The Columbus Dispatch
Former Blue Jackets dotting this year’s Stanley Cup Final
The Stanley Cup Final has arrived with the Florida Panthers and Vegas Golden Knights battling for the NHL’S most cherished prize, and there are plenty of Blue Jackets connections with both teams.
Here are 10, five from each team:
Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky
Bobrovsky has used this playoff run to erase the stigma he’d built in Columbus as an elite goalie who can’t handle the pressure of playoff hockey. He was dominant in the previous two rounds against the Toronto Maple Leafs and Carolina Hurricanes.
Continuing that trend and winning the Cup would justify the seven-year, $70 million contract he signed with Florida on July 1, 2019.
Panthers general manager Bill Zito
Zito spent seven years with the Blue Jackets before taking the Panthers’ GM role in September 2020.
Zito coaxed multiple Blue Jackets hockey operations staffers to follow him and a number of them are still with the Panthers. The list includes Gregory Campbell, the team’s vice president of player personnel and development, Tom Bark, director of hockey operations/ player evaluations and former Blue Jackets defenseman Dalton Prout, a pro scout.
Panthers forward Anthony Duclair
Duclair signed with Columbus as a free agent in July 2018 and became a lineup regular, but frustrated former Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella with his turnovers. Duclair was traded to the Ottawa Senators along with two secondround draft picks at the deadline for Ryan Dzingel and a seventh-round pick.
Dzingel was a malcontent in Columbus who wasn’t re-signed; and Duclair, who’d made a lot of friends on the Blue Jackets, blossomed into an offensive force for the Senators and then Panthers. He plays right wing on the Panthers’ top line.
Panthers forward Zac Dalpe
Dalpe has toggled between the NHL and AHL levels for nearly his entire professional life. The former Ohio State forward has played for six NHL teams but logged just 168 regular season games in his 12-year career.
He played 25 games for the Blue Jackets and became a fan favorite in Cleveland while playing five AHL seasons for the Monsters.
Panthers assistant coach Sylvain Lefebvre
Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen hired Lefebvre in 2021 to be an assistant for Brad Larsen, who’d just been promoted to head coach. Before he even got to Columbus, Lefebrve was fired for his refusal to get a COVID-19 immunization shot as then required by the NHL.
Zito hired him for this season after hiring veteran head coach Paul Maurice to run the Panthers’ bench.
Golden Knights center William Karlsson
Karlsson was acquired at the trade deadline in 2015 from the Anaheim Ducks and played in three seasons for the Blue Jackets. He was left unprotected in the 2017 NHL expansion draft, and so went from centering Tortorella’s third line in Columbus to anchoring the top line for then-coach Gerard Gallant in Las Vegas, scoring a career-high 43 goals and helping the Golden Knights advance to the 2018 Stanley Cup Final.
Golden Knights forward Keegan Kolesar
Kekalainen selected Kolesar in the third round of the 2015 draft and then traded his rights to Vegas two years later to get a second-round pick at the 2017 draft in Chicago. That pick was used to select French forward Alexandre Texier 45th overall.
Texier, 23, has played 123 games over four seasons for Columbus and spent last season playing in Switzerland. He’s expected to return to the NHL for the Blue Jackets in 2023-24. Kolesar, meanwhile, has carved out a fourth-line role for himself with the Golden Knights. He’s played 196 games over three-plus seasons, adding size and grit to a lineup that has a lot of skill in it.
Golden Knights forward Jonathan Marchessault
Marchessault was signed by the Blue Jackets in July 2012, an AHL free-agent acquisition by former GM Scott Howson, and the undersized forward made his NHL debut by playing two games in 2012-13 for Columbus.
Conditioning issues prompted a trade to the Tampa Bay Lightning two years later. In 2016, he was traded again, this time to the Panthers. The Golden Knights then scooped him up in the 2017 expansion draft. He’s been a top-six forward for the Golden Knights since, logging 432 games over the past six seasons and scoring 150-198-348 while skating at right wing on the top line.
Golden Knights assistant coach Misha Donskov
Donskov’s professional career began with the Blue Jackets as a youth instructor for the team’s youth hockey program, where he spent three seasons in that capacity.
Donskov eventually entered the coaching ranks at the Canadian collegiate level, shifted into major junior hockey in the Ontario Hockey League and made the jump to the NHL in 2016-17 as the Golden Knights’ director of hockey operations. He became an assistant coach in 2020 and has held that role ever since.
Golden Knights assistant coach Ryan Craig
Craig, 41, played 14 professional seasons, and the last five were spent as part of the Blue Jackets’ organization.
Craig wore the ‘C’ on his jersey when the Monsters won the AHL’S Calder Cup in 2016 and spent one more season as a player before jumping straight into coaching at the NHL level with the Golden Knights. He’s in his sixth season as a Vegas assistant and is already coaching in the Stanley Cup Final for a second time. email@example.com @Brianhedger