All good things must come to an end, and the Columbus Blue Jackets ended their development camp on Saturday with a showcase for both the team’s prospects and fans in attendance.
Even with temperatures hovering above 100 degrees outside, the OhioHealth Ice Haus was still packed with cheering fans wanting one last glimpse of the future. It also gave the prospects one last chance to show the team’s staff their talents and skills on the ice.
The session wasn’t a proper scrimmage because injuries cut the roster so short that there weren’t enough players for a full game; in its place, the coaches set up a series of drills pitting the blue team against the white team. First up was a set of 3-on-3 and 2-on-2 games, and Daniel Zaar in particular showed his shooting skills in fine fashion. Next came a staggered-net drill held between the blue lines, where two forwards and one defensemen came in from opposite sides to shoot. That simplistic description, by the way, does not do the actual visual of the drill justice.
The third drill involved moving the nets board-to-board along the red line. Because of the closeness of the nets to the boards, two sections of the crowd had to be moved in case any errant pucks flew over the glass. The goaltenders were the stars of this drill, with both Oscar Dansk and Anton Forsberg displaying quickness and prowess between the pipes. A fourth drill had one end of the ice marked off in half from the trapezoid to the blue line, and each side had a power play situation of 4-and 5-on-1 rushes.
The final drill of the day was a shootout to ten goals. While Ryan Johansen, Boone Jenner and Ryan Murray buried a few shots for their respective teams, it was Dansk and Forsberg who were keeping the blue team at bay. In the end, the white team won, and the blue team suffered the indignation of the “Finnish Worm”, which can only be described as a variation of a conga line where the boys crawled on their hands and knees around center ice while holding on to each other’s ankles. At one point, Cam Atkinson lost his grip and “broke the Worm” before scrambling back into place.
Before leaving Columbus, each young man will sit down with coaches and staff and talk about their plans for the next year, which for most will include college or various junior leagues in North America and Europe. The evaluations they will receive will give them a chance to understand their strengths and weaknesses, and from there they can train accordingly.
With the end of development camp, the young men will go back to their homes and train for their immediate futures. What they take away from camp is a bond with their fellow prospects and a taste of what continued hard work will bring: a chance to play in an NHL game.