Pascal Vincent’s voice was raspy Thursday afternoon at Nationwide Arena.
It was the result of presiding over his first three practices as the Blue Jackets’ new coach, a title gained Sunday when Mike Babcock resigned. All things considered, Vincent’s vocal cords were a small tax for a good start to his first training camp as an NHL bench boss.
“It feels like my voice is gone,” Vincent said. “There’s more screaming for sure, but it was fun. We think it was a good day.”
Here are five things learned from the opening of Blue Jackets training camp:
Columbus Blue Jackets first practices ‘smoothly’ executed
Vincent was the Blue Jackets’ associate coach, so they’ll need to add an assistant to the NHL staff at some point through a promotion or external search. Vincent, however, was pleased with how smooth things operated on the camp’s first on-ice day.
“We were ready,” he said. “Obviously, the last few days we didn’t sleep much, but we’ve done a lot of work this summer. So, it was just a matter of making sure everybody has a job description, and it runs smoothly. I thought it went really well.”
Patrik Laine takes on leadership role for Columbus Blue Jackets
Laine, 25, is nearing his prime years and started camp with a noticeable effort to show leadership. He was out front in all conditioning skates for his group on the first day and stayed there all through the series of leg-burning drills.
Laine also invited the Blue Jackets’ top prospect, Adam Fantilli, to live with him for a couple weeks prior to the team’s prospect tournament trip last week in Traverse City, Michigan. Vincent has known Laine since their time with the Winnipeg Jets, when the Finnish forward burst onto the NHL scene in 2016-17. What he’s noticed in Columbus is more maturity from Laine.
“I think everybody’s evolving,” Vincent said. “We all do it at different times in our life, and I think Patrik really enjoys playing in Columbus for the Blue Jackets. He loves the city.”
Laine also hates losing, which the Blue Jackets did a lot while dealing with a spate of key injuries last season. He wants this year to be different.
“Last year was hard for all of us, and it was a lot of pressure on guys like (Laine),” Vincent said. “This year, he had a good summer. He’s ready. He’s excited. I think that’s contagious, and the feel around the team is positive right now. That’s contagious and Patrik is part of it. He’s a year older too. He feels he’s more of a leader.”
Columbus Blue Jackets welcome Alexandre Texier’s return
Prior to heading back to France midway through the 2021-22 campaign, Alexandre Texier had begun to make a consistent impact for the Blue Jackets as a versatile two-way forward.
Personal reasons led to Texier missing the end of that season and playing last year in Switzerland, which helped him reset mentally and physically.
“It was huge,” Texier said. “(That was) my decision and now I’m moving on, but I learned a lot about myself, my body and a lot of things off the ice. Obviously, I learned some stuff on the ice, too, because I’m still young and I need to learn again (in the NHL). Now, I think I’m ready mentally and physically. I had a pretty good summer, no injury, so it was pretty good.”
Vincent is happy to have him back. Texier is starting at left wing on a top line for one of the Jackets’ three practice teams and is paired up with Laine and Fantilli, who’s centering them.
“‘Tex’ is an amazing person,” Vincent said. “He’s a great player. I feel like we missed him a lot last year. We know that, right? But what I remember from ‘Tex’ is (that) whoever we played him with, that line was better. He makes his linemates better. We missed that kind of energy and that kind of player and he’s excited to be here. It’s good to have him back.”
Columbus Blue Jackets now have depth at center
It wasn’t long ago that a shortage of NHL centers put the Blue Jackets in a tough spot going into a new season. That’s no longer the case after drafts and signings the past couple years lengthened the depth chart at center ice.
The Jackets are starting out with seven NHL players who are either centers or wingers who’s spent time playing center the past couple years in Columbus. That’s not including Fantilli, Laine, Dmitri Voronkov, Hunter McKown or Josh Dunne.
Voronkov mostly played center in the KHL the past three years but has skated at wing since arriving in Columbus. Fantilli is expected to land one of the Blue Jackets’ top four NHL center roles. Laine may get another look at center after giving it a two-game whirl last season. McKown and Dunne are expected to center lines for the Cleveland Monsters in the American Hockey League.
Columbus Blue Jackets coach Pascal Vincent not concerned about tough roster decisions
The Blue Jackets started camp with 73 players on a roster that includes Fantilli – and possibly Voronkov – joining 15 other forwards who’ve logged significant NHL time. On the blue line, it’s just as crowded.
A trade or multiple trades could be the solution, but pulling those off in training camp or right before a season can be tough with most teams already determining their NHL roster. Players who can be assigned to the AHL without going through waivers may need to start out in Cleveland if the front office can’t create enough room for them in Columbus.
That list includes Fantilli, Sillinger, Voronkov, Yegor Chinakhov, Blankenburg, Johnson and Marchenko among others. Fantilli, Johnson and Marchenko are expected to have NHL spots, but the other four have less certainty.
“I feel they will give us the answer over time,” Vincent said. “I feel the way they play, the way they prepared and the way they perform at camp will give us the answer. So, it’s just watching and evaluating. There’s going to be some tough decisions, don’t get me wrong, but I feel over time there’s not going to be as many (as it seems).”
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This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: 5 things we learned from the start of Columbus Blue Jackets camp
Source: Yahoo Sports