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Abramov willing to play anywhere as long as he's with Blue Jackets

High-scoring forward has shown he can produce at center or wing

by Craig Merz / Correspondent

COLUMBUS -- Vitaly Abramov doesn't care what position he plays this season, he just hopes it's for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

"It doesn't really matter," the 20-year-old forward said. "I can play center. I can play winger. If coaches see me to be a goalie, I can play goalie."

He currently is a center, but with the emergence of Pierre-Luc Dubois, who set Blue Jackets rookie records with 20 goals and 48 points last season as top-line center, and the signing of unrestricted free agent Riley Nash to a three-year, $8.25 million contract July 1, Abramov may have to switch back to right wing to find a place in the NHL.

He will compete for a job at training camp in September after undergoing surgery on his left wrist in May. Recovery kept him off the ice during Blue Jackets development camp, which ran June 25-28, but he said his cast will come off in early August.

He came to training camp last year with an eye on making the Blue Jackets, but instead was sent back to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. This season he'll be playing professional hockey, the only question whether it'll be with Columbus or Cleveland of the American Hockey League.

"You want to stay in [the NHL]," Abramov said. "This year I think I can show my right game at the right moments."

Selected in the third round (No. 65) of the 2016 NHL Draft, he first became known for having survived a massive meteor that exploded over his hometown of Chelyabinsk, Russia, on Feb. 15, 2013.

His on-ice reputation as a scorer and playmaker followed. In 2016-17 he was named most valuable player in the QMJHL after had a league-leading 104 points (46 goals, 58 assists) in 66 games in his second season with Gatineau.

Last season he was traded to Victoriaville after 16 games and finished second in the league with 104 points (45 goals, 59 assists).

Along the way he was shifted to center, a move he believes diversified his game.

"Him being a center made him an overall better player," Blue Jackets development coach Chris Clark said. "Now he knows how to play it at a high level so it's an option. Most of all it showed himself he can play defense and not take away from any of the offense."

The biggest question mark for Abramov is his size (5-foot-9, 171 pounds), but Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen is confident in Abramov's abilities.

"He's shown throughout his junior career that he can score," Kekalainen said. "He's got the skills you need to battle for a spot in the NHL. We'll give him the opportunity."

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