The Columbus Blue Jackets have once again called up Markus Hannikainen to join them on their mini road trip to Winnipeg and Minnesota. Hannikainen has been the call up many times this year when they need some to travel with the team for “insurance” type reasons. While Hannikainen has been a serviceable player this year both in the minors and in the NHL, is it time to call someone else up to give them a chance?
Hannikainen doesn’t have the most impressive point totals on the Monsters. In fact, he is one point behind former first round pick Sonny Milano while having played the same number of games. When do players like Daniel Zaar, TJ Tynan and possibly Alex Broadhurst get the call? The quick answer is not any time soon but it may be for reasons that you wouldn’t think of at first glance.
The reason Hannikainen is up in the first place is just how solid he is in his role. He isn’t flashy, he isn’t too overtly physical, he does it all well without many mistakes. It doesn’t however mesh with what we have come to think about the Blue Jackets this year. The Jackets have been risky, they have been willing to try something new to see if it works. Wouldn’t that mean a player like Bjorkstrand or Milano should be called up?
While calling those two up in the short term may be a good move to fit the identity of the team, it would affect their development. John Tortorella stated his thoughts on Bjorkstrand and has given him rave reviews, he also believes that he will be a key part of the squad in the years to come. Milano, for all of his perceived deficiencies is coming along nicely and is still a difference maker with the puck on his stick. For all of their offensive fire power, they need some more seasoning, that isn’t the worst option in the world and it is quite a luxury compared to Blue Jackets teams in the past.
Zaar, Tynan and Broadhurst have put up some points in the AHL but it remains to be seen whether or not they could succeed at the next level. Zaar in preseason play looked a step or two behind, mind you this was against inferior competition, nonetheless was still concerning. Tynan has his size working against him, but if any team in the league should give an opportunity to a vertically challenged player, it would be the Blue Jackets. Broadhurst has put up points on every team he has played for since junior hockey. Unfortunately for him, he disappears for long stretches of time and can be weak without the puck. The options to Hannikainen don’t come without their faults; after all it is part of the reason why they are in the AHL itself. They need to work on their game and the AHL is the perfect place to do that.
Which brings us back to Hannikainen. His constant call ups may be head scratching to some, at a surface level though, it makes a lot of sense. He, at best, may end up being a plug and play type player, never truly a difference maker. That is okay and if he is already at his perceived ceiling on his potential, this fits his usage quite well.
It may seem odd to take a look at a team’s call ups but if the Jackets want to make this more than a flash in the pan. These moves need to be analyzed just like the others.