The Blue Jackets brought an NHL-heavy roster to Buffalo for their fourth preseason game where they were defeated by the Sabres 4-3.
Here are three takeaways from Saturday's contest:
Kent Johnson Is Special
Johnson already displayed his rare skills on several occasions last season--most notably his "Michigan goal"--and he did it again on Saturday, finding Justin Danforth with this beautiful no-look backhand pass from below the goal line, channeling his inner Patrick Kane.
Johnson has game-breaking ability, and if this preseason is any indication, could be in for a big year in 2023-24.
Denton Mateychuk Shines
The No. 12 overall pick in the 2022 Draft is going to give the Blue Jackets a tough decision to make. Unless he receives a waiver, he'll either be playing for the Blue Jackets or the WHL's Moose Jaw Warriors next season. However, his play in this year's training camp and preseason has to at least grant him consideration to make the team. He was fantastic on Saturday.
Elvis Merzlikins' Struggles Continue
According to hockeystatcards.com, Merzlikins saved -1.09 goals above expected, meaning the Blue Jackets allowed 2.91 expected goals, but gave up four real goals. Coming off a career-worst season in 2022-23, his lackluster play in training camp should be a major cause for concern.
- Patrik Laine played center and didn't look out of place. In fact, he played well, scoring two goals, including one where he was on the receiving end of a fantastic individual effort from David Jiricek.
- Special teams struggled, as the power play went 0/2 and the penalty kill went 3/6.
- James Malatesta was noticeable again with two high-danger chances. If he doesn't make the team, it won't be because of a lack of effort or performance.
The Jackets are back in action Monday night when they host the Blues at 7 p.m. ET.