Blue Jackets prospects face off in Memorial Cup Tournament
May 22, 2014 at 10:21a ET
The Columbus Blue Jackets' NHL season may be done but that doesn't mean there aren't Jackets still playing hockey.
Two Blue Jackets prospects, Josh Anderson of the London Knights and Kerby Rychel of the Guelph Storm were members of two of the four teams competing in this year's Memorial Cup Tournament. The round robin tournament draws together the three champions within the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) as well as the host city's team.
Josh Anderson and the Knights, members of the Ontario Hockey League, qualified for their third Memorial Cup in a row -- this year as the host team. They lost their first two games and faced a must win last night against Kerby and the Guelph Storm who entered the game 2-0.
The Knights lost 7-2. It marked their earliest exit from the Memorial Cup in three recent tries.
Prior to last night's game, Blue Jackets Development Coach Chris Clark offered his thoughts on Josh and London's struggles in this year's Cup tournament.
"It's the way the team played lately," Clark said. "Their top players haven't the best on the ice and you need your best players to be your best players."
Clark was in town for the first weekend of the tournament to see Anderson and Rychel play. He keeps in touch with Jackets prospects throughout the year to give them feedback on their progress. While he texted both Rychel and Anderson during the tournament he wanted their focus to stay on the tournament itself.
"Josh is a big, good skating power forward and the more he plays physical, the more room he creates," Clark said. "He and the team need to be more aggressive physically -- they have the skill to win."
The Knights had struggled to score throughout the tournament. They were shut out in their first game against Val d'Or of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League despite lodging 51 shots on goal. They finally got back to getting goals in their second game against the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League but lost 5-2.
"The momentum was there," Anderson said. "But we took too many penalties and it cost us the game."
Heading in to last night's game Anderson felt confident they could take on the Storm. They had faced one another in the OHL finals last month in which Guelph ultimately eliminated the Knights.
"We played them a lot," Anderson said. "We knew what they were going to come at us."
Ultimately, although Anderson did score the second goal for the Knights, they were unable to crack Guelph's strategy and ended their tournament championship hopes.
As a Jackets prospect, Anderson's focus now shifts to this summer's training camp in Columbus.
"I want to show (the organization) that I'm a hard worker on and off the ice and do everything that I can to make the team," Anderson said. "Hopefully, I can do the same thing that Boone Jenner did (by making the NHL his rookie year)."
Anderson says he's heard positive feedback from the organization about his progress. He is used to working hard for his achievements -- he made the London Knights as an undrafted player and went on to be drafted by the Blue Jackets in 2012, compete in this year's World Junior Championships and was named assistant captain for the Knights.
"(The Jackets) like me as a player and they like what I do," Anderson said. "They like how I'm playing so far so I gotta keep that up."
Clark remains optimistic on Anderson and doesn't look at the tournament as the only example of his play. Clark says he and his team will use it as part of the evaluation and feedback they provide to players throughout the off season.
"The full season and the playoffs are two different seasons and together they represent a big body of work," Clark said. "We'll evaluate their play from beginning to end."
While Anderson's CHL career is over, Rychel and Guelph have earned a spot in the Memorial Cup Championship game this Sunday at 4 p.m. in London, Ontario.
This is part one of a two part series that will track Blue Jackets' prospects performance in the 2014 Memorial Cup Tournament. Part two will focus on Kerby Rychel's tournament experience.