It's usually right about this time each year that the hockey bug starts to show up, and NHL players are no different.
While the players enjoy spending time at home during the summer months and going about their offseason workout regimens, "home" comes beckoning in the form of a frozen sheet of ice and several of their teammates once the calendar turns to September.
And despite a busy and fun holiday weekend for several Blue Jackets, many have settled into Columbus in recent weeks and are gearing up for the 2012-13 season.
"Busy and fun" could also describe the offseason for the Blue Jackets, who were one of the league's most active teams during the summer. They added (and upgraded) at every position on the ice: forwards, defense, and goaltending. Listening to coach Todd Richards speak last week, you get the sense that he's starting to envision how these players are going to fit together.
Though training camp isn't officially slated to begin for another two weeks or so, a sizable group of Blue Jackets players (and others from around the NHL) have been gathering at the OhioHealth Ice Haus for informal skates a few times each week.
Former Blue Jackets enforcer (and current Philadelphia Flyer) Jody Shelley has been skating in Columbus, as has former Ohio State Buckeye center Dave Steckel, who is now a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Columbus prospects Will Weber and Trent Vogelhuber have joined the group, which will continue to grow in the coming days.
The guys have been getting some work done despite the casual nature of these practices. Today, there were several odd-man rush drills and a lot of work put in within the offensive zone -- drills focused on puck possession and creating chances at even strength. Sergei Bobrovskyskated for the first 30 minutes of the session before heading out for an off-ice workout.
Other notes from today's informal skate:
-- Brandon Dubinsky and Vinny Prospal spent a lot of time working together today, and the two have some familiarity as former New York Ranger teammates. Dubinsky's an aggressive skater in the middle of the ice, and Prospal has that knack for finding the open guy in the slot area.
-- You can immediately see the reward for a rigorous offseason from Ryan Johansen. He's added at least 16 pounds of muscle and looks far more solid on the puck. He's building up to the ideal frame for an NHL center iceman, and looks poised for a breakout season at just 20 years of age. Keep an eye on the kid.
-- Bobrovsky looked good in limited action. Poised, quick, smart with his puck decisions. One thing sticks out: he's always working on his game. Checking his positioning, confirming angles, you name it. The guy doesn't take a second to relax after a drill.
-- Derick Brassard was flying out there today, as was recent arrival John Moore.
-- Derek Dorsettis clearly taking a larger leadership role on the team, and it doesn't take long to recognize it. He's active in every drill, giving direction and encouraging teammates regardless of results.
-- I've determined how to characterize Dorsett's game: he's like a bull in a china shop that knows what it wants to buy. I'll leave you with that for today.