The Blue Jackets’ first-round picks have yet to develop. But where?



Much of the future of the Columbus Blue Jackets lies in Michigan, where first-round pick Kent Johnson plays up front, and Wisconsin, where first-round pick Corson Ceulemans plays on defense.

He is also present in the form of first-round pick Yegor Chinakhov, a right winger, and first-round pick Cole Sillinger, a center. This is one of the main reasons the “5th Line” goes to Nationwide Arena or sinks into a chair to watch exhibition games.

Will Chinakhov and Sillinger be part of the squad? Should they?

“We are very happy with their game,” said general manager Jarmo Kekalainen on Thursday. “I think they were a bit tired the last two games. We will continue to assess and talk about it. We will meet today and talk again.

“We will find a solution on Sunday.

Sunday is the day the roster is reduced to its regular season count, likely 23. As of this writing, the Jackets have 30 in camp, including center Max Domi, who has been cleared in. in contact after shoulder surgery in the offseason.

The Jackets started their exhibition season 4-1-1. Does that mean anything? Looking at it, one wonders how well their defense will hold up in 82 games. We are looking for glimpses of Adam Boqvist, 21, and Jake Bean, 23, the newly acquired defenders.

Boqvist has a certain audacity in his attacking game, which is already starting to show itself.

Overall, these jackets were fun to watch. They play a faster game and they are faster on the counter attack than last year’s version. Their power play, which has run on dirty fuel for years, produces pure, clean energy. It may or may not mean anything once the games count, but it’s a stark contrast to the dumpster fires of the past.

Jake Voracek, acquired as part of the Cam Atkinson deal with Philadelphia, clicked with Patrik Laine – which was the point of the exchange.

Who will play between Voracek and Laine? That’s a hell of a question. Right now, he looks like Boone Jenner.

Sillinger, 18, took a top-level test drive last month and performed well. Things got a bit rich for him as camp unfolded and opposing teams started to mix more veterans into their show rosters. His skate needs a little work. Her heavy wrist lash may need some tweaking.

Where should it be polite? At the level of the NHL? At the AHL level? Back with his junior team in Medicine Hat?

It’s one of the biggest decisions the team have to make ahead of the final cups on Sunday. What to do with this talented teenager?

“It all depends on physical maturity, mental maturity and where is the best place for a young child to succeed and continue to develop,” Kekalainen said. “It’s much better to play every night.

Chinakhov, 20, has played against men in the KHL and does not have the defensive responsibilities of a center. If preseason is any indicator, he deserves, say, a regular third-row role; he can also lend his one-timer villain to the second power play unit.

“Both are going to be great players for us,” Kekalainen said. “I have no questions in my mind. They might get there sooner, or it might take longer. They will tell us how fast. We’re not going to keep the kids around just to get them in and out of the lineup. It is of no use to their development or to their self-confidence.

Sillinger is mature for a teenager, there is no doubt about it. He also plays a position that is paramount, especially here in Columbus. What Kekalainen and coach Brad Larsen have to decide is how – and when – to adapt Sillinger in the future.

The metropolitan division is in transition. The recent powers, Pittsburgh and Washington, are in their thirties and their windows of opportunity for the Stanley Cup are closing. The jackets are in a different place. They will enter the regular season with an average age of around 26. They’re trying to build a rocket.

Among fans, some are whispering that the Jackets could sneak into some teams and threaten to advance to the playoffs this season. May be. But their chance to fight, which is the point of all the effort, will come when their cache of first-round picks is well developed.

That includes next year’s first-round pick pair. Indeed, June 24, 2022 may be as important a day for the franchise as July 23, 2021. If so, it will add more propulsion in the direction of true aspiration.

“We were (an older, more experienced team) two years ago when we got started,” Kekalainen said, referring to the pre-exodus days of spring 2019.

“Now we are in a different situation. Call it a “reset,” Kekalainen said. “We cannot get ahead of ourselves. We have to grow up. We now have some promising players, some of them who are not even here yet. That will take time.

The Jackets have two more exhibition games, Friday in St. Louis and Saturday at home against the Penguins. Then the final cuts. The season opener is Thursday against the Arizona Coyotes at Nationwide Arena.



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