It has become fairly evident these past few months that the future is bright in Columbus, and now, the pieces are starting to fall into place.
Matt Calvert, who was in the midst of a breakout season in the National Hockey League before suffering a broken finger last week in Los Angeles, inked a new two-year contract extension today and is set up to be part of the Blue Jackets core group in the years to come.
The 23-year-old native of Brandon, Manitoba was a fifth-round pick of former GM Scott Howson and got off to a fast start in 2011, scoring a hat trick against the Phoenix Coyotes and helping the team in a late-season playoff push.
Despite struggling in his second pro season in 2011-12, Calvert went to Springfield (AHL) and was determined to return to Columbus a different and more rounded player. He played a lot of minutes with the Falcons and was their best forward to start this season before the NHL lockout ended, and when recalled to the Blue Jackets in January, he stepped right into the lineup and proved to coach Todd Richards that he could play in all situations and on any line.
Richards used Calvert on the penalty killing unit this season - a PK group that reached as high as the sixth-best in the NHL at one point - and it paid dividends. Calvert proved to be an ideal fit for a "pressure" based penalty kill scheme and routinely disrupted opposition power play units, including a highlight-reel shorthanded goal in St. Louis in early March.
The results have been there for Calvert this season, putting up nine goals and 16 points in 42 games while developing into one of the Jackets' best forecheckers. His speed and tenacity on the puck have caused problems for opposing defensemen, most notably Niklas Kronwall of Detroit, who underestimated Calvert in a game back on Mar. 9 at Nationwide Arena.
Calvert swooped in below the goal line and stole the puck right off Kronwall's stick, feeding Cam Atkinson in front of the net for the opening goal in a 3-0 Columbus victory.
Coupled with his knack for scoring some clutch goals this season (last week's tying goal in Anaheim comes to mind), Calvert's foot speed and hockey sense made him a no-brainer signing for Jarmo Kekalainen and John Davidson as the club moves forward.
With a handful of players scheduled to become restricted free agents in July (including Artem Anisimov, Sergei Bobrovsky and Calvert), the Blue Jackets have gotten out in front of things previously signing Mark Letestu - a pending unrestricted free agent - for two more years, as well.
“Matt is a dynamic young winger that plays with great tenacity at both ends of the ice and we look forward to his continued development and contributions to our hockey club,” Kekalainen said in a club press release.
Watch Matt comment on why he re-signed: