After a strong showing at the NHL Prospects Tournament in Traverse City, it was time to see what some of the Blue Jackets' top prospects were all about in an NHL game. The youngsters did not disappoint tonight.
The Jackets got scoring from three rookies, including Dillon Heatherington’s overtime winner, in a 4-3 win over the St. Louis Blues. Heatherington ended the game on a quick drive from the right point that squeaked through Blues goaltender Matt Climie to send the fans home happy.
It didn’t take long for the youngsters to make their mark in this one, as Kerby Rychel scored his first goal of the preseason on his first shift at Nationwide Arena. Rychel intercepted the breakout pass form Blues’ defenseman Chris Butler high in the St. Louis zone. Rychel took a step to the middle of the ice and fired a wrister between the legs of goaltender Jake Allen just 2:02 into the first period.
"There was a bit of nerves going into the game, but it was nice to get on the board early and get things rolling," said Rychel.
The Blues responded midway through the first on the powerplay when Jori Lehtera shoveled a puck on goal that caromed off Heatherington and behind Curtis McElhinney to tie the game.
The Jackets found their legs in the second and had some good bounces of their own. Dalton Prout’s slap-pass to the back post ticked off of Boone Jenner in the slot and landed right on the blade of Alexander Wennberg, who tapped it into a wide open net. Jenner netted a rebound between the circles in the period’s final minute to give the Jackets a 3-1 lead after 40 minutes of play.
Vladmir Tarasenko pulled the Blues within a goal early in the third when his wrist shot beat Oscar Dansk, the first shot Dansk saw after relieving McElhinney. The Blues tied the game and forced overtime midway through the third period when Sebastian Wannstrom banked a rebound off of Dansk and into the net.
Dansk settled in as the period progressed, making several key saves to push the game to overtime.
when Heatherington would end it for Columbus.
"I thought we got better as a team," said head coach Todd Richards. "Our guys in general, and our three young guys got better as the game wore on, but there's still things they have to learn. That's true for our whole team."
Richards said after the morning skate that he still needed to see more of Wennberg, but already recognized him to be a sound positional player. That described Wennberg pretty well in this game, and 5:54 left in the second, the puck found Wennberg in the right place. Prout's back-door feed on the powerplay ticked off the skate of Jenner in front and slid right to open ice where Wennberg was lurking to tap it into an open net. It was the night in a nutshell for Wennberg, who did not dominate with flash, but was in the right position for most of the game. The goal sparked one of the better possession stretches for Columbus that lasted until the second intermission and included the Jenner goal.
1) Boone Jenner
Jenner netted a goal and an assist in the contest, but missed the third period with what Richards described as “soreness." Richards stressed the situation was very minor and mostly a precaution. Jenner was one of the better players for the Jackets playing center tonight between Rychel and Jared Boll, after spending last season exclusively on left wing.
2) Curtis McElhinney
McElhinney was rock-solid for the Jackets, making 23 saves through two periods. Teams learning new systems in the preseason can expect to face defensive breakdowns, and the Jackets were outshot 14-5 in the first period. McElhinney was nearly flawless, only allowing a goal that caromed in off of his own defenseman.
3) Dillon Heatherington
A kid scoring an overtime winner in an NHL game is usually pretty star-worthy. It’s Heatherington’s second NHL camp, and he made an impact on the scoresheet in a big way in game number one. of 2014-15 (preseason).