There has always been crazy amounts of hype surrounding star players drafted in the first five or so picks making their debut in the National Hockey League. Many people like to gage a players ability based on those first couple games, and some even go as far as critiquing the entire team after those first couple games, deeming the season a success of a failure. In Columbus, guys like Nash and Filatov had that hype.
But the unsung heros seem to come from the depths of the Columbus draft days, like Matt Calvert (5th round, 127 overall in 2008), Derek Dorsett (7th round, 189 overall in 2006), Kris Russell (3rd round, 67th overall in 2005), Jared Boll (4th round, 101st overall in 2005), Grant Clitsome (9th round, 271st overall in 2004), and Marc Methot (6th round, 168th overall in 2003). The success of a team can be measured in a handful of ways that are generally not televised or highlighted by the media because of the lack of ‘sexyness’ that it generates. Sure enough though, Columbus is knee deep in mid draft talent, and over the last two weeks, two more names have been added to the list.
Kubalik showed promise in Columbus’ training camp this year, making decisions hard in a top six that had very little wiggle room (not to mention a hungry Calvert also waiting in the wing). I support any conclusion that says he belongs in a top six role and may struggle outside of that realm. I personally agree that players with specific styles are wasted in secondary roles, and Kubalik is no exception. He spent the year conditioning his talent in Springfield and took to the ice for the first time as a Jacket last night. No ticker tape parade, no fans expectations waiting to skyrocket at the ring of a post or the crunch of a check. Just Kubalik, showing the Jackets faithful what he is capable of accomplishing in a Blue Jackets jersey.
Early in the game I saw comments regarding his play become a bit negative on twitter. Certainly moving to the NHL stage against one of the premier Eastern Conference teams is a daunting task, and getting his feet wet may have included a dunking or two, but by the second period, the line of Calvert – Vermette – Kubalik was far and away the most effective unit for the Jackets. My favourite talking point of the game for him was watching him chase a defender around their net, forcing a weak pass to the secondary defender on the boards. Kubalik sprinted and pressed him, who had to make a play back behind the net with Kubalik once again quickly in pursuit. The puck was finally cleared, with Vermette and Umberger watching on as the rookie jetted from side to side forcing difficult passes.
If Kubalik brought anything last night outside the actual game itself, he brought a very distinct definition of quality drafting to Columbus. He was drafted 7 picks after his linemate from last night, Matt Calvert. Another 5th rounder making waves in the Blue Jackets roster, and another successful start to what I believe will be a strong NHL career.
Carry the Flag!