Blue Jackets development camp: Jenner’s prospects look promising

By The Columbus Dispatch  • 
High Contrast Normal Version
Enlarge Image
Chris russell | DISPATCH
Boone Jenner wasn’t far from making the Blue Jackets in training camp in January.

The prospect tag worn for so long by strongman center Boone Jenner might finally be removed this fall.

It’s not that the stock of Jenner, a highly touted second-round draft pick of the Blue Jackets in 2011, has fallen.

Quite the opposite.

Jenner, 20, has come of age. He is, finally, a full-fledged professional in the eyes of the management and coaches who watched him and 28 other NHL hopefuls skate yesterday during the opening on-ice session of the team development camp in the OhioHealth Ice Haus.

Jenner, after a stellar four-year career in major junior hockey, is slated to play his first full professional season beginning in October, activating the first year of a three-year, entry-level contract signed in March 2012. Whether that is in the NHL with the Blue Jackets or in the American Hockey League with the Springfield Falcons will be determined in the next three months.

“He’s got development camp, rookie camp and the main camp,” Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said. “He’ll get enough opportunities to impress.”

Jenner, a tenacious, two-way center, wasn’t far from making the Jackets’ roster last season. He and defenseman Tim Erixon were the final two cuts from a January training camp cut short by the NHL lockout.

“It might have been just the respect factor,” said Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards, who sees the 6-foot-2, 204-pound Jenner as a crash-and-bang forward with skating ability, a high hockey IQ and the potential to evolve into something more.

“Sometimes you come up as a young kid and you don’t want to make any waves and you just want to go with the flow. Well, the way he plays, he’s got to make waves, and toward the end of camp he was much better.”

Jenner returned as team captain of Oshawa of the Ontario Hockey League, where he had 45 goals and 37 assists in only 56 games and played in a second consecutive world junior championship with Canada.

The Blue Jackets could have promoted Jenner after Oshawa was eliminated from the playoffs but instead assigned him to Springfield, where he was one of few bright spots during a disappointing postseason that ended after eight playoff games.

Jenner had joined the Falcons for five games at the conclusion of the 2011-12 season but said a second AHL stint was invaluable.

“That experience really helped me,” Jenner said. “You could tell the playoffs was the next step up. Everyone brings it up a notch and it was good to be a part of that.”

Jenner played multiple roles for the Falcons, switching between center, his natural position, and wing. He scored five goals and had four assists in 13 games, including eight in the playoffs.

“I saw a big difference from last year,” said Springfield coach Brad Larsen, who runs the on-ice portion of development camp. “He’s a little bit quicker and he’s a guy who is a little more sure of himself. He was really wide-eyed two years ago, but he was ready for the challenge.”

Jenner returned to Columbus last month and is slated to spend much of the summer here, an offseason commitment that hasn’t gone unnoticed by Richards.

Jenner’s versatility should also increase his chances of making the NHL roster out of training camp. The Jackets have five centers on their current roster, and the defensive responsibilities of a rookie center, especially one whose puck pursuit has at times been seen as overzealous, are often too rich.

“There is no question in my mind he can play wing,” Kekalainen said. “I think he might even be better playing on the wing in his first full year as a pro.”

Richards used former first-round pick Ryan Johansen primarily as a fourth-line winger in his first season.

“I’m comfortable at center but I got a taste of the wing,” Jenner said. “I think I can do those things, win those puck battles on the walls and things like that. If I can get a role on this team doing that then I’ll do it to the best of my ability.”

smitchell@dispatch.com

@smitchcd

Comments

Please Share Your Zip Code

To listen to 97.1 The Fan or ESPN 1460AM we ask that you provide a zip code so that we may give you the best audio connection possible.

Please enter your zip code:

No thanks