Blue Jackets center Boone Jenner described the last eight days as a ‘whirlwind.’ Perhaps that word is an understatement. The 19-year-old is seeking his first job in professional hockey and it appears he has a good chance of landing the post.
The next six days will be the ultimate interview. He needs to prove to president of hockey operations John Davidson and head coach Todd Richards he is ready for the rigors of the NHL. Though he did not win the job Sunday with the start of the Blue Jackets’ shortened training camp, he did not do anything to lose it.
Jenner has worn the crest of three separate clubs in the last eight days.
Early in the month, Jenner wore the Canadian maple leaf as he participated in the World Junior Championships in Ufa, Russia for the Canadian U-20 squad. After flying back, he briefly joined the Oshawa Generals of the Ontario Hockey League. After scoring a goal in a game Friday evening, he joined the Blue Jackets Sunday for the start of camp.
“Things happen very quickly so I am just trying to enjoy myself and work as hard as I can and try to get into the lineup,” Jenner said.
He is hoping to avoid yet another return trip to Oshawa.
The World Juniors is a great stage for young players to develop before going into professional hockey. Unfortunately for Jenner, he did not get the full experience of the tournament. He was suspended for three of the six games due to a penalty in a pre-tournament contest.
“It is really good hockey over there, the best junior players in the world so the games are a lot quicker over there so it certainly got me ready for this for sure,” Jenner said. “It was a great experience.”
Davidson and Richards have said they envision the Blue Jackets playing heavy, gritty hockey. Jenner, a second-round pick in the 2011 NHL Draft, uses his 6-foot-2, 204 pound frame for not only scoring, but with checking.
He was on an energy line with ‘heavy’ checkers Derek MacKenzie and Jared Boll for Sunday’s camp.
There are 15 forwards going into camp and eight defenders for a total of 23 skaters. The squad will need to cut two more players before Friday. Jenner would seemingly be in a battle with forward Matt Calvert for a spot on the opening-night roster.
Richards not given much time to explore combinations
Chemistry is an important facet of hockey. Sometimes it takes years for a forward line or a defensive pairing to mesh. With a very short training camp coupled with a condensed schedule, waiting for chemistry to develop is not an option for Richards and the Blue Jackets.
“It is going to be hard,” Richards said. “You use traditional training camps, you have three weeks, maybe eight games to really assess and try guys at different positions and find which guys are ready and which ones are not. And we don’t have that luxury and we’re going to have to base a lot of our decision on what takes place here in these six days.”
With so many new players on the squad, Richards was looking for lines and pairs that he thought could find some chemistry early. For instance, former New York Rangers Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov were on a line together with veteran Blue Jacket Derek Dorsett.
“I am sure we will find our way as we go,” Dubinsky said. “The three of us might not be together all season long. The coaches are trying to find combinations that work. I have been on the receiving end of playing with a guy for a long time and everybody says how great the chemistry is and then things stop working for some reason. It is just the way the game works.”
Though a lot of thought went into the lines the Blue Jackets went with into Sunday’s lines, things could change as soon as tomorrow.
“We didn’t just pull names out of a hat today,” Richards said. “We put them down and want to see what they can do. Today is a first step and tomorrow might be different.”
In case you are wondering who was paired with who, here are the lines from day No. 1 of camp.