Seriously folks. I know I seem to come across like the biggest Dalton Prout hater that ever lived, but I swear this has nothing to do with anything I’ve previously said on the man (or kid). I’ve usually had good things to say about Tim Erixon and Ryan Murray (and think Murray is legit), but those three guys have a much bigger hill to climb than you probably expect.
We know James Wisniewski, Jack Johnson, Fedor Tyutin, and Nikita Nikitin will definitely be in the NHL to start the season. They have relatively big money and are on one way contracts. So barring a trade, that leaves three open defense spots. Fighting for those three spots are five players, the aforementioned Prout, Murray and Erixon, along with David Savard and Cody Goloubef. Seems like it should be a pretty good competition, with Prout being close to a lock based on his play last season, and Murray probably earning a spot due to his potential, and then the rest of them fighting it out for the 7th man job. But I doubt it plays out that way.
If I were a betting man, I’d put money that it’s actually a three man fight for one of those spots with two of them already locked in. That fight is between Erixon, Murray, and Prout. As in, I think Goloubef and Savard are locks to make the team. This is all because of Article 13 of the NHL’s latest CBA. Because of this article, Goloubef and Savard would have to clear waivers if they are cut from the Jackets. Considering the relatively tiny amount of salary owed to them, their potential, and what they’ve already shown at the AHL and NHL level, I put the odds of one or both of them clearing waivers at “very unlikely”.
So there’s the monkey wrench in the battle. Is the difference between Prout and Goloubef large enough to risk losing Goloubef for nothing? What about with Savard and Erixon/Murray? Yeah, I think Prout is slightly better than Goloubef, but I’d rather have Goloubef in the NHL, and Prout as the first call up than Prout in the lineup, Goloubef playing for the Panthers (or someone), and relying on career AHLers to keep the team afloat when the inevitable injuries hit. Furthering this is Prout’s injury status. With him being hurt, I could very easily see the justification of sending Prout back to the AHL to get his legs back under him, and waiting for another injury to bring him back up again.
So with that being said, how do I think the Jackets defense shakes out? Murray and Wisniewski playing together so much seems like it’s a lock. Murray is just far too good already. He’s head and shoulders above the other four bubble defensemen. That’s really the only question, as you then can pretty easily figure that Tyutin will be paired with Johnson, and Nikitin play on the third pair with whichever one of Savard or Goloubef is in the lineup. Erixon and Prout can then dominate down in Springfield until Wiz gets hurt. That can be the plan for now at least. Once Prout plays another 36 NHL games, he has to clear waivers. Then this whole thing gets even more complicated. So prepare yourself Prout lovers. Prepare to live in a world with a Prout-less Jackets squad.