“I remember (former Jets coach) Paul Maurice saying, when we were in Winnipeg, ‘We want to get to a point where there’s a little bit of fear in the dressing room,’ as far as, ‘I might lose my job here,’ ” Vincent said. “That’s what we want to create. We want to create that healthy competition, where if you don’t do your job and we get to the point where some people behind you are pushing, they might steal your job.
“That’s when teams win … when there’s a little bit of fear and competition within the organization.”
Halfway through the Blue Jackets’ preseason camp, that fear is palpable within the walls of Nationwide Arena. Multiple roster cuts during the week leading into a preseason game Saturday in Buffalo went largely as expected, but the decisions will be significantly tougher in the second half of camp.
After sending out 14 players Friday, the Jackets still had 48 players left in Columbus. Among that group, 39 had logged at least one NHL game, and that wasn’t counting highly regarded prospects Adam Fantilli, Jordan Dumais, Denton Mateychuk, Corson Ceulemans or Dmitri Voronkov.
The fear is real for Blue Jackets players fighting for roster spots, including these five:
Columbus Blue Jackets center Cole Sillinger
After spending the majority of his first two professional seasons in Columbus, Sillinger might find himself with the AHL’s Cleveland Monsters to start out.
If so, there would be multiple reasons. Most important is Sillinger’s development curve, which dipped last season.
Sillinger’s career began in 2021-22, at age 18, and he was the lone player from the 2021 draft to play that entire season in the NHL. A long goal drought and noticeable drop in his pace of play last year resulted in a late-season AHL assignment, plus the Blue Jackets no longer have depth issues at center.
Facing a backlog up front, they could utilize Sillinger’s final season of waivers exempt status by assigning him to Cleveland. Sillinger could avoid that by earning an NHL role through his preseason play.
“I’m confident that I put in the work this summer,” Sillinger said. “I’m confident that I can be the player the Columbus Blue Jackets need and I’m ready to take that next step this year.”
Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Emil Bemstrom
The story with Bemstrom hasn’t changed since his arrival from the Swedish Hockey League in 2019. After showing an impressive scoring touch there as a 19-year old, he hasn’t come close to replicating that success with the Blue Jackets.
Bemstrom shows flashes of his scoring talent but hasn’t consistently put it all together, which has been a frustrating process for him, the Blue Jackets and fans alike. He began staking a claim to an NHL spot with a combined two goals and one assist in his first two preseason games, including a one-timer to cap a power play in St. Louis.
Has Bemstrom finally tapped into his scoring talent or is it another mirage?
Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Nick Blankenburg
Blankenburg is in a similar situation as Sillinger.
Despite Blankenburg having 43 NHL games to his credit, the Blue Jackets can assign him to Cleveland without waivers. That may be necessary with the amount of NHL-caliber defensemen in the Blue Jackets’ camp.
The additions of veterans Ivan Provorov and Damon Severson created a backlog on the back end that has Blankenburg, Adam Boqvist, Andrew Peeke and Jake Bean vying for roster spots and lineup roles. All have one-way contracts that pay the same in the AHL as the NHL, but Boqvist, Peeke and Bean require waivers for assignment to Cleveland and all make more than $2 million per season.
Blankenburg, who makes $825,000, is a scrappy former walk-on at the University of Michigan who became team captain his senior year. Proving himself is nothing new.
“For me, there’s no point in worrying about what’s going to happen,” Blankenburg said. “Whether I’m in Cleveland or Columbus, I know what kind of person I am and what kind of hockey player I am, so that’s the biggest thing for me. Look at my career and how I’ve gotten here in the first place. This is nothing new to me. I’m just trying to focus on the things I can control.”
Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Tim Berni
Berni’s in a trickier spot than other Blue Jackets defensemen because of his contract status. After declining a qualifying offer in July, he’s a restricted free agent without a contract and is competing in camp with a professional tryout offer.
Berni, 23, capitalized on the opportunity to make his NHL debut last season amid the Jackets’ slew of injuries. He logged a goal and two assists in 59 games after being recalled from the Monsters in late November, but the arrival of Provorov and Severson pushed him further down the depth chart.
Not having an NHL contract is an additional hurdle while competing within a depth chart filled with solid young defensemen.
“At this point, I’m just trying to focus on playing,” Berni said. “There’s stuff that’s out of my control. … I still feel like I’m part of this organization and I’m just trying to prove myself again. That’s all I can do right now.”
Columbus Blue Jackets forward Liam Foudy
Foudy missed half of the preseason last year while going through the final rehab steps for a surgically repaired shoulder. That plus his status as a former first-round pick (18th overall in 2018) and the Jackets’ injury woes kept him off waivers and in the NHL lineup on a fairly regular basis.
Foudy went through a lengthy goal drought starting out, but he impressed in the final two months with elite speed and improved play around the net.
The addition of Fantilli in this year’s draft plus the returns of Alexandre Texier (Europe), Justin Danforth (shoulder) and Mathieu Olivier (leg) could squeeze Foudy out of a lineup spot and possibly bump him from the roster. Foudy also has potential to hang onto his role by forcing the Blue Jackets to make a difficult decision elsewhere.
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This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: 5 Columbus Blue Jackets trying to get off the NHL roster ‘bubble’
Source: Yahoo Sports