Blue Jackets notebook: Prospects learn, impress at camp

Peter Quenneville and other Blue Jackets prospects take to the ice at the 2014 Blue Jackets development camp.

Chris Predieri

Another development camp has come and gone. Their bags were packed and they have left Columbus. Another set of prospects took the first steps in learning that there’s more to being a professional hockey player than just playing the game.

As we enter the dog days of summer, where the sweltering sun beats down upon us and you yearn for any form of hockey, September seems so far away.

Last week was a first glimpse of some future Blue Jackets for fans. Columbus development coach Chris Clark was pleased with how the week went for the prospects, especially the inaugural 3-on-3 tournament and the competitiveness that it brought out in the players.

"You get the competitiveness," said Clark. "It starts off light. And if it’s a blowout, guys are upset. But if it gets tight, like it did, you’re going to see back-checking. You don’t see it right away, but guys don’t want to lose. They’re going to do what they can to get back and prevent goals."

"The whole time I was on the bench, they were asking ‘How many goals do we need?’ because it got tight. It was fun."

HEATING UP THE ICE

This development camp is a good thing for the prospects, not only for the learning experience that it provides, but also that it allows them to see what Columbus is like. For the organization, it is the first step in turning these players into Blue Jackets. By all accounts, it is a successful program.

"It was exactly what we wanted," Chris Clark said. "I didn’t want competitiveness on the ice, that much, to where they were hitting each other and battling in the corners. I wanted to stay away from anyone getting hurt. It’s not the right time of the season (for that)."

Next up for the players is the annual prospects tournament in Traverse City, Michigan (September 12-16). Hosted by the Detroit Red Wings, this tournament takes place just prior to training camp opening in Columbus.

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Columbus prospect Alexander Wennberg, picked 14th overall in the 2013 NHL Draft, looked good in camp. He displayed on-ice intelligence and good anticipation. He’ll come into training camp looking to make a push for a roster spot for the 2014-15 season.

"I’m really looking forward to it," said Wennberg. "It’s what I practice for. My goal is to come in and be one-hundred percent ready and have a good chance to make the team."

The 6-feet-1-inch tall, 183-pound center from Sweden got to experience the first-round playoff series between Columbus and Pittsburgh. He was impressed with the atmosphere surrounding the young, on-the-rise team.

"It was a great experience for me. I’m ready to make the team and be a part of it. I’m looking forward to being part of a young team moving forward. Hopefully next year will be even better, go further in the playoffs."

Last year, it was Ryan Murray and Boone Jenner who impressed the powers-that-be and made the team out of training camp. This year, Wennberg hopes to replicate that and perform well enough to earn a spot on the roster. Overall, he would seemingly have the best chance of accomplishing this when September rolls around.

EARNING HIS KEEP

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The Blue Jackets first round pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, Sonny Milano, is set to begin playing for Boston College in the fall. His puck and stick handling skills were on display during the 3-on-3 tournament of the recently completed development camp.

The 6-foot, 185-pound forward will have his game polished under the auspices of BC’s head coach, Jerry York. Although he’s set to play his college career at Boston College, he left the door open to turning pro sooner than 2018.

"I want to be in the NHL," said Milano. "That’s my goal. If the Columbus Blue Jackets tell me they want me in two years, or whatever, I’m not going to say no. The NHL is my main goal and that’s where I want to be. I just need to keep working."

The Massapequa, NY native has the skill to be a starter for BC as a freshman. With a nose for the net, the defensive side of his game should become an asset to compliment the offensive skills that he already displays.