The Columbus Blue Jackets have a stacked blue line, and going into the 2019-20 season it was widely seen as the team's strongest (and most crowded) position. But don't tell that to Andrew Peeke, the former Notre Dame captain and second-round pick of the Blue Jackets, who is taking this opportunity seriously.
Peeke's game has been building, and it began last month at the NHL Prospects Tournament in Traverse City. If not for Alexandre Texier's strong performance, we might be talking more about Peeke – but because he's still here, a week before the season begins, that's enough evidence. Also impressive is Peeke's ability to stick with the club throughout training camp and preseason, despite the Blue Jackets' plethora of NHL-level defensemen.
In his most recent performance (a 4-3 OT loss in Buffalo on Wednesday) in which the Blue Jackets dressed mainly AHL players while the Sabres dressed their NHL roster, assistant coach Brad Shaw marveled at how the rookie performed.
#CBJ coach Brad Shaw impressed with rookie D Andrew Peeke. I thought this was his most decisive game. He played assertive. I thought his reads were exceptional. He really jumped into the play offensively when it warranted it.— Jeff Svoboda (@JacketsInsider) September 26, 2019
It appears likely that the Blue Jackets will head into the 2019-20 season with eight defensemen on their roster, and the only two waiver-exempt defenseman still with the club are Vladislav Gavrikov and Peeke, meaning that the final roster spot is likely a battle between those two.
Peeke would, in theory, be the easier of the two to be sent to the Cleveland Monsters as Gavrikov came over to the NHL from Russia, but the fact that Peeke has stuck with the Blue Jackets this long is a testament to his readiness for the next level. His name wasn't on many radars entering training camp, but he's put himself squarely in the conversation.
Regardless of whether he is sent to Cleveland or stays with the big club, Peeke should see some action in the NHL this season – and that's encouraging as he continues his development.