The Columbus Blue Jackets Off-Season has seen multiple changes made to the team roster, one of those changes is the goalie depth. While the NHL goalies will most likely be the same, there was a lot of changes at the other levels.
The Columbus Blue Jackets Off-Season: Goaltender Depth
The Well Known
Sergei Bobrovsky, 28, is the Blue Jackets top goalie, there is no question about that. Coming off a great season where he was top five in almost every statistical category for a goalie. Bobrovsky’s season helped him earn the Veznia Trophy for the second time in his career. The only place the Blue Jackets would like to see him improve is in his head. Bobrovsky was very disappointing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, a lot of that was because of his mental state. If Bobrovksy can get his head straight Columbus is a legitimate Cup contender.
Joonas Korpisalo, 23, is the Blue Jackets second best goalie, and with Anton Forsberg gone, he is almost guaranteed the backup position. Korpisalo has performed well the past two seasons and shown some starter qualities. The main part is that Korpisalo has shown growth which is important for a young backup goalie. Columbus should be content with Korpisalo as the backup goalie if he continues to improve. If Korpisalo shows signs of digression than general manager Jarmo Kekalanien might start to look for a replacement at the NHL level and allow Korpisalo to get some starting time in the AHL.
Anton Forsberg, 24, was the main starter for the AHL-affiliate Cleveland Monsters the past two seasons. Forsberg was a huge part of the Monsters 2016 Calder Cup Championship run. Forberg had played only nine games in Columbus the past three years with one win and a 4.02 goals-against-average. This off-season Forsberg was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks when the Blue Jackets acquired Artemi Panarin. Forsberg will likely compete for the Blackhawks backup goalie spot this coming season.
Oscar Dansk, 23, was a good up-and-coming prospect who could have done the organization well. There was just one issue, Dansk did not want to come to North America unless he was an NHL goalie. Dansk’s last two seasons in the SHL were nothing to brag about going a combined 19-37. Scheduled to be a restricted free agent this off-season the Blue Jackets opted to not offer him a contract and decided to let Dansk become a free agent. Dansk signed with the Vegas Golden Knights on a one-year, $650,000 contract and will likely compete for the AHL starter spot.
The @GoldenKnights have inked goaltender Oscar Dansk to a one-year deal
— AHL (@TheAHL) July 3, 2017
Elvis Merzlikins, 23, is probably one of the most interesting Blue Jackets prospects. Merzlikins is ready to make the leap the AHL, and maybe even the NHL. Look at how he played in the 2017 IIHF World Championship, with a .937 save percentage in his six games. His play in the Swiss-A league has been stellar never having over a goals-against-average higher than 2.89.
There is just one problem, Merzlikins has two years left on his contract with Lugano in the Swiss-A League. Merzlikins does not have a NHL-out clause in his contract either. Due to him not having that clause means it would be almost impossible for him to come to the NHL or AHL until his contract is up.
Blue Jackets fans are excited about the 20-year-old Matiss Kivlanieks. Kivlanieks was recruited by Columbus during free agency to join the organization out of the USHL. Kivlanieks had a crazy season last year with the Sioux City Musketeers. A 1.85 goals-against-average and going 36-7-2 in 49 games, and posting five shutouts was enough to get Kekalanien’s interest, signing him to a three-year entry-level contract.
Kivlanieks play got him the honors of USHL Goaltender of the Year, and Player of the Year, and First All-Star Team. He lead the league in wins, goals-against-average, save percentage, and shutouts (tied). With the AHL goalie spot open for competition Kivlanieks will be able to step into the organization and challenge to be the starter.
The Blue Jackets goaltender depth has changed a lot during this past season and off-season. Players like Bobrovsky and Korpisalo have their spots on the team all but secured to them. However, beyond those two the goaltender position is a wide open battle. With Forsberg and Dansk out of the picture, the AHL spots are open for one of the goaltending prospects to make their name between the pipes in Northern Ohio.