The Blue Jackets have worked hard to make goaltending a position of depth in the organization, and this morning, they solidified what they hope is another piece of their future.
Anton Forsberg officially inked his first entry-level contract with Columbus this morning, a three-year deal that gives him options when it comes to continuing his professional development. The 20-year-old native of Harnosand, Sweden, a small town on Sweden's east coast, spent the 2012-13 campaign with Sodertalje in HockeyAllsvenskan.
Blue Jackets assistant general manger Chris MacFarland confirmed this morning that Forsberg will attend the club's development camp later this summer.
Forsberg appeared in 33 games, recorded 24 wins and finished second in the league with a 2.04 goals-against average and .933 save percentage. The 6-foot-2, 176 lb. netminder was the Blue Jackets' sixth pick (188th overall) at the 2011 NHL Draft held at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn.
He joins a strong stable of young goalies in the organizational pipeline that includes Oscar Dansk, Joonas Korpisalo and Martin Ouellette - giving goaltending coach Ian Clark an impressive group of pupils in the coming years.
Sean Monahan, considered one of the best offensive players in the 2013 NHL Draft class, is the highest-ranked player from the Ontario Hockey League (OHL).
Due to a well-rounded, mature game that's developed well beyond his years, many scouts speculated that Monahan would have even been a top five selection in last year’s draft class. In this past year of play for the Ottawa 67s, he has developed into the complete package that would improve any team that selects him - and being an elite prospect at the center position, it's a safe bet that several NHL teams will zero in on him as draft day approaches.
Monahan excels in every aspect of the game. His vision and playmaking ability are two key aspects that make him a smart player who knows when to take the puck to the net himself or to set up his teammates for scoring opportunities. He has the ability to see plays before they develop, reading where opposing players will be and breaking up their offensive chances. He is known as a pass-first player but when he keeps the puck himself...watch out.
He has an accurate shot, can drive the net and work the top of the crease for secondary scoring chances. Monahan is dangerous on the power play when afforded extra time and space, which is the last thing his opponents want him to have. Despite his young age and relative inexperience, Monahan is strong in the face-off circle in winning almost 60 percent of his draws, an efficiency rate that would have landed him in the top 30 in the NHL for the 2012-2013 season.
If this keeps up, Nick Foligno might have to give everyone a hug.
The EA Sports NHL 14 Cover Vote campaign of Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky is officially continuing to the final round, as EA announced this afternoon that Bobrovsky and Devils netminder Martin Brodeur will square off for all the marbles.
It was an air-tight finish and Bobrovsky earned a narrow victory over Islanders center John Tavares, who had a strong run in the 2013 cover vote as well. For the first time since John Vanbiesbrouck (who graced the cover of NHL 97), a goaltender will be featured on the cover of EA Sports' signature hockey title.
Bobrovsky's path to the cover vote final began with an opening-round win over Patrick Sharp of the Chicago Blackhawks, then a second-round victory against Taylor Hall of the Edmonton Oilers before facing Tavares - who was fresh off a "real life" first-round playoff loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, who are slated to face the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Final beginning later this week.
Blue Jackets fans have rallied around Bobrovsky since his arrival to Columbus this season, and after a tremendous debut year (21-11-6, 2.00 GAA and .932 save percentage), he is one of three finalists for the Vezina Trophy, awarded annually to the NHL's top goaltender.
While the New York Rangers weren't particularly thrilled with a second-round exit in this year's Stanley Cup playoffs, the Blue Jackets have to be pleased.
Last summer's trade of Rick Nash brought the Rangers' first-round pick in this NHL draft as part of a package that included Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov and Tim Erixon - all of whom made significant impacts in their first season with Columbus. Where that pick would fall in the draft order could only be determined when the Rangers were eliminated from the playoffs, and that occurred last night in Game 5 at TD Garden.
The Boston Bruins recorded a 3-1 win to knock out the Rangers in five games, a disappointing performance for a New York club that was tantalizingly close to the Stanley Cup Final a year ago. That means the Blue Jackets will pick no lower than No. 19 overall with the Rangers' selection, and with a possibility of moving up to the No. 18 spot if the Detroit Red Wings advance to the Western Conference Final.
They currently hold a 3-2 series lead over the Chicago Blackhawks, so the prospects of moving up one spot remain pretty good.
As it stands today, the Blue Jackets own picks No. 14 and No. 19 with the final pick - originally belonging to the Los Angeles Kings prior to the Jack Johnson deal - yet to be determined. If the Kings advance to the conference final with a win in either of their next two games vs. San Jose, the Blue Jackets will be picking at 27, 29 or 30 overall.
In his short time as general manager of the Blue Jackets, Jarmo Kekalainen has made it clear that he's open to all options when looking to improve his team.
There was a blockbuster deal at the NHL trading deadline, new contracts for the team's core young players and today, the club signed a solid stay-at-home defenseman from HIFK in the Finnish Elite League. Ilari Melart, 24, joins the Blue Jackets organization on a one-year entry level contract and provides a unique element among the team's group of defensemen.
