From the Booth: Tony Brown Talks Draft Picks & New FacesOct 14, 2020
Hello again Monsters fans! We’re back following a few extremely newsy weeks for the Monsters and Blue Jackets. This week, we’ll touch on CBJ’s draft haul, some shifting sands roster-wise for the Jackets, and an exciting array of Cleveland's recently-announced AHL signings.
Blue Jackets Bound
This year’s NHL Entry Draft certainly felt unique given its all-virtual format, but the spectacle of watching promising young players fulfill their dreams of joining the world’s best league was entertaining as ever. This year, the Columbus Blue Jackets added five players to their developmental pipeline with one pick each in the first, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth rounds.
With the 21st selection in the draft, Columbus spent their first-round choice on an exciting offensive weapon, Russian forward Yegor Chinakhov of the KHL’s Avangard Omsk. In the third and fourth rounds, the Blue Jackets drafted a pair of junior teammates with TPS Jr. of Finland’s Jr. SM-Liiga, Slovakian defenseman Samuel Knazko (third round, 78th overall) and Finnish forward Mikael Pyyhtia (fourth round, 114th overall), while choosing Norwegian blue-liner Ole Julian Bjorgvik-Holm from the OHL’s Mississauga Steelheads in the fifth round (145th overall). Rounding things out for the Jackets was their selection of Swedish d-man Samuel Johannesson of the SHL’s Rogle BK in round six (176th overall).
While it’s unlikely we’ll see any of these players in North America in the near term, this influx of skilled, and for the first time in Columbus’ franchise history, exclusively European talent, will surely play a major role in the Jackets’ plans over the next handful of seasons. Welcome to all the new faces!
The NHL Draft and subsequent free agency period almost always carries with it a bittersweet feeling as familiar names find new homes and unfamiliar players emerge on sometimes unanticipated rosters.
From a Jackets perspective, the team’s splashiest maneuver thus far was likely the club’s acquisition of top-six center Max Domi from Montreal in a deal that saw former-Monsters Calder Cup Champion Josh Anderson head to the Canadiens. The Jackets made several additional moves too, snagging forward Cliff Pu from Florida in exchange for defenseman Markus Nutivaara, while former longtime Minnesota Wild captain Mikko Koivu and depth defenseman Gavin Bayreuther inked contracts as free agents.
Both key contributors in Cleveland over the past few seasons, goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks and forward Kole Sherwood signed extensions with the Jackets recently, but five players remain restricted free agents for Columbus, with four of those individuals (defenseman Gabriel Carlsson and forwards Ryan MacInnis, Kevin Stenlund, and Calvin Thurkauf) serving as major pieces for the Monsters in recent seasons.
As the offseason continues, we’ll keep our eyes peeled for relevant movement from a Cleveland point of view as we creep closer to the start of the 2020-21 campaign.
The Boys are Back!
Entering this week, the Monsters had just five AHL contracts on the books for the upcoming season (forwards Brett Gallant, Adam Helewka, Zach Jordan, and Matthew Struthers, and defenseman Wyatt Newpower), but Cleveland fans received welcomed news on Monday with the club’s announcement that three lineup staples from recent seasons would be back in Northeast Ohio this year.
Forward Justin Scott, the franchise’s second-leading skater in all-time appearances, defenseman Dillon Simpson, and goaltender/coach Brad Thiessen all inked AHL deals, returning to Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse for their fifth, third, and sixth seasons with the Monsters, respectively.
On Wednesday, Cleveland also announced the signing of experienced AHL forward Tyler Sikura for the 2020-21 season. A former captain during his college days at Dartmouth, Sikura served as a member of the Rockford IceHogs’ leadership group in recent seasons and is a proven producer at the AHL level.
Following Sikura’s addition, the Monsters now have nine AHL contracts on the books for 2020-21 (Gallant, Helewka, Jordan, Newpower, Scott, Sikura, Simpson, Struthers, and Thiessen) – six forwards, two defensemen, and one goaltender. In my estimation, that’s an incredibly strong AHL foundation around which to build this season for returning head coach Mike Eaves and his staff.
Remember, submit below or tweet any questions you may have – hockey-related or otherwise – using the #MonstersMailbag hashtag! Until next time, please continue to wash your hands, wear your masks, and create your specific voting plan as we speed toward Nov. 3!
Be well and stay safe!