Blue Jackets announce Traverse City roster
August 31, 2017, 5:41 PM ET [13 Comments]
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The Blue Jackets have announced the roster they will be sending to Traverse City in the annual prospect tournament.
At first glance this roster is what you would expect. Pierre-Luc Dubois is here, as is Vitali Abramov. The recent signees are here in Sam Vigneault, Bobby MacIntyre, and Doyle Somerby. As you look deeper at the roster however two things jump out. First and Aaron Portzline mentioned this on Twitter, no player from the Jackets 2017 draft is here.
This is because the Jackets drafted four players who are playing in Europe and three headed to the NCAA. European leagues are starting to get underway and the NCAA does not allow its players to partake in NHL events like this. This is why Andrew Peeke is also not on the roster.
The other notable thing from the roster is that all nine free agent invites are from the OHL. Who knows if any will end up getting signed, but this is something I discussed when I wrote about the Jackets unconventional draft strategy. You can sign CHL players as undrafted free agents but not those who played in Europe. If a player stands out in the tournament the Jackets could easily sign him to a contract, and we know the Jackets like undrafted OHL players. They signed Justin Scott and Jordan Maletta, both of whom are on the roster out of the OHL, as well as Dante Saliutro who they traded this off-season, not to mention MacIntyre who they just inked to an AHL deal.
So who from this roster might earn an NHL contract? One player that might have a shot is Luke Kirwin. He played for Flint with Kole Sherwood so he is a player the Jackets would be very familiar with. Kirwin was someone who had some hype in his 16 year old season and was someone who was expected to be drafted in the 2016 draft. He stands 6’2 and had some people thinking he could be a big-time power forward. Kirwin struggled his draft season with just four points in 31 games for the Windsor Spitfires and was traded to the Flint Firebirds. With Flint his play was better with 12 points in 32 games, but it still wasn’t enough to get him selected.
Early in the 2016-17 season Kirwin looked like he had figured it out and put everything together. He put up 18 points in his first 17 games, including a four goal, five point effort against Ottawa. In his 18th game he suffered a concussion which derailed his season. He missed two months with the injury and when he returned he wasn’t the same player. He had just four points in 14 games to end the season. If he’s healthy and shows he’s back to his early season form this tournament he could very well earn himself a contract.
The other two that standout are Stephen Desrocher and Medric Mercier. Both were overaged defencemen, Desrocher playing for Kingston and Mercier for Oshawa. They are you prototypical Blue Jackets defencemen, both are big standing 6’4 and 6’3 respectively, and both can skate. The difference with these two and why they standout is they are both good with the puck. They finished 11th and 12th among OHL defencemen scoring with Mercier edging out Desrocher 52-51 (though Desrocher had the slight edge in points per game due him only playing 65 games verses Mercier’s 67). They both like to jump up into the rush and get the puck on net. Desrocher fired 230 pucks at the net and Mercier 186. This helped them score a lot of goals, with Mercier actually leading all OHL d-men with 22.
Adding either player (or both) would be a solid addition to the system. The Jackets system needs defencemen who can move the puck. They have so many defensive defencmen but very few that profile as puck-movers. We’ve seen the impact having a puck mover can have at the NHL level, where would the Jackets have been without Zach Werenski, and we need to start seeing that more at the AHL level. Neither player is going to be Werenski, but they play that same style which is badly needed in Cleveland.