Mission improbable: Jackets suit Platt fine

If you would have mentioned the name Geoff Platt to Columbus Blue Jackets coach Gerard Gallant prior to Rookie Camp, he might have looked at you funny. Sure Platt scored 45 goals and 79 points in the OHL last year, but three months ago the 5-foot-9, 180-pound winger was an undrafted free agent with an ECHL contract brought in to fill out the Blue Jackets rookie camp roster for the rookie tournament in Traverse City, Mich.

It didn’t take long for Gallant and the rest of the organization to find out who Platt was. In Traverse City he led the tournament, which featured rookie squads from the Atlanta Thrashers, Detroit Red Wings, and Tampa Bay Lightning, with seven goals in four games.

"I didn’t know anything about him coming into training camp," Gallant said. "He was a kid that went to Rookie Camp and he had a heck of a Rookie Camp. He then joined us in the main training camp and then he went on to play well in the exhibition games."

That earned Platt an AHL spot with the Blue Jackets’ top affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch. Just as he did in Rookie Camp, Platt continued to open eyes and let his name be known. In 21 games, Platt netted 14 goals and added nine assists in his first 19 AHL games to earn an NHL contract and a call-up to the big team.

He made his NHL debut in St. Louis on December 1 and recorded his first NHL point with an assist in his home debut on December 8.

"He deserved everything he’s got," Gallant said. "To see him get here this quick, to be playing in the National Hockey League after not being drafted and basically getting a walk-on tryout, it’s great to see."

As quick as Platt’s rise has come, Gallant is quick to point out that the 20-year old from Mississauga, Ont., has earned everything he’s gotten.

"Our organization is very happy with him and he has deserved everything he has got," Gallant said. "We’re not giving him anything. Whatever he’s got, he’s taken and he’s earned it."

In his first NHL game, Platt played 14 minutes, 59 seconds and had four shots on goal to go along with two penalty minutes. Everything was fine for Platt…once the game started.

"My warm-up was pretty rough, I will admit that," Platt said. "Stepping out on my first shift, surprisingly, I wasn’t nervous at all. I don’t know why. I felt very comfortable, and it was just like I belonged there or something."

After the game he was re-assigned back to Syracuse during the Blue Jackets’ week-long layoff in early December and promptly netted a key goal in a 4-2 win at the Philadelphia Phantoms, Platt’s third game in four days. As a result, when the Blue Jackets resumed play on December 8, Platt was right back up with the big club.

"I haven’t pinched myself yet," he said. "I don’t think I have come down. Maybe after the fact it will finally dawn on me that I am really here and really doing this. But right now, I have a job to earn."

Coming down was not made any easier when Platt got to the Blue Jackets’ locker room. Positioned right next to Sergei Fedorov’s name plate was Platt’s. It was something that Platt would not have imagined three months ago.

"Go bet on that in Las Vegas. It would have been a million-to-one odd for that to happen," Platt said if someone would have told him that prior to Rookie Camp.

Now Platt’s skating on an NHL line with Fedorov and David Vyborny.

"I grew up watching (Fedorov) and have a lot of respect for him. He has spent years and years being a top professional. Now I am playing on a line with him. It’s pretty fun to be at that stage."

"It puts me in a good position to succeed, and it’s putting a lot of trust in me from the coaches," Platt said. "I really appreciate them for giving me that opportunity."

Platt is just happy to be living the dream.

"Now my friends are going nuts in their fantasy leagues. Apparently they are e-mailing all the fantasy sites and asking where I am so they can pick me up and add me to their team."

With two points in his first three NHL games, a lot more fantasy owners might start looking for Platt’s name.