The Columbus Blue Jackets have their star player, franchise goalie and a plethora of young offensive weapons on the roster, but whenever an offensive blueliner is rumored to be on the trade market, Columbus always tops the list of potential suitors.
From Sheldon Souray to Tomas Kaberle, The Blue Jackets are always in the mix, but haven’t pulled the trigger on a deal to acquire a much-needed offensive weapon. Perhaps the price hasn’t been right, or perhaps management is preaching patience much like the Los Angeles Kings did with their prospects.
Why are the Blue Jackets able to play the waiting game for this position? Try another prospect loaded with potential, 2009 first round pick John Moore.
With a smooth stride, good eye for an outlet pass and an accurate shot, Moore nearly made the Blue Jackets out of camp last year, but ended up playing in the Ontario League instead. So when he didn’t make the NHL team this time around, some fans were a little confused at how Columbus could cut a prized prospect who would fit into a role the Jackets desperately need to fill.
“It’s such a difficult position,” said Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson. “He’s a first-year pro, he had a good camp, but he did not have an outstanding camp. You couldn’t make the argument he was better than some of the incumbents, so it’s preferable to start young players in the American League anyways in our view and we just thought that was the right place for him to start.”
By joining the AHL, the 6-foot-2, 189-pound Moore has now played in three different leagues the past three seasons. Starting in Chicago with the United States League’s Steel, he jumped to Kitchener of the OHL after being drafted 21st overall by Columbus so he could experience a pro-like atmosphere and adjust accordingly.
“The amount of games they play at the major junior level was attractive and I felt that’d prepare me really well for a pro schedule – and it did,” Moore said. “I also was fortunate to be drafted by a great organization in Kitchener and I couldn’t say enough good things about the coaching staff there. Being able to play in that city with the setup they have there was unbelievable and I am pretty grateful for that.”
Moore notched 10 goals and 47 points in 61 games for the Rangers, but credits coaches Steve Spott and Paul Fixter with helping him become more of an all-round defenseman, making sure he was playing responsible on both sides of the puck.
Moore acknowledges the two-way game is something he’s still working on as he adjusts from junior to pro hockey in the American League with Springfield.
“Reading rushes and my defensive zone coverage are two areas I can improve on,” Moore said. “There’s certain things you can get away with in junior, certain moves, or how you can carry the puck more and how you have more time to make plays in junior than you do in the pro game. Things happen a little quicker (in pro); they hit harder, pass a little harder, shoot a little harder, so things happen quicker and there’s certain habits you get into in junior you have to shake off when you get here.”
A huge fan of Scott Niedermayer when he was growing up, Moore notes how the future Hall of Famer was great at joining the rush without sacrificing his defensive responsibilities. And Moore hopes that, with his skating ability, he’ll be able to take space and time away from attacking forwards the way Niedermayer used to.
While you can’t expect a 19-year-old to mirror the career of an all-time great, Howson believes Moore will one day become an impact NHLer.
“He’s an all-situations type of defenseman and can play a lot of minutes, so I see him as a top-four defenseman if he continues to develop,” Howson said. “He’ll have some offense to his game, but he’s going to have to play both ways and be a reliable guy to really be at the top of his game in the NHL.”
So while Moore is currently adapting to pro life in Springfield, what are the chances we’ll see him join the Blue Jackets at some point this season?
“It’s probably pretty good,” Howson said. “It’ll depend on how he plays, given we do have a lot of depth on defense down there so we’ll have lots of choices. We’ve called up two players already, Nate Guenin and Nick Holden, but there’s a good chance as long as he’s playing well he’ll get a chance to get some experience here.”
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