Prospect Report: Monsters Who Could Help Down the Stretch

By Paul Berthelot on March 9, 2019 at 8:00 am
Adam Clendening goes up against Nikita Kucherov as the Columbus Blue Jackets take on the Tampa Bay Lightning
Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports
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With the current state the Columbus Blue Jackets are in, it seems wrong to discuss the future. So today’s focus for the prospect report will be on players who could potentially help the team at the NHL level as they continue this playoff push.

One of the bigger issues the Blue Jackets have right now is scoring. Or lack of scoring to be precise.

It would be ideal if they had a player in the American Hockey League who could come up and provide an offensive spark. Unfortunately the Monsters are very light on skilled forwards. Offensively their leaders in points are Zac Dalpe, Mark Letestu, and Nathan Gerbe. All players who have extended time in the NHL and have shown they are not much more than bottom six players.

Ideally a younger player with upside could be brought up. Again the Monsters are light on those players, as one now plays in the Ottawa system (Vitali Abramov), one is already in the NHL (Eric Robinson) and one is injured (Sonny Milano).

Even if Milano was healthy it seems unlikely the team would even call him up and if they did, it’s unlikely he would get more than the five to six minutes he was getting before he got sent down.

With no forwards we turn to the defense and here there are a couple players who could provide some instant help. The Blue Jackets third pair has been disastrous.

Adam McQuaid has not had the impact many thought he would, and Scott Harrington does not look like an NHL player right now. A lack of skating skills seems to be hurting both blueliners.

McQuaid was brought in because of his “snarl” but his lack of foot speed is glaringly obvious. With Harrington it’s his decision making. He tries to do way too much on the ice. He jumps into the play in the offensive zone or tries to lead the rush through the neutral zone. Normally this is fine for your defensemen to do, but Harrington doesn’t have the skill of a Seth Jones or Zach Werenski and has trouble getting back. When Harrington does this it takes away an opportunity from a player much better suited to do so.

In Cleveland there are a couple players who may be able to help on the back-end. If the Blue Jackets want to keep a big body shutdown type of player, they could try Gabriel Carlsson. Carlsson hasn’t lived up to his first round draft position but at this stage you take him for what he is. He is a big body defensemen who can stay home and who plays within his means. He makes the simple plays: quick passes up to the forwards or to his defense partner.

If the Blue Jackets wanted to swing for the fences, they should call up Adam Clendening and see if he can provide an offensive spark from the back-end. He has 32 points in 39 games, tying him for third on the Monsters. He can move the puck – he has 28 assists, and it’s not like he’s just racking up cheap secondary assists. He has 16 primary assists and per his 0.42 primary assist rate per games, is tied for first among all defensemen who have played at least 20 AHL games.

Puck moving has always been a strength of Clendening’s. He’s been a point producer at all every stage of his minor league and amateur career. He hasn’t had the same success in the NHL but he also hasn’t had much of a chance. His longest NHL stint was 31 games back in 2016-17 with the New York Rangers. There he put up 11 points. Not great but not terrible and certainly better than a McQuaid or Harrington.

At 26, there isn’t much upside to Clendening. He is someone who could may not be a big point producer at the NHL level, but could be a similar player to Markus Nutivaara. Nutivaara doesn’t put up many points, but he can move the puck does more than just the typical off the glass and out.

A move like this isn’t going to push the Blue Jackets over the top but it could be that little spark they need to push themselves into the playoffs.

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