The NHL announced in December that with all the complications from the upsurge in COVID cases around the world and its locker rooms, its players would not be able to compete in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
But there are still plenty of names with Blue Jackets ties who will take part in the tournament which begins on February 9. And the first of those to be confirmed came today when Slovakia announced that Blue Jackets draft pick Samuel Knazko, a 19-year-old veteran of their international teams, has been chosen for their squad that will compete in the Olympics. winter.
The Jackets’ third-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, Knazko has captained the Slovak team at each of the past two World Junior Championships and also played a key role with the senior national team at the Championships. of the world last May.
The defender known for his strong attacking ability and playmaking qualities has had a busy year. Knazko started the season with TPS in Finland, but played mostly for his U-20 side, going 4-10-14 in 15 games, before coming to North America to join Seattle of the WHL. His international commitments have kept him from having a big impact with the Thunderbirds yet, but he has one goal and two assists in eight games.
Ultimately, he probably won’t be the only Blue Jackets prospect to make it to the Olympics. A pair of 21-year-old Russian draft picks, Kirill Marchenko and Dmitry Voronkov, have worn the Russian jersey in the past and been invited to the country’s training camp. Although they have yet to survive the final cuts, they are believed to be among the best young players in Russia and could qualify for the Olympics.
And then there’s Kent Johnson, the much-vaunted offensive force that could be selected for Team Canada now that the NHL players are out. The No. 5 overall pick in the 2021 draft and one of the NCAA’s leading scorers at the University of Michigan, Johnson could be among the college kids chosen to wear the Maple Leaf jersey when the final roster is released. in the next few days.
Among other links, former CBJ striker Mikhail Grigorenko was also invited to the Russia camp, while 2013 first-round pick Marko Dano was also part of the Slovak squad and the former striker of the CBJ Gregory Hofmann was chosen for Switzerland’s entry.
There are also plenty of Columbus ties on the women’s side as well as three former Ohio State players and a current Buckeye have been drafted so far. Jincy Dunne, a defenseman who skated for the Buckeyes and is the sister of CBJ center Joshua Dunne, was selected for Team USA, while former OSU forwards Natalie Spooner and Emma Maltais are part of the Canadian team. Meanwhile, current OSU goaltender Andrea Brandli has been chosen for the Swiss team that will compete.
Peeke proud of home
There are sixteen players in NHL history who were born in the state of Florida.
It is a club with a good number of CBJ links. Dan Hinote was once the team’s assistant coach, while Blake Geoffrion worked in the front office for several years.
But only one of those players has donned a Blue Jackets jersey in Andrew Peek. The Parkland defenseman is part of a growing group of Sunshine Staters heading to the NHL, a club that now includes star brothers Quinn and Jack Hughes as well as notable names such as Shayne Gostisbehere, Jacob Chychrun and Garnet Hathaway.
Some come from hockey families who have just moved south. Others, like Peeke, fell in love with the game because of the creation of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers. But there’s no doubt the sport is thriving in a place far more known for sun and tropical storms than snow and ice.
It’s also a point of pride for those who have achieved success like Peeke, who grew up minutes from the FLA Live Arena and attended many Panthers games with his father, Cliff, and the rest of his family when he was a child.
Video: Andrew Peeke speaks before facing the Panthers.
“It’s really special for me,” Peeke said of returning home last weekend to face the Panthers. “Without this team, this building, being so close to home, I don’t know where I would be right now from a hockey perspective, so this team will always hold a place in my heart. Just being a kid of Florida isn’t necessarily the ideal route to the NHL, but I’m grateful to be here and proud of it.”
And just as we’ve seen the explosion of interest in the sport of hockey in Columbus over the years thanks to the NHL team, the same seems to be happening in Florida. This is especially true in the youth ranks, as Central Ohio and Florida have never been birthplaces and breeding grounds for top hockey players, which has changed in recent years.
Peeke eventually had to leave his home state to play hockey at a prep school in Connecticut, then went to the USHL and eventually college hockey at Notre Dame. But his hope is that as he sees more young people getting into the game, it will become commonplace for Florida State players to reach the top level.
“I just remember when I was growing up, the rinks weren’t necessarily that full,” Peeke said. “The rinks weren’t necessarily that full. There weren’t as many kids playing hockey or interested in it. Now, when I’m here in the summer, I go to the rink and I skate and it’s completely different.
“The impact that the Panthers and the Lightning have had in Florida State in terms of hockey, the kids love hockey now. He’s growing so much, and I’m proud of that with a few other guys who are doing really well in the professional ranks.
There’s certainly a lot of pride in Peeke too, as evidenced by the huge cheering section he had before the game and during the game. Around 70 friends and family, many wearing jerseys he has worn throughout his career, were in attendance, and Peeke also tossed a warm-up puck to his cheer section before the game.
Although the game itself didn’t turn out the way he would have liked, it’s still a memorable moment where he can return home and play in the arena he grew up in.
If you haven’t noticed, on social media we’re counting down the days until the March 5 jersey retirement ceremony for Rick Nash, highlighting memorable moments from Nash’s illustrious career with the team.
Yesterday was a special birthday, however, as 14 years prior the No.61 scored what is still known as ‘The Goal’ in Blue Jackets history. His weaving, upside down, to score the game-winning goal on January 17, 2008, in Arizona – deking two defenders in succession before rounding the goalie and sliding the puck into the open net – remains one of the indelible images in CBJ history.
All these years later, it remains one of the most improbable goals of the last 20 years in the NHL, a perfect blend of skill, audacity and bad luck. I still remember watching the game live and couldn’t believe what I saw – over a decade later, it’s still the same.
This day in CBJ history
January 18, 2009: Jason Williams scores the game-winning shootout goal to cap off a wild 6-5 win at Vancouver. The score was tied 1-1 after one period, 3-3 after two and 5-5 at the end of regulation time and extra time.
January 18, 2020: Elvis Merzlikins made 41 saves in a 5-0 win over New Jersey at Nationwide Arena, earning his third shutout in eight days.
January 18, 2021: Olivier Bjorkstrand landed a hat trick from Gordie Howe and Zach Werensky dropped the gloves with childhood friend Dylan Larkin in a 3-2 CBJ win at Detroit.