Four games in five days.
That's 12 periods of hockey that will give us a first look at the potential future of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
It all starts Thursday, September 16th, at the NHL Prospect Tournament in Traverse City, Michigan.
Cole Sillinger and Yegor Chinakhov, first round draft picks in the Covid era, are sure to garner most of the attention. Sillinger, 18, will be given the chance to make the main roster - a chance that starts in Traverse City. For the 20-year-old Chinakhov, the KHL Rookie of the Year this past season, it's an opportunity to show that he, too, is worthy of a spot on the roster.
Because of their young age, either of these players would really need to dazzle in Traverse City (and in the preseason) to have their NHL careers start in October. Starting the season in Cleveland with the Blue Jackets' AHL affiliate is the more likely outcome, but time will tell.
These are not the only two players to keep a close eye on, though. Here are three other Blue Jackets to watch during the tournament:
Christiansen is a two-way defenseman and entering the second year of his three-year entry level contract with Columbus. Before COVID-19 cut the WHL's season short in 2019-20, Christiansen led all defensemen with 22 goals and 50 points in 38 games. A puck-moving blueliner is never a bad thing, provided it doesn't come at the detriment of their defensive play. The offense is there, the NHL-level of defense is still a work in progress. Christiansen needs a little more experience to get a chance to play in Columbus, with the T.C. tournament an excellent opportunity.
After a couple of tough first years in the OHL (21 points in 108 games), Angle flipped a switch in the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons, scoring 111 points (49 goals, 62 assists) in 120 combined games. He continued the scoring frenzy in Cleveland earlier this season, with 11 goals and 13 points in 23 games - a pace of more than a point a game. Angle is a shifty skater who uses his small frame (5'10", 180lbs) to elude defenders. He's a longshot to make the roster to start the season, but the soon-to-be 21-year-old can grab the attention of the coaching staff with a strong Traverse City performance.
Dunne, 22, is the only of these players (or anyone else on Columbus' T.C. roster) to play in the NHL. He joined the Blue Jackets for six games in the 2020-21 season, and while he didn't pick up a point, he appeared comfortable and kept pace with the NHL level. Dunne scored eight goals in 15 games with the Cleveland Monsters, showing that he has a scoring touch. Dunne has size (6'4", 210lbs) and plays center, Columbus' weakest position. An impressive camp could give Dunne another crack to play at Nationwide.