Prospect Report: Keeping an Eye on Blue Jackets Abroad
Normally the NHL season would have started in early October, and in a typical year we would be talking about the Blue Jackets’ early season progress as the leaves change.
Of course, this is not a normal year, with the NHL currently in its offseason after the 2019-20 campaign did not end until September 28 due to the coronavirus four-month hiatus and two-month hiatus. bubble hockey that followed.
But while the NHL and AHL are still weighing how to move forward, with a current NHL start target date of January 1, the overseas leagues that closed along with the rest of the world in March. started their 2020-21 campaigns after avoiding a return to the ice to crown the playoff champions a season ago.
This means that while there is no professional hockey right now in North America, there is overseas, so the Blue Jackets have players on the ice. Prospects and even some players with NHL experience have traveled to Russia, Finland and other countries to continue to gain experience and in some cases just to stay sharp.
While we here at BlueJackets.com did a weekly outlook report a season ago to allow fans to keep an eye out for future Blue Jackets, we probably won’t be checking back every week this year until then. as things are heating up in all corners of the world.
But with a number of successful CBJ draft picks away from home, it seemed like the right time to make a first report on the season’s outlook. So, without further ado …
Marchenko shines: It’s hard to get much more than a goal per game, but that’s where 2018 second-round pick Kirill Marchenko is in the Russia-based KHL right now.
The 20-year-old Russian winger has been scorching, scoring a goal in his last four KHL games. Three of them have come since returning from a nearly month-long layoff, as Marchenko scored for his side SKA St. Petersburg last Wednesday in a win over Sochi, scored against his rival CSKA in the Army Derby, then scored again yesterday in a victory against Vityaz. Over those three games, he averaged over 15 minutes of ice time for division leader Bobrov team SKA.
The key to his prowess as a goalscorer was a fatal shot, as you can see from yesterday’s goal in the opener against Vityaz.
During the year, Marchenko played 11 games for the big club SKA, forming a 4-2-6 line. A year ago, at 19, a season in which he also played for the Russian team at the World Juniors, Marchenko scored seven goals and 16 points in 31 regular season games, then three goals in four games. playoffs.
Marchenko has two more years on his SKA contract, which means 2022-2023 is the earliest date he could join the Blue Jackets.
One player Marchenko has apparently been regrouped with in recent years is Dmitry Voronkov, Columbus’ fourth-round pick in the 2019 Draft who, like Marchenko, played at the KHL level a year ago at the age of 19 years old and skated on that same silver medal. the winning team of the world junior championships.
Although the two are not the same style of player – Marchenko appears to be a sniper from the wing, while Voronkov can play in the middle and is a massive body and presence in net – they each show a certain offensive ability at a young age in their native Russia.
Voronkov is also having a good start to the season with Ak Bars Kazan, leader of Kharlamov Divisoin, who scored three goals and five points in his first 13 games. Voronkov had a 5-7-12 line in 34 KHL games a year ago with Ak Bars and he has signed with the Kazan-based team over the next three seasons.
Chinakhov fills in the scoresheet: When general manager Jarmo Kekalainen announced that the Blue Jackets selected Russian forward Yegor Chinakhov with the 21st pick in the NHL Draft earlier this month, the response from many in the league was swift.
Rarely does a first-round pick surprise NHL draft experts, but Chinakhov’s pick did. The 19-year-old was not selected in his first year in the draft a summer ago, which has taken him off the radar of many analysts, despite having had an excellent season at the junior level in the Avangard Omsk system a year ago.
This year his KHL graduation was impressive, however, one of the reasons the Blue Jackets decided to take him to the first round. Chinakhov was on a five-goal streak in five games for Avangard when the Blue Jackets picked him up, and he followed it up last Monday with another goal in a win over Sochi.
What stands out from Chinakhov? Much like Marchenko, the answer is obvious – a thunderous shot that seems to leave goalies wondering what just happened after the puck passed them.
