By Jim den Hollander
For the past few days, the resignation of former head coach Mike Babcock before running his first practice has not just been the top story for the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The signing of Babcock earlier this season gave Columbus fans reasons to be optimistic of a quick turnaround and perhaps a playoff berth as quickly as this season.
The controversy might have overshadowed a nice performance by a team made up of Blue Jackets prospects – draft picks and some free agents all looking to play a part with the pro team asap.
The Jackets’ prospects made the treak to Traverse City, MI, a site that has hosted this event for several years, although this year’s tourney was a bit smaller scale with four teams instead of eight.
The event got off to a bit of a weird start as the Blue Jackets and Toronto Maple Leafs prospects had to move to a different rink with unplayable ice at the regular host arena.
The Baby Jackets turned in an awesome effort scoring 20 goals in three games, winning the first two 7-3 against the Leafs and 10-7 against the Detroit Red Wings. Most of the top players were given a break for the final game won by the Dallas Stars prospects 6-3.
A trio of top prospects showed well in those first two games, led by Adam Fantilli, taken third overall in June and a shoo-in to join Johnny Gaudreau, Patrick Laine and others to get the Jackets back to the promised land.
As a freshman with the Michigan Wolverines, Fantilli played 36 games, scoring 30 goals and collecting 65 points. He played on the past two World Junior tournaments and also played in the World Championships this past spring.
In Traverse City, Fantilli played just the first two games, racking up three goals and four assists. If Connor Bedard lets up in his first season in Chicago, Fantilli could challenge him for the Calder Trophy as Rookie of the Year.
He is a perfect fit on a Columbus team that needs to address a deficiency at the center position.
A pair of picks from the 2022 Draft also turned in great offensive showings in Traverse City.
Jordan Dumais was selected in the 3rd round, 96th overall by the Jackets in 2022. He recently wrapped up his third season with the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL with 54 goals and 140 points. Over three seasons in Halifax he has played 172 games, scoring 103 goals and collecting 278 points.
The right winger is eligible to return for another season of junior but what else does he have to prove there? Expect Dumais to take a serious run at sticking in Columbus when the attends training camp in the next few days.
At Traverse City, Dumais also played the first two games, scoring twice in each game.
Finally, Denton Mateychuk, a defenseman taken first overall (12th overall) in the 2022 Entry draft. An offensive defenseman, Mateychuk played 144 games with 23 goal and 138 points. He also could return for one more season out westand possibly play a key role on the blue line of the World Juniors over the Christmas Break.
The Jackets are scheduled to open Training Camp for the 2023-24 season on Wednesday (Sept. 20).