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Mixer's Mailbag: On draft prospects, Bjorkstrand & more

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

Back by popular demand (really, because I need something to do), the mailbag returns for a second straight year. Remember: send your questions to @RobMixer, and as always, food questions move to the top.

Steve Humphrey (@CBJKiltGuy)
What events are you most looking forward to during #ColumbusBeerWeek ? Anything you'd categorize as "Don't Miss!"?

This is a great question to lead off with, and because I can’t pick one thing, I’ll answer with a small handful.

First, “Beer and Donuts” at Seventh Son (this Sunday at 11 a.m.) seems pretty awesome because beer and donuts are great things on their own. Why not pair them? Yeah, it might seem weird and there’s a chance they don’t go together whatsoever, but it’s worth a try.

On the 19th, there’s a ping pong tournament hosted by Land-Grant Brewing and Platform Brewing, which is taking place at The Walrus downtown. I’m probably not going to play in the tournament myself because I’m obscenely terrible at ping pong, but I would recommend checking it out and hanging for dinner there.

Next Saturday brings a Bar Jenga tournament at Zauber Brewing in Grandview, which sounds neat. Not to be forgotten, the educational aspect of Craft Beer Week is interesting and there are plenty of “how to” classes sprinkled in throughout.

Nic Hendrickson (@RedArmyNic)
Puljujarvi, Tkachuk, or Dubois? Who do you think would be the best choice to fill in for an immediate impact for #CBJ? #mailbag

I know it’s easy to pencil Jesse Puljujarvi into the third spot and many people smarter than I have done that already, but you make a great point: there are at least two (maybe as many as four) others players who make up a strong group of contenders for the 3-5 picks.

I won’t pretend to know everything about the three players you mentioned, but based on what I’ve read and the (very preliminary) homework I’ve done so far, I would think any of them to be a great fit here. Puljujarvi has a strong 200-foot game and primarily plays the right side, Tkachuk is a competitive, talented forward who plays an in-your-face game and Dubois is extremely skilled and has the reputation of being a high-end play maker.

We’ll see how it plays out next month, but any of the three guys you mentioned bring something of high quality to the table.

Wes Woody (@TheRealWes2)
Can the Monsters win it all?

Absolutely. They’ve flown under the radar a little bit, which is crazy considering they just lost their first playoff game earlier this week. A few people I’ve spoken with are surprised that Lake Erie isn’t getting more attention for their run, but they’ve been overshadowed (again, somehow) by other series so far – but that’s going to change.

They have one of the best goaltenders in the tournament (Korpisalo), arguably the league’s most balanced lineup – they’re getting great production from their “fourth line” – and their defense is a solid mixture of veterans and dynamic young players, led by Zach Werenski. There’s a growing consensus that Werenski, at only 18 years old, has been one of the Monsters’ best players in the playoffs. That’s pretty encouraging going forward.

Josh Anderson has been great, Sonny Milano is scoring, Daniel Zaar is finding the net, Oliver Bjorkstrand is scoring big goals, Kerby Rychel is playing well, and really, they’re getting something from just about everyone.

“Team effort” is a cliché and literally everyone says it about their team when things are going well, but the Monsters are the embodiment of it.

Daniel Dukart (@WowDanGoodPoint)
Where does Bjorkstrand slot in the lineup next year?

I think he’s a top-six player in due time, I really do. Coming out of training camp next fall, I think the most likely scenario is that Bjorkstrand a) makes the team and b) starts full-time as a top-nine guy who eventually earns his way up the depth chart.

I can see him taking a path similar to Cam Atkinson, who cracked the NHL roster on the third line, then moved up to the second line, and has now worked his way up to being a consistent top-six (and at times, top-line) player for the Blue Jackets.

And much like Mr. Atkinson, young Mr. Bjorkstrand can shoot the puck.

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