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Kole Sherwood turning heads with strong start to Blue Jackets camp

New Albany native confident in his chances to make the Columbus roster

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

If you thought you felt the earth shake a little bit in Columbus on Saturday, you weren't mistaken. 

As the Blue Jackets went through their first scrimmage day of training camp, Kole Sherwood and David Savard collided. It was the kind of play that's sometimes unavoidable in hockey, two players with a lot of momentum headed at each other in a confined space, both trying to make a play and unable to get out of each other's way. 

As far as collisions go, it was a massive one. According to the Blue Jackets' preseason roster, it was more than 400 pounds of man coming together in a test of Newton's second law of motion. 

Only one was left standing afterward, and it wasn't Savard. The Blue Jackets' defenseman ended up on his back side, while Sherwood skated away to rejoin the play.  

There aren't many people in the Columbus organization who could have gotten the better of the collision with the rugged Savard, but Sherwood is one of them. After another strong offseason, the motivated 6-1, 199-pounder is looking like someone with a chance to make the Blue Jackets roster this year.  

He's certainly a physical presence, as the hit on Savard showed. Sherwood also has excellent instincts in the offensive zone and great skating ability. And the New Albany native and AAA Blue Jackets alum, who last year became the first Columbus-born and bred player to suit up in union blue, is turning heads with more consistency in his second full year as a pro.  

RELATED: Sherwood goes into camp with high hopes

"I love his skating," head coach John Tortorella said. "You know how fast the league is. It gives him an opportunity to be looked at because of his skating. He's a big kid, too. I saw him before camp started and he looks in great shape. He's had a good testing and all that. You have him, you have (Eric) Robinson, you have so many guys who can skate. It's going to be an interesting camp." 

So far, it's fair to say Sherwood is doing what he can to make the Blue Jackets have a tough decision on his landing place for the start of the 2019-20 season. He also scored a goal in the same scrimmage Saturday in which he sent Savard to the ice, and Sherwood was impressive in Tuesday's preseason-opening win vs. Buffalo. 

In addition to posting a team-high four hits, Sherwood was on the team's power-play and penalty-kill units, making a key pass breakup that led to a clear during one Buffalo power play.  

But the highlight of the night was Sherwood's goal midway through the second period that gave Columbus a 2-1 lead, as he called for a change but instead saw an opening he was able to exploit. Sherwood followed Zach Werenski into the offensive zone on a 2-on-2 rush, took a drop pass from the defenseman and scored on a wrist shot from the high slot. 

Tweet from @BlueJacketsNHL: The hometown kid, @92KSherwood. pic.twitter.com/qAOZXpD1zN

Even though Sherwood grew up in the Columbus suburbs and attended Blue Jackets games as a kid, he said the tally was the first he had ever scored in Nationwide Arena.  

"I think I played once as an in-between period thing," he said. "Other than that, no I haven't. (To score) was definitely a cool moment for me." 

The kicker to the story? His brother, Kiefer, who plays for the Anaheim Ducks, was on the other team and ended up being the spotlight interview after the youth game, Kole said.  

The way things are shaping up, both could be on NHL rosters to start the season after each made their NHL debuts a year ago. The two pushed each other in training over the summer, and both stood out in the summer skating sessions that featured the high-level hockey talent that makes its home around the Columbus area. 

TRAINING CAMP: Stay up on the Blue Jackets at BlueJackets.com/trainingcamp

When asked which young Blue Jackets could step up and make their presence known this year, veteran Blue Jacket Cam Atkinson pointed to Sherwood as one. 

"I look at a guy like Kole Sherwood, who I saw a lot this summer and know how hard he's trained to fill in that bottom six role and play with energy and bang around and contribute that way." Atkinson said.  

It's games like Tuesday's that show all that Sherwood can bring to the table. The goal-scoring is there, as Sherwood had 16 as a rookie a year ago with Cleveland, including 12 in a 20-game span in the second half of the season. He was also a standout scorer in the Ontario Hockey League, with 63 goals combined over his last two seasons.  

More than that, though, his ability to combine scoring, skating and physical play into one package that makes him so attractive.  

"His energy was there all night long," said Mike Eaves, who led the Blue Jackets last night and will coach the Monsters this upcoming season. "He knows he needs to bring (energy) to the team. I think he'd say the goal was a bonus, but the energy he brings he needs to have every night. 

"It's my first time being around, so my background on Mr. Sherwood is basically from the other coaches, but hearing what they say he needs to do to make that step, he seems to be doing those things. He's giving himself a chance to steal a job." 

It won't be easy to earn a job with the Blue Jackets or stick. The team has some openings in its forward group but a number of options to fill them, including a number of talented young players who are clawing for jobs like Sherwood.  

But counting him out would seem to be folly. After a strong offseason, he has perhaps the most important thing a player in his position can have - the belief that he belongs.  

"I think confidence is everything," Sherwood said. "I feel really confident right now. I just trust in my abilities." 

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