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With his chance at hand, Meyer’s hard work paying off

September 16th, 2021 by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

Carson Meyer eventually ended up where he thought he’d be, it just took him a little longer to get there.

As a Central Ohio native who grew up on Blue Jackets hockey, maturing as a young player just as the organization and the city’s hockey culture and infrastructure around him were doing the same, he always envisioned himself with a CBJ contract and the chance to make the team.

He probably just didn’t expect it to take until 2021, at the age of 24, to get there. It’s been quite a journey, but he now has the chance he always wanted, and he’s showing all the signs that he’s going to do everything he can to take advantage of it, starting with this week.

Meyer is taking part in the Traverse City Prospects Tournament that starts tomorrow hoping to show he’s ready to take the next step. Coming off an impressive first pro campaign and an offseason of chiseling his body, he hopes to springboard his way into being part of the CBJ’s plans and has the confidence and maturity to do it.

It’s shown the past two days in the team’s development camp as the Powell native has been first in line in every drill and shown the leadership one would expect for someone of his age in a camp of youngsters. It’s just been a few days, and the hardest work is still to come, but Meyer has the look of someone who knows he belongs.

“I’m glad it looks that way,” he said with a laugh Tuesday. “It feels that way. I feel a lot more confident. This is the biggest opportunity I’ve ever had going into a season so I’m super focused and I’m really confident right now. I just can’t wait to get started.”

There certainly have been roadblocks along the way, including the reason many in the hockey world at large came to know Meyer — the monthslong sickness in 2017-18 that turned out to be caused by a tapeworm, a malady that cost him an untold amount of development time during his college years. It all led to a transfer from Miami to Ohio State and a much more uncertain path to the sport’s highest level.

But in Columbus, he’s always been known as someone who had the ability and work ethic to be one of the players to make it all the way, much like current teammates and established NHLers Jack Roslovic and Sean Kuraly. He was a standout with the AAA Blue Jackets team as a youngster and a dominant USHL player, among the reasons he was chosen by the hometown Columbus squad in the sixth round of the 2017 NHL draft.

Even when he got his career back on track with two seasons at OSU, including a senior year in which he posted a 17-14-31 line in 35 games and topped it off with a four-goal game in the Big Ten tournament, the adversity was there. The Blue Jackets let his rights expire in the summer of 2020 and then watched Cleveland of the AHL ink Meyer to what was essentially a prove-it deal in the minors a season ago.

He did just that, scoring two goals in his first game with the Monsters and never looking back. By the time the shortened 2021 campaign was over, Meyer became a consistent top-six player in Cleveland, notching an impressive rookie season that included nine goals and 20 points in 26 games.

With that, he showed enough to sign a one-year entry-level contract with Columbus for this season.

“I came in on an AHL deal in and Columbus said if you prove you can play at this level, we’ll bump it up,” Meyer said. “They were true to their word. That obviously motivated me throughout (last) season and now it’s just about doing it again and raising the level once more.”

If his body composition is any indication, Meyer has taken that message to heart. He’s noticeably thicker — one might even say jacked — and said he added 10 pounds to his frame in the gym this offseason, all the better to keep his weight up throughout the rigors of a season while playing the style of game he’ll need to make it to the NHL and stick.

While his career numbers show he certainly has some skill, the reality is his calling card to make it in the world’s top league is to be a grinder whose identity is as much about effort and being a rat on the puck as it is scoring goals.

“I feel pretty strong, which I think is good because I’m going to need to be,” he said. “Winning puck battles and playing hard is what is going to earn me a shot, so that’s been my main focus all summer.”

He’s looked the part in development camp, and the next step is to get back on the ice in Traverse City and not just play well but use it as a jumping off point for when training camp starts next week. With the Blue Jackets having plenty of options up front and a bevy of players battling to stake their claim to a spot on the team, Meyer faces stiff competition to make the squad.

But it’s a long season, and after his confidence-boosting first season as a pro, the opportunity could very well come along at some point. So far, he’s done everything possible to seize it.

“It would mean the world to me, obviously,” he said of making his NHL debut. “I’ve had a different path. It’s been a long path with a lot of ups and downs, a lot of adversity, so I was just sticking with it and always believing in myself and having a great support group with my family and my friends. It would mean the world to all of us, obviously. That’s definitely the goal for this year.”

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