Aside from one more day of workouts for the goaltenders, it's time to close out another fun week of Blue Jackets development camp.
The bags are packed, sticks taped together and passports are in hand as 31 of the top prospects in the Blue Jackets organization are off to all corners of the world - many hoping to return in September for training camp. Fans got to see the club's three first-round picks from the 2013 NHL Draft up close for the first time, as well as all eight picks from this year's class.
Days after being completely cleared for contact (and bringing his six-month rehab period to a close), defenseman Ryan Murray took the ice once again and needed about one practice to shake off the rust. While there's minimal physical contact and - as many like to say, it's *just* practice - you can't ignore Murray's elite level skill set. He's a hell of a player.
Under the watchful eye of Blue Jackets goaltending coach Ian Clark, four goalie prospects took part in an intense workout schedule this week. Clark always says the goaltender has to be the team's hardest worker, and that's one thing he tries to impress upon his students every year. With each goalie ready to take a big step forward in their development this upcoming season, it will be a fun "prospects season" to watch.
Kristyn Repke and myself have compiled tons of notes over the past few days and we've tried to cover all the players. Here's a final notebook from the week:
- Thought Anton Forsberg had a great week. He's going into an important season and will have a big opportunity in Sweden, and after that, who knows? He may be ready for professional hockey in North America. He's a confident goaltender with good reflexes and recovery skills, and he was fun to watch this week.
- I'm interested to see where Jeremy Langlois goes from here in his development. The Blue Jackets signed him as an undrafted free agent out of Quinnipiac University this summer (a school that has recently burst on to the college hockey scene) and he had a good showing in his first development camp. He's a solid skater and showed some finish ability in the rush drills. He could be a real nice add for Brad Larsen in Springfield.
- Marko Dano has been one of a handful of players to go through a whirlwind couple of weeks after the NHL Draft. He's a native of Slovakia, played professional hockey in Austria in a Russian league and could very well end up in North America this season. He's got great energy in every shift, can rip the puck and he's built like a truck.
- As stated above, Murray was excellent this week. He's the only one who can decide if he plays in the NHL this season, but he will definitely have the opportunity do prove himself in main camp.
- Ilari Melart got a lot of attention this week, and for good reason. He's a beast of a man (6-foot-4 and approaching 230 lbs.) and for all the questions I read about his mobility and skating, I thought he moved very well for a big guy. Now, I'm not a professional scout, but I've seen smaller players who can't skate as well as Melart. Pleasantly surprised by how well he passes the puck out of his own end, too.
- The first thing about Kerby Rychel: he skates with purpose. There's a reason he scored 40-plus goals in back-to-back seasons with the Windsor Spitfires (OHL) and could easily have an even bigger season in 2013-14. He's a really confident player who goes to the proper areas to score goals and has a wicked shot. The next step for him is to see where he stacks up against the pros in September.
- We don't get to see much of Martin Ouellette due to him playing up in Maine and with a busy schedule of our own during the NHL season, but I was watching him closely this week. I like his athleticism (he has ideal goalie size, too) and competitiveness, and as Clark pointed out, he finally got the ice time he was looking for this past season with Maine. Don't sleep on this kid...I think he could surprise.
- They say you only get one chance at a first impression, and Alex Wennberg did a good job with his. It's obvious he's got elite skill and his skating is excellent, and it'll be fun to watch how he fares this season playing against better competition in Sweden with Frolunda. Will be ready for the NHL in 2014-15? That's hard to tell and almost unfair to predict, but the sky's the limit with his game.
- Daniel Zaar came to development camp this year after heeding the advice he got a year ago: go back to Sweden, work on all aspects of your game and get stronger. He was noticeably stronger in 2013 and one thing I saw a lot from him: he spent time at the front of the net and worked hard to retrieve pucks. That's something players have to commit to and work very hard at, and I was encouraged by Zaar this week.
- Another guy we didn't know a lot about was 2013 fourth-round pick Nick Moutrey. He was the last Jackets' pick that was present at the draft and he was probably the most excited kid at Prudential Center. Full of energy, smiles, all of it. That was no different at camp this week; he's a strong kid who projects as a power forward with some snarl, and it's mixed in with a hilarious off-ice personality.
One more note: we're more than willing to add to this list throughout the weekend. If you missed the on-ice sessions and are wondering how a certain prospect looked, just tweet me and we'll add our notes.
Thanks for following along during #CBJDevCamp. Next up, training camp!