Unlike the football program, which churns out talent that moves on to the NFL on a yearly basis, the Ohio State men’s hockey program has seen just 31 former players appear in an NHL game. By comparison, the University of Michigan has had over 100 former players go on to make it into the NHL. While Ohio State should be proud of the number of players they have produced that have made it to the professional ranks, they aren’t exactly considered a college hockey powerhouse. Well, at least the men’s team program isn’t. The Ohio State women’s hockey program has a shiny new trophy to prove that they are an emerging one.
Ohio State has seen 55 players selected in the NHL Draft, with the majority of those players being later-round picks. A player that is an Ohio State alum that has made it to the NHL, but who the Buckeyes can’t technically claim as being an Ohio State player selected in the NHL Draft is Carson Meyer. This probably sounds very confusing, but there is a pretty easy way to explain it.
Unlike the NFL Draft or NBA Draft, a player selected in the NHL Draft is eligible to return to college. That’s why you saw Kent Johnson reach the Frozen Four with Michigan this year after being drafted fifth overall by Columbus in the 2021 NHL Draft in June. After the Wolverines were eliminated in one of the national semifinals last year, Johnson made his NHL debut on Wednesday night when the Blue Jackets hosted Montreal.
Powell native Carson Meyer began his college career at Miami University, scoring 10 goals and being credited with 16 assists during the 2016-17 season. Even before college, Meyer was on the radar of the Blue Jackets, as he played youth hockey in the Central Ohio AAA Blue Jackets program, where he would play with current teammates Sean Kuraly and Jack Roslovic. Columbus went on to select Meyer in the sixth round with the 179th pick in the 2017 NHL Draft.
After being drafted, Meyer returned to Oxford for his second season with the RedHawks, but his sophomore season didn’t go as planned. While using the bathroom in February 2018, Meyer had a 25-inch tapeworm exit from his body, which explained why the prospect had no appetite or energy during a season in which he finished with just six goals and four assists in 34 games.
After the frightening discovery of the tapeworm, Meyer decided to return to the Columbus area and transfer to Ohio State, which was just coming off of a run to the 2018 Frozen Four. Over the final two years of his college career, Meyer would play in 71 games for the Buckeyes, potting 26 goals and dishing out 27 assists.
Even though it was obvious that Meyer wasn’t quite ready to play in the NHL following his college career, Columbus wasn’t ready to cut ties with the winger. The first stop in Meyer’s professional career was just a couple of hours up I-71 with the Cleveland Monsters, who are the top affiliate of the Blue Jackets. Meyer didn’t get a full season because COVID-19 shortened the AHL’s season. The Monsters played 29 games, with Meyer appearing in 26 of those contests, scoring nine goals and recording 11 assists.
Even though Meyer got about a third of a normal AHL season, he was able to get some feedback on what he was going to need to do to make it to the NHL. Even though Meyer does have talent with his offensive game, he isn’t going to be one of those players that scores 30 goals in a season. What Meyer learned he needed to do was be a pest on the ice. Columbus has a bunch of talent at right wing, with Oliver Bjorkstrand and Jakub Voracek sitting at the top of the depth chart at the position. Trey Fix-Wolansky and Kirill Marchenko also figure to be a big part of the future at right wing for the Blue Jackets.
There’s nothing wrong with being a gritty wing on the third or fourth line, though. Plenty of players have carved out nice careers filling that role. Just look at someone like Matt Calvert, who has played in over 500 NHL games and became a fan favorite during his time in Columbus. A role like that is even more important on a team like Columbus, which is often underestimated and overlooked. Blue Jackets fans always seem to identify more with those that leave it all on the ice and want to be here, especially after some of the team's stars in past years have left for bigger markets.
It looked like Meyer was going to finally realize his dream in February when he was called up by the Blue Jackets prior to the February 10th game against the Buffalo Sabres. Meyer didn’t end up playing in the victory over the Sabres, and was sent back to Cleveland the following day. Even though he didn’t get to play in his first NHL game on his first call-up, Meyer knew that his time was coming soon enough.
Meyer had to wait less than two months to make his NHL debut, as he was called up from Cleveland prior to the April 4th game against the Boston Bruins. It also worked out that Meyer would be making his debut on home ice in Columbus. The game against the Bruins was a chippy affair that saw 44 combined penalty minutes between the two teams. With the number of special teams action between power play and penalty-killing units, Meyer’s time on the ice got cut into some, as he saw six shifts that totaled 3:16 in ice time in his debut.
After a brief NHL debut, Meyer and the Blue Jackets were at it again the next night, traveling to Philadelphia to take on the Flyers. Meyer was active early on in his second NHL game, earning his first point with the primary assist on a Brendan Gaunce goal less than three minutes into the game. 10 minutes later, Meyer scored his first NHL goal, giving the Blue Jackets a 2-0 lead in a game they would go on to win 4-2.
In the three games following his performance in Philadelphia, recording four shots on goal in 22 minutes on the ice. With the Blue Jackets out of the playoff hunt, as well as the Cleveland Monsters being eliminated from the AHL playoff race, Columbus might as well keep Meyer on their roster and give him some more time to get comfortable at the NHL level. With some of the young talent Columbus has in their system, there are going to be some heated competitions for roster spots over the next few years. The Blue Jackets might as well give the hometown kid an early crack to state his case on why he belongs with the team, and it will also give him time to address any areas that he needs to make improvements in.
You can be sure that every time Meyer takes the ice in Columbus, the cheers will be a little louder because he is a former Buckeye. If Meyer is able to put things together and take the next step and secure a full-time role on the team in the future, he’ll definitely be a fan favorite.