So far in the year, Chinakhov has been one of Avangard’s best players, scoring six goals and three assists for nine points in 16 games for a division-leading team Chernyshev. Four of those goals came on the power play, where that shot has its best chance of showing – and that must be an intriguing thought for CBJ fans on the road.
Tarasov bleaching: Also in the KHL, Monday was a pretty good day for CBJ 2017 third-round pick Daniil Tarasov.
The Russian goalkeeper had his first career KHL shutout, pushing his hometown side Salavat Yuleav Ufa to a 2-0 victory over Sochi (which has struggled in this outlook report). Tarasov made 28 saves, then received Ufa’s version of “Kepi” in the post-match locker room (that’s pretty stylish, it has to be said).
Tarasov was scheduled to spend the 2020-21 season in Cleveland to learn the North American game, but was loaned to Salavat Yulaev due to the pandemic. So far he has played two games at the KHL level, winning both starts and allowing just two goals on 45 shots (save percentage of 0.956). Tarasov, who spent the last year as a starter with Ässät of the Finnish Liiga in order to gain consistent playing time at the professional level, also appeared in a match at the junior level.
Time will tell how much time is available with Salavet Yulaev, who is fighting Avangard for the top spot in the Chernyshev division, but Tarasov has excellent height and is seen as a big prospect for the Jackets on the road.
Looking at the draft: Chinakhov was just one of five players Columbus picked in the draft earlier this month, with each of the other four prospects currently plying their trade in Europe. Here’s a quick rundown of how each is faring so far.
- D Samuel Knazko, TPS U-20 (Finland), third round pick: The Slovakian blue liner gets off to a good start with the league-leading TPS team, posting a 3-6-9 line in 14 games while winning a plus -10 rating.
- F Mikael Pyyhtia, TPS U-20 (Finland), fourth round pick: The Finnish forward impresses too, as Knazko’s teammate has six goals and 13 points in 10 games.
- D Ole Julian Bjorgvik-Holm, Manglerud Star (Norway), fifth round pick: The former blue defenseman for the Mississauga Steelheads is back in his homeland for now and recently scored his first pro goal. On the season, he has a 1-3-4 line in five games.
- Dr Samuel Johannesson, Rögle BK (Sweden), sixth round pick: The surager has skated at the top level of the SHL so far this season, with the 19-year-old having compiled one more goal, assist and differential -3 in eight games.
Bemstrom leads the overseas cavalry: A handful of CBJ-affiliated players have traveled abroad to start the season to gain more experience through loan deals, including Emil Bemstrom and Alexandre Texier.
Bemstrom, a CBJ rookie last year who had a 10-10-20 line in 56 games for the Blue Jackets, started the season with Finns HIFK, with five goals and nine points in eight games. Bemstrom is tied for second in the Liiga in goals and points and has recently scored overtime-winning goals in consecutive games.
He is joined in Finland by Veini Vehvilainen, the 2018 sixth-round pick who spent most of last year in goal with the Cleveland Monsters. Vehvilainen returns to JYP in his hometown of Jyvaskala, Finland, and is 2-1-2 with a 2.57 GAA and .907 save percentage. On two occasions before, Vehvilainen has won the title of goalkeeper of the year while playing in Finland with Kärpät.
Texier was supposed to start the season on loan with KalPa de la Liiga, whom he led in 2018-19, but a family emergency prompted him to return home to France, where he skates with his hometown team in Grenoble . So far, Texier has yet to play for Grenoble in the Ligue Magnus due to what is described as a “small leg injury” by local media.
In addition, two players with links to the CBJ started the year in their native Switzerland. Forward Calvin Thurkauf, who spent most of last year with Cleveland but skated in three games for Columbus, has one goal and one assist in five games with his hometown team EV Zug. Meanwhile, defenseman Tim Berni, who was due to make his North American debut for Cleveland this season, has no points in seven games when he returns from loan with the ZSC Lions.