Dom Lunardo | April 15th, 2020
The Columbus Blue Jackets…the team that sent shock waves across the National Hockey League. It’s been just about 12 full months to the day since the Columbus Blue Jackets pulled off perhaps one of the biggest upsets in NHL history. During last spring’s first-round matchup against the heavily-favored (and President’s Trophy-winning) Tampa Bay Lighting, the Jackets went on to sweep the Bolts four games to zero. An encounter for the ages saw the Blue Jackets knock off a Lightning team that accumulated 128 points during the regular season. Absolutely unbelievable.
“Torts” and the Boys in Union Blue, Red, and Silver
As if last season in Columbus didn’t have enough elation and emotion, this season alone has been a real positive and interesting one for the Columbus Bue jackets. This campaign has seen the Jackets post a 33-22-15 record through 70 games, good enough for a spot (for now) in the NHL playoffs. This is all the more impressive given the long list of Blue Jackets who have spent time on the injured reserve (IR). Prominent names such as Josh Anderson, Seth Jones, Brandon Dubinsky, Cam Atkinson, and Oliver Bjorkstrand have all been injured this season. Despite the elongated list, Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella has told his group to leave the excuses at the door and just play. His team has done more than just play, and Tortorella himself is sure to be one of the finalists, if not the winner of the Jack Adams award, as coach of the year, by seasons end.
The Blue Jackets also have a few promising players coming through the development ranks, led, in large part by talented forward, Liam Foudy. Like any well-run organization, the drafting and development of players remain a top priority, and the Blue Jackets are no exception. So just who are some of these players “in the stem” for the Jackets and what can we expect from them when they don the union blue, red, and silver of Columbus.
Number 3: Veini Vehvilainen, Goaltender, Cleveland Monsters (AHL)
Finnish-born goaltender, Vehvilainen starts us off at number three as one of the future netminders in the Columbus crease. Blessed with natural size (6’1, 185 pounds), Jackets general manager, Jarmo Kekalainen has been very impressed with the development of Vehvilainen over the last couple of seasons as he continues to learn what it takes to be a pro at the National Hockey League level. Selected in the sixth round during the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, the Jackets believe they have a real talent on their hands with Vehvilainen. His stats have also been a real positive this year and are definitely worth mentioning. In 33 games this season with Cleveland Monsters of the American Hockey League, Vehvilainen has posted a .901 save percentage to go along with a 2.76 goals-against-average (GAA). As we’ve seen in the past season,s is always good to have competition in goal. Vehvilainen provides this in Columbus and a viable option in goal for the Blue Jackets.
Number 2: Kirill Marchenko, Left-Wing, SKA St. Petersburg (KHL)
If it weren’t for the sheer and utter brilliance of Liam Foudy, Russian native, Kirill Marchenko would take his place at number one, but instead comes in as the second-best prospect on the Blue Jackets. At 6’2, 180 Marchenko is a big and powerful specimen, with the potential upside of a poor man’s Evgeni Malkin. Marchenko possesses good puck skills and a long reach with a real eye for the net. Scots have marveled at his presence in the offensive zone and his ability to keep plays alive with his big frame. In seven games for Team Russia during the 2020 World Junior Tournament, Marchenko was one of the best forwards scoring 13 points in 14 games played. At 19 years of age, Marchenko is just tipping the scale of what he can be as a player. Blue Jackets fans should be elated at the mere thought of Kirill Marchenko,
Number 1: Liam Foudy, Center, London Knights (OHL)
Coming in at number one, and a consensus choice for the best prospect in the Blue Jackets organization by a wide margin is Toronto-born centerman, Liam Foudy. Currently playing for the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), Foudy has had a phenomenal season on so many different levels. For starters, Foudy stood out like a sore thumb for team Canada during this past winter’s IIHF 2020 Wolrd Junior Hockey Championships, a tournament that saw his native country, Canada win the gold medal against the mighty Russians. In 45 games this season with the Knights, Poudy tallied an astounding 28 goals, 40 assist, and 68 points, as one of the best players in all of junior hockey. At the World Juniors, Foudy scored 3 goals in 7 games and was one of Canada’s go-to players. This success even earned Foudy a call up to the Blue Jackets for two games. What a whirlwind for Foudy over the past 9-10 months.
As a player, Foudy has the complete package. A strong skater with a tremendous release, Foudy can elude defenders in the offensive zone with his strong hockey IQ and a knack for making plays. Foudy sees the ice very well and is an above-average distributor of the puck who loves to set up his teammates in grade-A scoring positions. The Jackets have themselves a real player in Foudy with what he brings to the table. With his junior career coming to an end, all indications point to Foudy making the permanent jump to the pros as early as next season.
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Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images