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Columbus Blue Jackets notebook: Johnny Gaudreau, Patrik Laine scrambling early

Oct 25, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, USA;  Columbus Blue Jackets left wing Johnny Gaudreau (13) brings the puck up ice ahead of left wing Patrik Laine (29) during the first period of the NHL hockey game against the Arizona Coyotes at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Adam Cairns-The Columbus Dispatch
Oct 25, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets left wing Johnny Gaudreau (13) brings the puck up ice ahead of left wing Patrik Laine (29) during the first period of the NHL hockey game against the Arizona Coyotes at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Adam Cairns-The Columbus Dispatch

Johnny Gaudreau’s frustration was obvious.

Midway through the third period of the Blue Jackets’ 4-0 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Monday, the star forward fired pucks almost indiscriminately during a power play. More of a passer than shooter, Gaudreau just wanted something good to happen before the final horn sounded.

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Two of his shots, a slap shot and wrist shot, were stopped by goalie James Reimer as part of the veteran backstop's 29th career shutout. Red Wings forward Michael Rasmussen blocked another of Gaudreau’s attempts and Reimer denied Patrik Laine's shot to start the sequence. Laine and Gaudreau each have two points through the first three games, but the Jackets are 1-2-0 and their top two stars are struggling early with their own lofty standards.

“Obviously, they feel some pressure to produce,” coach Pascal Vincent said. “There’s no doubt. And you could see it in the third period, Johnny shooting the puck on the power play … shooting the puck because he wants to bring pucks to the net.”

Oct 16, 2023; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets left wing Johnny Gaudreau (13) shoots during the third period of the NHL hockey game against the Detroit Red Wings at Nationwide Arena. The Blue Jackets lost 4-0.
Oct 16, 2023; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets left wing Johnny Gaudreau (13) shoots during the third period of the NHL hockey game against the Detroit Red Wings at Nationwide Arena. The Blue Jackets lost 4-0.

There’s nothing wrong with Gaudreau taking shots during power plays, especially if there's an open lane to shoot, but his primary focus is setting up others for shots. Laine’s main role on power plays is getting into scoring position to receive those feeds. Combined, their desperation Saturday night was symbolic for the Blue Jackets as a whole. They're out of whack after three games, and the team's top two forwards are hindered by it.

They could also fix it.

“I feel if you do the right things over and over and over ... eventually the skilled players will produce more because that’s part of their game,” Vincent said. “So, it’s not about producing for me. It’s not. That will come once we do the right things. We did it for 20 minutes (against Detroit) and we had some moments after that, but not consistent enough … and Patty and Johnny are part of that.”

Oct 16, 2023; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets center Adam Fantilli (11) takes a face off during the first period of the NHL hockey game against the Detroit Red Wings at Nationwide Arena.
Oct 16, 2023; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets center Adam Fantilli (11) takes a face off during the first period of the NHL hockey game against the Detroit Red Wings at Nationwide Arena.

Columbus Blue Jackets rookie Adam Fantilli sniffing first NHL goal

Adam Fantilli, 19, is hunting for his first NHL goal, which could happen soon. The third overall pick in this summer’s draft continues to look the part whether at center or left wing.

Fantilli earned his first NHL point with an assist in the season-opener, a 4-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on his 19th birthday, and his advanced stats show that more assists plus his first goal could be next. According to Natural Stat Trick, Fantilli is tied with Laine and Alexandre Texier for the Jackets’ most 5-on-5 individual scoring chances created (five) and leads the team with three high-danger chances.

That’s while being sheltered with the eighth-highest 5-on-5 ice time (34:36) among forwards. Fantilli’s usage and production could rise if he keeps impressing.

Sept. 24, 2023; Columbus, Oh., USA; 
Columbus Blue Jackets forward Jordan Dumais (69) is pursued by Pittsburg Penguins defender Jack St. Ivany (3) during the first period of Sunday's hockey game at Nationwide Arena.
Sept. 24, 2023; Columbus, Oh., USA; Columbus Blue Jackets forward Jordan Dumais (69) is pursued by Pittsburg Penguins defender Jack St. Ivany (3) during the first period of Sunday's hockey game at Nationwide Arena.

Injury keeping prospect Jordan Dumais with Columbus Blue Jackets

Jordan Dumais, 19, remains in Columbus with an undisclosed upper-body injury. After seeing a physician last week, Dumais has watched the Jackets’ first three games at Nationwide Arena. He’d rather be playing but is stuck on non-rostered injured reserve until a return to the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League is cleared.

Dumais impressed at the Jackets’ prospect tournament in Traverse City, Michigan before opening eyes at training camp. His quickness, gained through offseason power skating sessions and strength training, were noticeable. After filling up QMJHL scoresheets with 140 points on 54 goals and 86 assists last season, Dumais could meet or exceed those numbers in his final season of at the junior level.

He just needs to get to Halifax.

Oct. 5, 2023; Columbus, Ohio, United States;
Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Denton Mateychuk (5) looks for a teammate to pass to during their game against the Washington Capitals on Thursday, Oct. 5, 2023 at Nationwide Arena.
Oct. 5, 2023; Columbus, Ohio, United States; Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Denton Mateychuk (5) looks for a teammate to pass to during their game against the Washington Capitals on Thursday, Oct. 5, 2023 at Nationwide Arena.

Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Denton Mateychuk starts fast in WHL return

Denton Mateychuk and Dumais went into camp in the same situation.

Thanks to the NHL’s under 20 age agreement with the Canadian Hockey League, neither is old enough to play in the American Hockey League and both had to make the Blue Jackets’ roster or return to the junior ranks. Outside of Fantilli, Mateychuk was the most impressive prospect in camp. He was arguably one of the Jackets’ two or three best defensemen during the preseason.

There just wasn't room on the NHL roster to keep him, so Mateychuk returned to Moosehead of the Western Hockey League. He now has six points on six assists through his four games and is on pace for a 92-point season with 92 assists. That number could go up once Mateychuk scores a few goals himself.

Oct. 5, 2023; Columbus, Ohio, United States;
Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Trey Fix-Wolansky (64) fights for the puck against Washington Capitals right wing Anthony Mantha (39) during their game on Thursday, Oct. 5, 2023 at Nationwide Arena.
Oct. 5, 2023; Columbus, Ohio, United States; Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Trey Fix-Wolansky (64) fights for the puck against Washington Capitals right wing Anthony Mantha (39) during their game on Thursday, Oct. 5, 2023 at Nationwide Arena.

Trey Fix-Wolansky impressing with Cleveland Monsters

The NHL is the final hurdle for Blue Jackets prospect Trey Fix-Wolansky, who has proven the AHL is no match.

Fix-Wolansky, 24, is off to another monster start with the Cleveland Monsters, after racking up an impressive 29-42-71 in 61 games last season. Fix-Wolansky, a 2018 seventh-round pick, scored two goals and added three assists for five points to help the Monsters split their first two games this past weekend. Prior to his professional career starting in 2019-20, the undersized forward lit up the WHL for his hometown Edmonton Oil Kings.

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Fix-Wolansky has yet to translate that success to the NHL, scoring a combined 2-1-3 in 15 games the past two years, but another promotion to Columbus could be in the near future if he continues to tear it up in Cleveland.

bhedger@dispatch.com

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This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Columbus Blue Jackets notes: Gaudreau, Laine under pressure