The games have gotten progressively more difficult since the Blue Jackets opened up play against the Dallas Stars prospects last Friday. The round robin portion culminated in a 3-2 loss today to the St. Louis Blues prospects in Traverse City.
It was a back-and-forth game with the Blues giving the Blue Jackets all they could handle. Anytime a shift in momentum took place, the other side would manage to swing it back in the opposite direction.
The Blue Jackets ended their three-game set at 2-1-0 and will play in the NHL Prospects Tournament championship game against either the Carolina Hurricanes or the Chicago Blackhawks, depending on the outcome of this evening's game.
Either way, the Blue Jackets have plenty to improve upon as they move forward.
Having played very well throughout the tournament, Thurkauf continued his strong play with two assists on Monday. One came on a rebound off the Blues' goaltender that fell to Pierre-Luc Dubois (who buried the loose puck), and the other was a great touch pass to Paul Bittner.
— 1st Ohio Battery (@1stOhioBattery) September 11, 2017
Both plays illustrated the type of player he could be in the short and long term -- damn pesky. He was consistently around the puck, and when he didn't have the puck, he hounded the Blues with his forechecking.
He may not be bound for the NHL this season, but Thurkauf is cutting down his path to the league by showing that his skill set is more than capable of translating.
Much like Thurkauf, Bittner is having one heck of a tournament. Bittner was sidelined for large swaths of last season dealing with multiple medical maladies and it wasn't entirely clear if he was going to bounce back. If this tournament is any indication, Bittner may be back in a big way.
Similar to Thurkauf, he is hounding opposing teams when they have the puck and has shown that he isn't a one-dimensional player. He has provided much-needed depth to a club that looked top-heavy before the tournament started.
Thompson did a bit of everything for the St. Louis Blues. The 2016 first-round pick was around the puck all night. He played on the penalty kill and looked like one of the best players on the ice.
In scoring the game-winning goal, Thompson took the puck on his own and had a decision to make on a 2-on-1. He kept it and made sure he didn't miss, putting the Blues ahead for good with less than five minutes remaining in the third period. Given his frame, skill set, and ability to play all over the ice, Thompson looks like he'll be a mainstay in St. Louis for years to come.
As our own Jeff Svoboda mentioned last game, Kole Sherwood was moved down to the fourth line again Monday. He made the most of it while playing with Justin Scott and had a couple of point-blank opportunities that would've been goals if not for stout goaltending. ... The game today was a much more physical affair compared to the previous games. The Blue Jackets prospects have size advantages on most clubs but the Blues pushed back making this a stop-and-go game. ... Head coach John Madden on Thurkauf: "He's been our best player in the tournament by far. It's not just how many points he's getting, it's his 200-foot game. He pays attention to the little details of the game and he's a really intelligent hockey player."
Blue Jackets play Tuesday, Sept. 12 against TBD (championship game)