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These Monsters are a window into the Blue Jackets' future

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

I’ve said this to a few people I know, but now I’m telling you: you absolutely need to be watching this Lake Erie Monsters team.

And if you’re just now tuning in, here’s what you’ve missed: they are tearing through the Calder Cup playoffs, holding a 13-2(!) record after a 5-3 win on Friday night in Hershey, Pa., bringing a 2-0 series lead in the championship series back to the friendly confines of Quicken Loans Arena.

These kids are in our backyard. I urge you to get in the car, drive two hours up I-71 and watch the future of the organization compete for a title, a title that would be the first in Monsters franchise history and the first in Cleveland hockey history in 52 years (the 1964 Barons last won the Calder Cup).

Game 3 is Monday, Game 4 is Saturday night and a potential Game 5 is Sunday – and they’re all in Cleveland.

This is the first season of the Blue Jackets’ AHL affiliation with the Monsters and it’s been a blast to watch everything unfold. Yes, they’re two wins away from a championship and that’s quite significant, but even more important to the long-view in the capital city is the roster with which they’re getting it done.

Look at the names: Zach Werenski, 18 years old. Sonny Milano, 20 years old. Oliver Bjorkstrand, 21 years old. Kerby Rychel, 21 years old. Josh Anderson, 22 years old. And then there’s 23-year-old goaltender Anton Forsberg, a seventh-round pick of the Blue Jackets in 2011, who has assumed control of the net and gone 7-0 in the playoffs since taking over in the conference semifinals.

And how about Lukas Sedlak? You might know him as a matchup center or defensive specialist, but the sixth-round pick (2011) leads the American Hockey League in playoff goals with nine.

On any given night, it’s someone else stepping to the fore and making something happen.

It’s easy to watch what’s going on and say “man, if this could translate to Columbus…” and I get it. I really do. But for right now, let’s enjoy this.

Enjoy these young players learning what it takes to win. Watch them learn what it takes to come together as a team and compete for something bigger than themselves and something as big as the logo.

When we talk about drafting and development, this is what every organization aspires to. You cannot replace what’s happening with the Monsters right now.

This group, now two wins away from a Calder Cup (with Game 3 Monday night at Quicken Loans Arena), has largely been built through the draft.

There are first-round picks, third-round picks, later-round picks, undrafted free agents and veteran players with invaluable experience guiding them along the way – paving a path that’s beneficial for its developmental lessons but even more so because they’re WINNING.

You can try and manufacture culture. You can try to replicate what you think is a good environment for your young players, but the bottom line is that they need to have a key role in making the situation beneficial. They learn the most from what they accomplish together.

From the top down, the Monsters are the embodiment of “team,” and they’re on the cusp of achieving what every team aspires to and what few teams can say they’ve done.

Hopefully, we’ll see you in Cleveland this week.


- Full 2016 Calder Cup Finals schedule

- Story: How the Monsters were built

- Monsters continue to make history

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