TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. – In some ways, the Blue Jackets’ first game at the 2023 Traverse City NHL Prospects Tournament went the way most openers here go.
There were mistakes related to defensive structure and system play that kept the puck in the Jackets’ end a little too much, but it wasn’t a slog. In fact, the Blue Jackets romped to a 7-3 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs, which felt a little bit like a statement game to open play at Centre Ice Arena.
“Everybody’s flying around in the first game, so systematically it’s a little bit of a mess, but that’s to be expected,” coach Trent Vogelhuber said. “It’s the same way every year. We got some good bounces and as the game went along, we got better and our group kind of took it over.”
Along with Dumais’s tallies, Columbus added goals by forward Justin Pearson, James Malatesta, Cam Butler, Hunter McKown and Stanislav Svozil. Fantilli, the third overall pick in the 2023 NHL draft, impressed with his assists and nearly scored multiple goals while just missing the net twice and ringing a hard wrist shot off the left post.
Mateychuk, the 12th overall pick of the 2022 draft, stood out with his assists and puck control. Pavel Cajan made 20 saves on 23 shots for the win in net. The game was delayed after 7:27 because a chunk of ice broke off in a corner of the Blue Jackets’ zone near the Zamboni entrance. The action was eventually moved to a different rink, finishing with two 26-minute periods and one intermission.
The Blue Jackets’ second game is Saturday (3:30 p.m.) against the host Detroit Red Wings, who lost 4-2 to the Dallas Stars on Thursday.
Columbus Blue Jackets vs Toronto Maple Leafs notables
― Power forward Dmitri Voronkov made his North American debut at left wing on the top line and had a similar experience to fellow Russian forward Kirill Marchenko last year in Traverse City. He appeared to be a little overwhelmed by the fast pace of play, especially on a smaller rink than most KHL arenas, but he improved as the game progressed. Much larger than his listed weight of 190 pounds, the 6-foot-4 forward showed his physicality and snarl once he got his bearings.
“He’s nasty, man,” Vogelhuber said. “He’s a player you can win a seven-game playoff series with. Even in this exhibition tournament, he’s getting angry at guys, which can be contagious. You need guys like him.”
― Dumais started out as the right wing on the second line and got bumped up to the top line with Fantilli for several shifts in the third period. Fantilli was impressed, especially with a slick area pass Dumais sent him to create a scoring chance.
“I really like playing with him,” Fantilli said. “His hockey sense is kind of next level. I don’t know if you saw the pass he gave me there at the end, but that was kind of like Lionel Messi … just slowly into the area. It was kind of cool.”
― Tyler Peddle, the final pick in this year’s draft, centered the fourth line and made a pretty no-look reverse pass from behind the net to set up Butler’s goal from the low slot to make it 5-0 in the second period. Peddle and a large group of family and friends from Nova Scotia waited the entire draft to hear his name called and he vowed to make the Blue Jackets look good for doing it. He’s off to a nice start on that promise.
Columbus Blue Jackets Three Stars vs Toronto Maple Leafs
D Denton Mateychuk
Mateychuk was one of the most dominant players on the ice for either team, finishing with two assists and logging quality time in all situations. He ran the point on the second power-play unit, notching one of his assists on McKown’s goal that made it 6-1 on the first shift of the third period and finished with a plus-3 rating.
“You still get those nerves when you throw on an NHL jersey,” Mateychuk said. “You know how big of an honor it is and a privilege. You just take every moment and try to show what you can do. I think I learned that last year and I’m just going to try and do the same thing this year.”
C Adam Fantilli
Fantilli didn’t score a goal, but it wasn’t for a lack of opportunities or effort. The powerful center anchored the top line and assisted on power-play goals by McKown and Dumais. He also finished with a game-high six shots on goal.
“He’s dominant,” Vogelhuber said. “He didn’t score and you could tell he wanted to score so badly. He almost put a couple shots through the end wall. He shot it so hard and just barely missed and then rung one off the post … but he was as (good as) advertised. He was just competitive, fast, skilled through the roof.”
RW Jordan Dumais
Dumais showed an uptick in skating speed, quickness and a willingness to block shots, which led to an impressive game. He wasn’t credited with an assist on Malatesta’s goal to make it 3-0 late in the first period, but he should’ve been. It was Dumais’ blocked shot in the Jackets’ zone that sprung the play Malatesta capped with a wrist shot.
“I was impressed with him,” Vogelhuber said. “Last year he had the skill, but structurally he was a little bit looser. He’s paying more attention to the details now.”
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This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Columbus Blue Jackets rout Toronto Maple Leafs in Traverse City