Not known as a flashy guy by any means, Melart has made a name for himself as an even-keeled, sturdy player who plays a simple game and isn't afraid to throw his weight around. Checking in at 6-foot-3 and a whopping 227 lbs., it's fairly easy to see why opponents aren't fond of playing against him.
“We’re very pleased to be adding Ilari to our organization,” Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen said in a statement issued by the team. “He’s coming off of a strong season in one of the top professional leagues in Europe and played will for Finland at the World Championships."
Curtis Lazar notably drew attention when he broke tournament records set by Sidney Crosby (points record) and Steven Stamkos (goals record) at the 2011 Canada Winter Games for Team British Columbia when he was just 16 years old. Since then, he has continued to excel for the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League (WHL) - a team that always seems to be in the championship hunt.
Lazar is a strong skater and reads plays well on the ice. His vision allows him to position himself in the right place at the right time offensively and defensively, making him a versatile and valuable player for Oil Kings coach Derek Laxdal. Because of his play-reading ability, he creates turnovers against his opponents’ top lines in the WHL both shorthanded and at even strength...what's not to like about that?
Offensively, Lazar has a strong and accurate shot, making him more of a goal scorer than a playmaker. Though his point totals are not super high, he is invaluable as a defensive forward and one that has a knack for being on the right side of the puck.
Ranked at No. 26 on NHL Central Scouting's final rankings list, many consider Lazar to be underrated pick that could make an impact early in his NHL career, but viewed by many as a player who could have a long NHL career because of his ability to change and adapt.
Ryan Hartman, an Illinois native brought up through the United States National Team Development program, is currently a spunky right winger in the OHL for the Plymouth Whalers.
Hartman most recently put on an impressive performance at the 2013 World Junior Hockey Championship on a gold medal winning United States team that features Columbus natives Sean Kuraly and Connor Murphy. His intelligent-yet-aggressive play on the third line generated offense and was often matched up against opponents’ top lines. He was also a member of the gold medal winning U.S. squad at the 2012 IIHF Under-18 World Championships.
Listed at No. 16 on NHL Cenral Scouting’s final ranking for North American skaters, Hartman is best known for his physical play as a power forward despite his smaller size at 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds. He’s the kind of guy who plays his tail off between the whistles and isn’t afraid to mix it up after the whistle if need be; this season alone, he sat in the penalty box for 120 minutes and is a physical presence at both ends of the ice.
NOTE: BlueJackets.com will be profiling some of this year's NHL Draft prospects between now and the draft, to be held June 30 at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. Check the CBJ Today regularly to get the latest on prospects who could become Blue Jackets on draft day.
Anthony Mantha is one of the oldest players in this year’s draft, born just a day after the cutoff for the 2012 NHL Draft. His day-late birthday served to his advantage, climbing in the draft rankings from 2012 to 2013.
In a year’s time, Mantha doubled his goal total and increased his point total by 38 points during that span, landing him the 10th spot on the final 2013 NHL Draft rankings released by Central Scouting.
The 6-foot-4 left winger uses his size to his advantage by holding the zone and getting involved physically. His size helps him break through checks and win board battles for the puck, and he's considered to be one of the more physical players in this year's class.
Though he is not a fighter, Mantha took 71 penalty minutes this season for Val-d’Or. His large frame also helps create traffic and screens in front of goaltenders, which has led to a lot of great scoring chances.
Despite his size, Mantha is an impressive skater with great acceleration and quick speed at both ends of the ice, often out-skating opponents and creating offense by winning races. His good balance and quick thinking also help him pull up and release a quick shot on the rush or make plays in traffic - something that is a requirement at the next level.
With four of the best teams in major junior hockey convening in Saskatoon, things were bound to get interesting at the MasterCard Memorial Cup.
For the second consecutive year (and the second time in tournament history) all four teams sport a 1-1 record through the first two games of head-to-head competition, ensuring that a tiebreaker will take place on Thursday night at the Credit Union Centre. Monday night contributed the latest entertaining twist of this Memorial Cup, as the Portland Winterhawks exploded for three straight goals to put away a furious comeback by the London Knights.
London, down 3-0 and with things looking bleak after a sweet goal by Portland's Ty Rattie, put its work boots on as you would expect Dale Hunter's team to do and made things really exciting in a hurry. Scott Harrington scored the 3-1 goal and it was followed by Bo Horvat making it a one-goal game late in the second period, setting up for a third period that won't soon be forgotten by those who follow junior hockey and the Memorial Cup.
Alex Broadhurst's tying goal in the early stages of the third period looked as if it would be a breaking point for the Winterhawks, but Portland's poise came to the fore.
The Winterhawks answered with three goals of their own - two of which, 23 seconds apart, came moments after the Knights tied the game. Derrick Pouliot and Chase De Leo did the permanent damage and made sure the Winterhawks would escape the first two games of the round robin with a split, but it didn't come easy with the game hanging in the balance.