Ryan Johansen – that was skating together in the first few practices.
“I like the first line with Saad, Foligno and Johansen,” Paul said. “They’re going to be dynamite. The whole team’s going to be dynamite, but I like the first line.”
Other players he noticed during camp?
“I like some of the other newer guys, (Gregory) Campbell, he looked very good,” Paul said. “You know, watching him play in years past, he’s a good, defensive player. (David) Clarkson looks good, too. I like the way he’s looking.”
It’s still early into the preseason, and there's plenty of evaluations and roster decisions to be made before opening night on Oct. 9.
2015 TRAINING CAMP CENTRAL
But one thing he is excited and hopeful about? The Blue Jackets staying healthy this season, and making a run deep into the playoffs.
“Injuries are part of the game,” Paul said. “There’s so much depth now in the organization, when it happens, we’ve got the guys who can back them up.”
Another spectator in the stands over the weekend was Jessica Dolan. Dolan, originally from Seattle and currently living in Pittsburgh, started coming to Columbus for games and has been hooked on the Blue Jackets ever since.
“I slowly fell in love with the players and the city and the team,” Dolan said.
“I’m more excited to see players that I’ve seen before and that I’ve grown to love,” Dolan said. “I’m a WHL fan, so any players from the WHL, I like to see if they can make the team.”
Dolan also noted that one thing that stands out to her about the Blue Jackets organization is its relationship with the fans and the community.
“In general, the Blue Jackets just do a lot more for their fans than other teams do,” Dolan said. “So the atmosphere is just a lot better. It feels like it’s an actual fans in the seats instead of just corporate sponsors, like some arenas.”
While sitting with friends, near the glass, in the front row of Nationwide Arena, Dolan saw all of the action up close -- and said that’s one thing she loves about the accessibility during training camp.
“Just being in the arena is nice,” Doland said. “It feels like home to be in an arena."