The Columbus Blue Jackets prospects have shown well through three games at the NHL Prospects Tournament in Traverse City, Michigan.
The team is 3-0-0, yes, but perhaps more importantly, the players expected to perform well have somehow exceeded expectations.
Yegor Chinakhov has been the best player at the tournament, scoring six goals through three games, and showcasing the rocket of a shot that is expected to be an asset at the NHL level. Against prospect-level goalies, it's borderline unfair. Cole Sillinger is quietly second in the tournament with 2-3-5 in three games and looks the part of a surefire NHL player with top-six upside. Josh Dunne, who was named captain of the team, had the overtime game-winning goal in the first game, and has followed that up with solid two-way play, and has posted 2-1-3 in three games. Tyler Angle, the forgotten man on the top line featuring Chinakhov and Sillinger, is following up a quietly excellent AHL campaign with 0-4-4 in three games. Lastly, defenseman Jacob Christiansen leads the tournament with five assists.
As it stands, the Blue Jackets have the top three scorers in the entire tournament heading into the final day of the round-robin. And while the club and their prospects hope to finish the tournament with a strong showing, it's difficult to not look towards the start of training camp, which begins (on ice) in earnest this Thursday.
Chinakhov and Sillinger, in particular, each have a decent chance of making the roster, but they could be fighting for the same spot. The Blue Jackets already have a plethora of NHL-caliber bottom-six type forwards, and there's a real argument to be made regarding whether either player would be better served in a limited role with sheltered minutes as opposed to being a key player in the AHL.
It's worth noting that, while some aforementioned players will surely be sent to the AHL for further development, Sillinger could be sent to either the AHL or back to junior, though the latter is looking less likely by the day.
While it's unlikely that Christiansen makes the big team out of camp, someone like Dunne could make sense at the bottom of the roster, especially since the Blue Jackets are lacking at the center ice position. Others, like Angle and Carson Meyer, are hoping to simply make life difficult for the front office as they pare down the roster. But it goes without saying that all eyes will be on Chinakhov and Sillinger as camp opens later this week.