Pre-Training Camp Notebook: John Davidson, Jarmo Kekalainen, and Brad Larsen Meet the Media To Kick Off the 2022-23 Season

By Coby Maeir on September 20, 2022 at 10:15 am
Jarmo Kekalainen & John Davidson
Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

The Blue Jackets made John Davidson, Jarmo Kekalainen, and Brad Larsen available to the media on Monday prior to training camp, which starts with on-ice sessions on Thursday.

Let's jump right into the most notable bits of information.

Will Johnny Gaudreau & Patrik Laine play together? Who will center them?

Brad Larsen confirmed that the new star in town, Gaudreau, and the incumbent star Laine will be on opposite wings of the same line to begin training camp.

"It's not rocket science here," Larsen said. "I think everybody thinks that they're going to do well together – including me."

As for their center, Larsen suggests he'll give the early nod to captain Boone Jenner.

"[Jenner] would be my choice right out of the gate," he said. "[He's a] veteran guy, and I think you could compliment them. But again, if you go through Jack [Roslovic], you go through Boone, you go through [Cole Sillinger]...Those three guys all bring something a little bit different."

The balance between scoring goals and defending

Larsen said the key to making the playoffs is having a positive goal differential, noting that Dallas was the only team that made the playoffs last year with a negative goal differential at minus-8.

"We scored last year," he said. "We [have] got to swing the pendulum back a little bit. But it should not take away from our aggressiveness, how we attack, how we get after the game."

He added the importance of players playing a 200-foot game, in terms of being responsible at both ends of the ice. 

"We [have] got some fast guys, some skill guys," Larsen said. "I don't want to ever take the stick out of their hands, but they've got to meet us halfway here and make sure that we're doing the intangibles on the other side and to keep [the puck] out."

What roles will Kent Johnson & Kirill Marchenko play?

Larsen said he may look at playing top prospect Kent Johnson at center during camp. But as with all training camp decisions, Johnson's performance will ultimately dictate where he ends up – and the last thing the Blue Jackets want to do is stunt Johnson's growth.

"If [Johnson] looks ready, and he earns himself a spot, he will play," Larsen said. "If he doesn't look ready, well, then we've got to have some conversations. Same with Kirill."

What's the expectation for this season?

GM Jarmo Kekalainen was straightforward when stating his expectations for the Blue Jackets in 2022-23.

"We expect to make the playoffs every year," he said. "That's a goal that we always have here."

Defensive improvements

Kekalainen believes defense will improve internally based on player growth, highlighting Andrew Peeke's performance last season while noting he's gotten bigger and stronger over the summer. Kekalainen also said the signing of Erik Gudbranson brings size to the blue line and will make it difficult for offensive players to establish a net-front presence. 

"You can't win games 5-4 or 6-5 in this league and expect to get good results," Kekalainen said. "So, we have to be better as a team, as a five-man unit defensively...not just the defensemen."

Gaudreau's off-ice effect

John Davidson said Laine had "goose pimples" upon learning of Gaudreau's signing and is excited about what the signing might do to the attitude of the rest of the Blue Jackets.

"It tells you something," Davidson said. "It tells you, 'oh this is exciting.' Players might train a little harder. They might do this, they might do that. It's human nature. So it's going to be fun when this camp gets underway and Johnny's on the ice the coaching staff [has] the opportunity to try various players at center ice, various players on the other wing."

Training camp gets underway on Thursday with on-ice sessions at the OhioHealth Ice Haus and Nationwide Arena. A full schedule can be found here.