Columbus Blue Jackets Notebook: Jenner, Erixon Returned

By Joe Depto (@JoeDepto)

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With just over 24 hours remaining until the 2013 rosters must be finalized, the Columbus Blue Jackets’ 2013 opening night roster seems to have already taken shape.

This afternoon, the club announced that 2011 second round draft pick Boone Jenner would be returned to Oshawa of the OHL, where he will likely finish the season. It should be noted that if Oshawa were to be eliminated from the 2013 OHL playoffs before the Columbus Blue Jackets season ends, Jenner could be back in Columbus for the final stretch of the 2013 season. Whether that is probable or not will be told in the coming months.

In addition to Jenner, defenseman Tim Erixon, who was acquired last summer from the New York Rangers as part of the Rick Nash trade, will be returned to the Springfield Falcons of the AHL. Erixon was often paired with Adrian Aucoin throughout camp and was in a bona fide battle with John Moore, the club’s first round pick in 2009, for the sixth defensive spot on the Blue Jackets’ opening night roster.

With both of these moves in the books, the Columbus Blue Jackets are now under the NHL’s roster limit. If the CBJ want to make a move between now and 3pm EST tomorrow afternoon, it is possible to do so, but it appears unlikely.

As a result, the projected opening night lines could very well be the following :

At forward :

Umberger – Brassard – Atkinson

Dubinsky – Anisimov – Dorsett

Foligno – Johansen – Prospal

Letestu/Calvert – MacKenzie – Boll

And at defense :

Wisniewski – Johnson

Tyutin – Nikitin

Moore – Aucoin

Savard (likely a healthy scratch)

Here are a few notes and personal thoughts on the Columbus Blue Jackets lineup as it currently stands :

– As of this writing, Head Coach Todd Richards has not named a definite starting goalie for Saturday night’s game in Nashville, nor has he stated that either Sergei Bobrovsky or Steve Mason will have a definitive inside track towards the starting job. I’ve been closely watching both throughout camp this week, and while it would be easy to give Bobrovsky the nod over Mason due to his massive upside and strong physical tools (and Mason’s recent struggles, but we’ll come back to that another day), I strongly agree with Richards’ decision to let this situation play itself out. Both players are currently in the final year of their respective contracts and both have pending RFA status after this season as well. This could very well be Steve Mason’s last chance to prove his worth as a starting goalie to the Columbus organization. It also might be Bobrovsky’s golden opportunity to asset himself as a legitimate number one goaltender in the NHL after spending two seasons in the shadows in Philadelphia. Some continuous competition should bring out the best in both players.

– Now that the overall process of Boone Jenner being invited to camp and then being returned to the OHL has taken full circle, It’s easy to come away with a significantly more positive feeling about his future with the club. Simply put, having Jenner invited to camp said volumes about where the Blue Jackets see the 2011 second round pick fitting into their future. Between the shortened season burning a year of his eligibility and the team’s current ability to provide enough productive depth on the third and fourth lines, returning Jenner to Oshawa makes perfect sense. Nonetheless, it does not mean that Jenner currently lacks the ability to produce at the NHL level – quite the opposite. Jenner demonstrated a strong work ethic and hustle to his game throughout camp and seeing him again this season would not be a surprise in the least. I expect Jenner to have an inside track to make the team for the 2013-14 season if he does not play in Columbus again this season.

– With Ryan Johansen making the team, Todd Richards is clearly sending the message that having three balanced lines is a priority. Johansen will likely start the season flanked by the newly acquired wing Nick Foligno and veteran Vinny Prospal. It provides the best of both worlds for Johansen – he’s not required to play simply a stereotypical checking line role despite playing on the third line and he will be accompanied by both a veteran with a scoring touch and a younger wing in Foligno who can use his physical game to create space for Johansen on the forecheck and won’t be afraid to use both his size and skill. Johansen impressed me with his hands and overall intangibles at camp. While his definitive identity with the club may not yet feature an abundance of clairvoyance attached to it, it should excite CBJ fans with its’ potential.

– Via Aaron Portzline’s report in the Columbus Dispatch this afternoon, Cam Atkinson, who did not practice yesterday at camp, skated on his own today while dealing with a lower body injury. Not word yet on if he will skate on Friday or whether or not his status for Saturday’s game against the Predators is in question. Atkinson could be due for a breakout season (see Bob McKenzie’s thoughts on him if you think I’ve lost it by saying so), and having his presence in the lineup can only be a boon for the team’s offense.

– Many have asked me whether or not I felt John Moore making the team over Tim Erixon was a surprise. The answer is a no, but I thought Tim Erixon showed plenty of NHL-ready ability at camp. Some of his breakout passes did fall on the errant side and John Moore, to his credit, was very impressive. Nearly four years have passed since Moore was drafted as a first round pick and Moore’s 69 games of NHL experience certainly do make him the easier choice for the sixth spot. Erixon’s upside is massive – many in the New York Rangers’ camp felt he would have been given a shot to make the team this season had he remained there. Nonetheless, it’s hard to fault the Blue Jackets’ logic in having him be the lead dog in Springfield, rather than a potential press box dweller in Columbus, a role that another young CBJ defenseman, David Savard, seems likely to start the season playing.

– The team has not yet named and a captain and I wouldn’t expect one to be named anytime soon. Columbus is not taking the naming of a team captain lightly after the end of the Rich Nash era in the Blue Jackets’ organization.

– You can follow Joe Depto on Twitter at @JoeDepto


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