TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. ― There’s an uncertainty around the Blue Jackets regarding Mike Babcock’s coaching fate, but it hasn’t affected their talent-rich prospect team.
Powered by a seven-goal second period Saturday at Centre Ice Arena, the Blue Jackets improved to 2-0-0 in the Traverse City NHL Prospects Tournament with a 10-7 victory over the host Detroit Red Wings. After falling behind 3-0 in the first and 4-1 to start the second, Columbus rattled off seven straight goals to take an 8-5 lead Detroit couldn’t overcome. The Blue Jackets went 4-of-6 on power plays after going 3-of-3 in their opening win Thursday against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Adam Fantilli had a hat trick of goals plus two assists for five points in the win, defenseman Denton Mateychuk racked up five points on five assists and right wing Jordan Dumais led all players with six points on two goals and four assists. James Malatesta added two goals for the Blue Jackets, who got additional goals from defenseman David Jiricek, defenseman Stanislav Svozil and center Tyler Peddle.
“I’m not sure we’ve had a young talent pool like this in my five years coaching in this organization,” Cleveland Monsters coach Trent Vogelhuber said. “The ponies for us at forward and (defense) showed up together. (Jiricek) was outstanding, Mateychuk had another great performance, and that top (forward) line was pretty dynamic.”
Columbus selected Fantilli third overall in this year’s draft, Jiricek sixth overall in 2022, Mateychuk 12th overall in 2022, Dumais in the third round (96th overall) last year, Svozil in the third round in 2021 (69th overall), Malatesta in the fifth round in 2021 (133rd overall) and Peddle as the 2023 draft’s final pick (224th overall).
Detroit, which raced out to a 3-0 lead in the first period, got two goals from forward Cross Hanas plus goals by Elmer Soderblom, Riley Sawchuk, Alexandre Doucet, Jackson DeSouza and Nic Sima. Nolan Lalonde started in net for the Blue Jackets and made 22 saves. Sebastian Cossa, the 15th overall pick in 2021, started for Detroit and was pulled during the Blue Jackets’ seven-goal barrage.
Columbus Blue Jackets notables vs Detroit Red Wings
― Blue Jackets players occupy a lot of spots among statistical leaders through two games in Traverse City.
The top three in points are Dumais with eight followed by Fantilli and Mateychuk with seven each. The top three in goals are Dumais with four followed by Fantilli and Malatesta with three each. Mateychuk’s seven assists lead all players, while Dumais and Fantilli are tied for third with four assists each. Fantilli’s 15 shots lead that category and Malatesta’s in second with 10.
― It won’t be a surprise if the Jackets make Fantilli a healthy scratch Sunday morning in the tournament finale for Columbus against the Dallas Stars. The Blue Jackets’ top prospect took two slashes to his left forearm and wrist by two Red Wings free agent invitees in the second period, so dressing him for the finale could be risky this close to NHL training camp.
He’d enjoy playing if he could.
“I love to play hockey, but it’s’ not up to me,” Fantilli said.
― Dumais and Mateychuk are two of the biggest standouts in the tournament thus far and neither is old enough to play in the American Hockey League yet. Both will be returned to their Canadian junior teams if they don’t make the Blue Jackets’ roster, which could be a challenge for each one’s development curve.
Each is focused on giving the Blue Jackets a difficult decision when it’s time to cut the roster down.
― Svozil and Jiricek have played together on national teams for Czechia in the past, but that usually means they’re trailing in the game and the coach is pushing for goals. This was different. They formed the Blue Jacket’s top defense pairing in almost all situations and impressed the coaching staff. They also surprised themselves.
“I think we played pretty good when we were together on the ice,” Svozil said. “I didn’t really expect that. I felt like they were going to score so many goals against us, but we played pretty good together.”
Columbus Blue Jackets three stars vs Detroit Red Wings
Trailing 3-0 late in the first, Fantilli challenged three Detroit defenders on a power play and scored with a beautiful backhand under the crossbar to get the Jackets going. His three goals and five points weren’t the only things that stood out either. Fantilli dominated in almost all ways possible.
After netting two goals against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Jackets’ first game, Dumais really turned up the heat against Detroit. His six-point game on two goals and four assists were a clinic on how he piled up 140 points for the Halifax Mooseheads last season. Dumais has shown an added gear in his skating and has won a lot of puck battles despite a size disadvantage.
Mateychuk was solid in Traverse City last season, but he wasn’t dominant. That wasn’t a surprise given that he’d just turned 18 and was playing against older players. This year, the 5-foot-11 defenseman has controlled play with the puck and shut down a lot of plays defensively. His seven assists in two games are the result of his offensive assertiveness and confidence.
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This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Fantilli, Dumais lead Blue Jackets to comeback win over Red Wings