Sweden v United States - 2013 USA Hockey Junior Evaluation Camp

Looking to make the leap: Alexander Wennberg


The Blue Jackets’ youth movement is in full swing. Ryan Johansen, 22, broke out last season with 33 goals and 63 points while rookies Boone Jenner and Ryan Murray made meaningful contributions.

Columbus has more quality prospects on the verge of establishing themselves and arguably the most noteworthy example is 19-year-old Alexander Wennberg. He’s a two-way center that was taken with the 14th overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.

He’s gained experience playing among men with Frolunda in Sweden’s top league and stood out in the 2014 World Junior Championship. Rather than continue to hone his game in Europe, Wennberg signed an entry-level contract this summer so that he can make the transition to North America.

“In talking to Alexander after the season, he made it very clear that he wanted to sign, work hard this summer and then come to training camp to try to make our team,” Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen said following the signing. “He is an outstanding young player and we are excited to watch him develop in the coming years.”

The belief among Columbus’ scouts is that Wennberg is capable of following in Jenner’s footsteps by earning a roster spot with an impressive training camp, according to NHL.com. It helps that Wennberg has bulked up, bringing him to 6-foot-2, 205 pounds.

Making the roster won’t be simple for Wennberg, but there are potential openings. Columbus was passive on the free agent market this summer and the fact that they have players like Wennberg in the system was part of their rationale for that.

“You can’t fast-forward the young players if they’re not ready,” Kekalainen told the Columbus Dispatch back in June. “But you have to give them room to play, and to do that, you can’t have too many guys in the same role. The bus gets crowded.”

So the opportunity is there for Wennberg. The question now is whether he’ll be able to make the leap straight to the NHL from Europe or if he’ll need seasoning in the minors first.

Brandon Sutter didn’t have the greatest preseason

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When Brandon Sutter was acquired by the Vancouver Canucks, GM Jim Benning called the 26-year-old a “foundation piece for our group going forward.”

Sutter was quickly signed to a five-year extension worth almost $22 million, more evidence of how highly management thought of the player.

Fast forward to yesterday, when Benning was asked the following question:

“What does it say that you made the trade for Sutter, you called him a ‘foundation’ player, and it took him until the final night of the preseason to find a spot (with the Sedins) on the wing, which isn’t his natural position?”

Here was Benning’s response:

“Well, [head coach Willie Desjardins] wants to try that out, he thinks that’s going to be a good fit. At various times, the Sedins played with wingers with speed, with [Ryan Kesler], who could get in on the forecheck and had a good shot. Sutter brings some of those qualities, too.”

While all that may be true, Sutter was not signed to play the wing; he was brought in to play center, specifically on the second line. He finished the preseason with zero points in five games. And as mentioned, he’ll start the season on the wing, not his natural position.

Meanwhile, youngsters Bo Horvat, 20, and Jared McCann, 19, had outstanding camps and are expected to start the regular season (tonight in Calgary) centering the second and third lines, respectively.

Though Sutter did finish the preseason with 12 shots on goal, up there with the most on the Canucks, it’s fair to say he did not look like a “foundation” player.

“I haven’t seen him play his best,” Desjardins said last week. “I see a guy who’s big and a good skater and who understands the game real well, but just hasn’t got that involved.”

Now, we are only talking about the preseason here. New players often take time to get comfortable. Perhaps playing with the Sedins can provide Sutter with some confidence.

“I know he’ll be there and I totally believe that,” said Desjardins.

But it hasn’t been the best start, and if it wasn’t for the encouraging play of the youngsters, it would be a far bigger story in Vancouver.

Related: Canucks roll the dice on rookies, waive Vey and Corrado

Detroit waives Cleary

Daniel Cleary

Dan Cleary‘s time as a Red Wing could soon be over.

Detroit placed the veteran forward on waivers Wednesday afternoon, per TSN. The move comes after Cleary signed a one-year, one-way deal worth $950,000 just weeks before training camp, then proceeded to play in four of Detroit’s exhibition contests, scoring two points.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens now.

At 36, Cleary doesn’t have much left in the tank and is coming off a year in which he played just 17 games. But as we noted back in the summer, this seems to all be part of a larger plan.

From the Free Press:

A situation that bears the handprint of former coach Mike Babcock has put the Wings in the position of being honor-bound to keep Cleary, 36, aboard, even as he is coming off a season that saw him play just 17 games, producing two points.

This debacle began two years ago. The Wings had offered Cleary a three-year, $6.25-million contract before he became unrestricted July 1. He declined. The Wings then signed Stephen Weiss and Daniel Alfredsson, leaving little space under the salary cap. Then Cleary didn’t sign with anyone. September rolled around. The Flyers offered Cleary a three-year deal for $8.25 million, but Cleary then decided he wanted to stay in Detroit.

He ended up flying to Traverse City, where the Wings already had begun training camp. He met in a hangar with Holland and Babcock. Holland pointed to a near maxed-out budget. Babcock pushed hard for Cleary to be signed. What resulted was a one-year, $1.75-million deal with the understanding the Wings would take into consideration what Cleary left on the Flyers table.

After playing out that $1.75 million deal, Cleary re-signed in Detroit last summer to a one-year, $1.5 million pact — so, essentially, the Wings are now in final year of an unspoken three-year agreement that’s (sorta) aimed at repaying what got left on the table in Philly.

Got all that?

If Cleary gets through waivers, the Wings could send him to AHL Grand Rapids. Since he signed a one-way deal, he’d get his money regardless.

There’s also the option of Babcock and the Leafs claiming Cleary off waivers — a scenario that, as unlikely as it sounds, has already made the rounds on social media.