It’s “the best shape of his life” season in the NHL as rookie camps and tournaments hit full speed.
Before we get to the real NHL action though, teams have been participating in rookie camps and tournaments across the United States. Traverse City, Arizona, Buffalo, and Tampa are all currently hosting showcase tournaments. It’s nice to see the action, but some fans have overreacted to what they’ve seen – it’s just natural hockey discourse.
Here are a few players of note from action this past week with varying degrees of overreaction:
Yegor Chinakhov, RW, Columbus Blue Jackets
The surprise 2020 first-round pick by the Blue Jackets has done just about everything in his power to justify the selection. After notching 10 goals and 17 points in his rookie KHL season, the Russian goal-scorer is trying to crack the Columbus roster out of camp.
Chinakhov has been the buzz of Columbus’ rookie camp since Day 1. In Traverse City, he put himself on the map right away, scoring against the Toronto Maple Leafs with an absolute laser of a shot in an eventual victory for the Baby Jackets. Chinakhov has showing that his shot, the reason he was drafted, is ready for the NHL. The real question: is everything else ready?
While some Jackets fans have been penciling him into the opening night roster, don’t be shocked if he starts the year in the AHL. And that might be the best choice for him, anyways. There’s a lot for a Russian prospect to learn in their first trip to North America, and there’s no need to rush him.
Jack Studnicka, C, Boston Bruins
Coming into camp in the best shape of his life after spending the off-season in Boston to get bigger and stronger on his frame, Studnicka should push for an NHL job as a 22-year-old After getting a taste of NHL action with mixed results last season, Studnicka clearly took the fact that his slender frame was being pushed around a bit more against the best players in the world.
With a more pro-ready physique, Studnicka may still face an uphill battle. The Bruins are – as always – a very good team and securing a roster spot is going to be a challenge with the top-nine seemingly set up nicely. Studnicka’s best shot may wind up being finding a role on the right-wing in the bottom-six and finding his way up the lineup should he play well.
Dylan Guenther, RW, Arizona Coyotes
The ninth overall pick in the 2021 draft has been a dark horse to make the Yotes roster since draft day with the obvious lack of scoring on the roster. But since camp opened, Guenther has been just as good, if not better, than advertised.
The one thing scouts and analysts all seem to agree on is that Guenther will be a scoring threat at the next level fairly quickly. His offensive tools are high-level across the board. Guenther’s shot is upper echelon among players in his age group. Guenther shows skill and smarts as he opens up space with his hands and his feet.
There are concerns away from the puck at times but Guenther has shown the ability to make every play in the defensive zone, it will just take some time and maturity to do it at the next level. He could be destined for some NHL time in the near future, at least to start the year.
Marco Rossi and Matt Boldy, C and LW, Minnesota Wild
The new dynamic duo of Marco and Matt has ignited a fire big enough in the Wild fan base that they have briefly seemed to forget about the Kirill Kaprizov contract drama. The two prospects had a wildly different season last year. Rossi had some fans and analysts worried as he suffered from the long-term effects of his battle with COVID-19. Boldy rebounded from an up-and-down freshman year to have an outstanding sophomore campaign.
Uniting on a line in camp, Rossi and Boldy look like a match made in heaven. They played smart, intelligent, high-paced hockey that puts the opponent on their heels at both ends of the ice. They committed to playing in their own end and then attack the second they’re given a chance. It has been a treat to watch the duo do their thing.
Rossi has been adamant that he wants to make the opening night roster and Boldy is putting a strong case together as well. Could they form two-thirds of a line in the NHL this season? Does head coach Dean Evason trust them enough? What veteran winger will ride shotgun as the mentor to the two young guns? There will be plenty of questions but one that seems all but certain is that both Rossi and Boldy should see NHL time this season.