If what we've seen since the start of training camp is any indication, Andrew Peeke may not be a third-pairing defenseman for very long.
Peeke, selected early in the second round in the 2016 draft, was someone that the Columbus Blue Jackets' organization felt had top-pairing potential. At 6'3" and 200lbs, he was advertised as a smooth skater with good size. He displayed a high hockey IQ and was team captain for his final year at Notre Dame, the 2018-19 season.
Later in 2019, Peeke nearly made the roster as a 21-year-old, but was the final cut from an (at the time) loaded blueline. Former coach John Tortorella spoke highly of him at the time, saying that he had "made a huge step" in camp.
Peeke would break his way into the Blue Jackets lineup that season due to a bevy of injuries, but would play in just 22 games and averaged only around 13 minutes of time on ice per game. Last season, Peeke again saw limited action, appearing in 11 games. His ice time saw a jump, to around 17 minutes. I those 33 combined games, he was fine, but there was very little "wow" factor to his game.
Enter: Fall, 2021. Peeke, 23, came in to camp expected to make the roster for the first time.
He did not disappoint, and with the regular season underway, continues to look like the player the Blue Jackets thought he could be five years ago when they drafted him, grit and all.
Andrew Peeke is really leaning into being the take-no-crap defenseman on this team. #CBJ— Jeff Svoboda (@JacketsInsider) October 15, 2021
For a team that was said to a not have much of a physical game — especially without Zac Rinaldo, who was signed to bring just that to the team — Peeke showed that he'll drop the gloves and is willing to bring that toughness to the team. He didn't win it, but in fighting the 6'4", 220lb Lawson Crouse in the season opener against the Arizona Coyotes, Peeke picked up his first career fighting major and sent the message that the Blue Jackets won't be bullied.
In a career high 22 minutes against the Coyotes, Peeke also notched his 7th career point, assisting on a Max Domi goal. Peeke started the sequence with a good look to find rookie Cole Sillinger, who dropped the puck to Domi.
Peeke is also showing that he has the ability to make the right play at the right time. In Saturday's first period against Seattle, the Kraken's Jamie Oleksiak had the best opportunity of either team to score. But it was Peeke who laid out to take the puck, preventing Columbus goalie Elvis Merzlikins from making what would have been a tough save.
His vision and anticipation of plays has also looked sharp, clogging the passing lanes, winning corner battles, and when he’s had the puck, has made crisp passes.
It's early, yes, but it could be time to look at Peeke on the third pairing as a brief stepping stone into a larger role with the team.