Due to injuries and trades, the Blue Jackets' depth players are getting their time in the spotlight.
One of those players is Kole Sherwood, who has been with the organization since 2015. He went undrafted, but the Blue Jackets gave him a shot. The New Albany native had been held without a point in his first six NHL games. That would change on Monday night, as he notched the secondary assist of Stefan Matteau's breakaway goal that gave the Blue Jackets a 1-0 lead.
"They're on audition," said John Tortorella, regarding the players that have been called up from the taxi squad and/or AHL. "Jarmo (Kekalainen)'s looking at all situations with players: where the organization goes, where does everybody fit? So this is their opportunity."
Sherwood made the most of his audition last night, as he controlled the puck and made a simple pass back to Seth Jones. The pass looked easy, but Sherwood put it right on Jones' stick, which in turn gave Jones the ability to find a streaking Matteau.
Stefan! Spicy! pic.twitter.com/xRnlmLkH1Z— 1st Ohio Battery (@1stOhioBattery) April 12, 2021
"Obviously it's nice to get points and chip in when you can, but (we)would have liked the other two points," said Sherwood postgame. "I thought (our line) played good. We all understand our role out there, and just try to maximize the opportunity."
He played on a line last night with Matteau and Kevin Stenlund, two big bodies. While Stenlund's game is more refined, it was Matteau who provided the scoring touch last night. With Sherwood's speed, this line can be an effective grinder line.
"We just wanted to come out and work hard and compete," said Sherwood. "That's the one thing we can control."
Although the Blue Jackets are out of the playoff race, they still have an opportunity to build something that they can carry over to next season with their remaining games. Players will be trying their hardest to make a good impression, as the Blue Jackets look to "reload," in the words of Kekalainen.
"We have a good chance here to come together as one and unite and become a family here," said Sherwood. "It's weird times obviously, but everyone's going to get some opportunity, so everyone's got something to play for here."
There are just 12 games remaining in this one-of-a-kind season, and the Blue Jackets' current roster is going to look significantly different for the next campaign. Zach Werenski, Boone Jenner, and Gustav Nyquist will return from injury, and Kekalainen may acquire players with the Blue Jackets' three first-round picks in the 2021 NHL Draft. That's why it's so important right now for players like Sherwood, Matteau, Mikhail Grigorenko, and others to empty their tank every game, in the hopes that they can earn their way into a new contract/onto the roster next year.
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