TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- Columbus Blue Jackets president of hockey operations John Davidson is watching his team's developing talent closely at the Traverse City prospects tournament.
But he's also paying close attention to Team Russia goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky's performance at the World Cup of Hockey 2016 in Toronto. Davidson pointed to the World Cup when asked if the success of the Blue Jackets this season will hinge on Bobrovsky's play.
"I've already seen a better Bob watching the World Cup," Davidson told NHL.com. "He's very good, exceptional. He looks like the Bob I saw a few years ago."
Bobrovsky made 43 saves in a 4-3 victory against Team North America on Monday. His biggest save came at 5:23 of the second period with Team Russia trailing 1-0 when he stopped a breakaway by Team North America captain Connor McDavid with his right pad.
"We were desperate," Bobrovsky said after the game. "Every moment, every shot, I was focused and that was the most important shot of my life."
Bobrovsky is four seasons removed from his Vezina Trophy-winning season in 2012-13, when he went 21-11-6 with a 2.00 goals-against average and .932 save percentage in 38 games.
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He admitted last season that he lost his confidence. An 0-8-0 start to the season combined with missing games three times because of groin injuries can do a lot to a player's psyche, particularly a goalie's. In 37 games he went 15-19-1 with a 2.75 GAA and .908 save percentage. The Blue Jackets finished 27th in the League standings.
The bottom line is the Blue Jackets need more from Bobrovsky in 2016-17.
"He wasn't good last year, for whatever reason," Davidson said. "He's part of [the team] and I know, with his competitive spirit, and the way he works and tries to make his game better with the effort he puts into his offseason, that he's going to get better.
"I don't have a worry with Bob. But I know one thing, he's a lot better than what we saw last year."
Veteran Curtis McElhinney, 33, will be Bobrovsky's backup, but he's is in the final season of his contract, and Davidson was quick to point out that the Blue Jackets have two top prospects, Anton Forsberg and Joonas Korpisalo , working their way into the goalie conversation.
Korpisalo, 22, is the more likely of the two to challenge McElhinney for playing time this season, based on his NHL experience when Bobrovsky was injured last season. He went 16-11-4 with a 2.60 GAA and .920 save percentage in 31 games.
With Lake Erie (now Cleveland) of the American Hockey League last season, Forsberg and Korpisalo split time in the run to the Calder Cup championship. Forsberg, 23, went 9-0-0 with a league-best 1.34 GAA in 10 playoff games; Korpisalo went 6-2-0 with a 2.96 GAA in nine games.
"There's a fine line there since we have three goalies behind Bobrovsky," Davidson said. "We have to make sure that we're in a positon where our goalies are playing games. And if Bob is playing really well, he'll see a lot of games."
Davidson is confident Korpisalo and Forsberg will push for NHL playing time at training camp.
"It's human nature that if you're pushed it's a good thing, and you better get on your horse and make sure that when someone is pushing you they don't catch you," Davidson said. "We've talked a lot with our ownership, and if we have people that aren't playing well that are under contract, these young kids are going to replace them. That's just the way it goes.
"We've got great support from our group, and it's time for us to play the way we know we can play. We did not have a solid year last year and I look at a lot of our young players, and they weren't the problem. It was the older players that weren't as good as they should have been and could be much better. I think it will be much better."