Well, there is certainly a lot to digest and sort through after two formal days of Blue Jackets Training Camp presented by OhioHealth. Oh, and there's an exhibition game less than 48 hours away. No problem, right?
After two days and four practice sessions split between the OhioHealth Ice Haus and Nationwide Arena, we've had the chance to see a lot of players running a lot of different drills and following along with some cool storylines, as well. Every day, we'll check back here on the CBJ Today blog with our thoughts, anecdotes and observations after the dust settles.
There's a chance that these notebooks may occasionally run very long. Actually, there's a really good chance, but I'll try and keep the Friday edition nice and tidy since we've had some good discussion on the live chats, too.
Let's have a look at some of today's notes...
Kerby Rychel is used to proving doubters wrong.
He's had to face questions about being too small to make it to the NHL, whether he could score enough goals to keep a spot or playing in the shadow of his father, former NHL tough guy Warren Rychel. Playing in his hometown of Windsor, Ont. in front of scouts and hockey types over the years hasn't fazed him, either, and it has all helped him prepare for his first professional training camp.
The Blue Jackets have high hopes for the kid, too, as evidenced by selecting him 19th overall in this year's NHL Draft in New Jersey. They like his willingness to compete, go to the "hard areas" to score and his commitment to playing a pro-style game.
As camp gets into full swing this week in Columbus, those are the things Rychel wants to prove to the Blue Jackets coaching staff.
And just like that, vacation was over.
The Blue Jackets officially kicked off Training Camp presented by OhioHealth this morning in the Ice Haus with two sessions that ran an hour-plus each, and to no one’s surprise, they got right down to business.
Todd Richards said he wanted to spend some time reviewing the concepts that made the Blue Jackets successful a year ago, in particular their aggressive forecheck and responsible defensive zone coverage. It was a good way to refresh the memories of returning players and introduce new faces to the Blue Jackets’ system, which will be taught in both on and off-ice practices.
Another thing Richards was looking for was a high pace, and the players agreed it was ever-present.
Curtis McElhinney is well aware of the situation.
He spent a full season in the American Hockey League (AHL) last year with the Springfield Falcons motivated to get another chance in the NHL. When he was acquired by the Blue Jackets in the Antoine Vermette deal of February 2012, McElhinney wasn't able to play due to an abdominal injury.
McElhinney, who has spent time in the NHL with a now five different teams throughout his career, hit the unrestricted free agent market later that summer for all of an hour before signing with the Blue Jackets.
They were offering him a chance to find his game again and get a lot of playing time on a Springfield team that needed a steady presence between the pipes.
Dalton Prout delivered some good news this morning after his medicals and fitness testing: he's close to being cleared to play and rejoin his teammates.
Following an abdominal injury suffered in late-season workouts, team doctors didn't think Prout would be able to return to action until after the regular season began. But somewhere on the road to recovery, Prout got ahead of schedule and looks to be on the cusp of joining practice once again.
Prout said he's hopeful to be cleared sometime next week and wants to play in two exhibition games before jumping into regular season action. If all goes according to plan, that could be a legitimate possibility.
"That's the goal, to maybe get in a couple (preseason games) towards the end and get ready for the season," Prout said.
The Blue Jackets' captaincy has been a popular topic since Rick Nash was traded last summer, but it doesn't appear headed for a solution anytime soon.
On the eve of Training Camp presented by OhioHealth, the players reported for medicals and fitness testing before beginning the on-ice sessions Thursday morning. And outside Columbus, speculation has been constant regarding not just the next Blue Jackets' captain, but other teams around the NHL seeking captains of their own.
John Tavares was named the 14th captain in New York Islanders history on Monday, succeeding Mark Streit who signed with the Philadelphia Flyers. Also in search of a captain: the Ottawa Senators, Florida Panthers, Buffalo Sabres, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers, Dallas Stars and Tampa Bay Lightning.
Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said at media day that the captaincy is something the organization holds in high regard, and that "it's more than just a 'C' on someone's sweater."
Cam Atkinson has been through a lot to this point in his brief NHL career.
He scored his first career goal early on in a game against the Vancouver Canucks in October 2011, but not long after that, was sent back to the Springfield Falcons (AHL) because his game wasn’t as consistent as it needed to be. The Blue Jackets also underwent major change in the 2011-12 campaign, replacing Scott Arniel with Todd Richards in January and beginning a major overhaul in hockey operations a few months later.
When Atkinson returned to the Blue Jackets later that season, he was AHL’s leading goal scorer and on the verge of becoming a dynamic NHL player. He recorded his first NHL hat trick against the Colorado Avalanche and went into the summer of 2012 with his eyes on a roster spot that fall.
The NHL lockout pushed things back a bit, but Atkinson came out flying with the Blue Jackets in 2013. He scored a beautiful goal on opening night against Detroit and was on track to solidifying a top-six spot, but a high ankle sprain derailed his season and he didn’t quite feel right the rest of the way.
But there’s good news as the Blue Jackets prepare to begin Training Camp presented by OhioHealth later this week: Atkinson is back to 100 percent, according to GM Jarmo Kekalainen, and is feeling much better than he did last spring.
That's a wrap from Traverse City.
The Blue Jackets rookies head back to Columbus with a fourth-place finish in this year's NHL Prospects Tournament following a 7-1 loss to Dallas on Monday night. Columbus finished the tournament with a 2-2 record, sandwiching a pair of wins between book end defeats to open and close the proceedings.
Next stop: Nationwide Arena and Blue Jackets training camp, which begins Wednesday morning with medical exams and media availability. Some of the prospects will head back to the junior clubs, and some may be extended invites to stick around for main camp.
Click "full story" to read the boxscore from Monday night's game.