We are 2 days away from Blue Jacket hockey, and with a new unique roster mixed with vets, and young guys NOBODY can predict what will happen this year.
With a couple days left to spare Jarmo and Brad Larsen cut the roster down to 23.
Names that were left off include Emil Bemstrom (who cleared waivers and will be assigned to Cleveland), and David Jiricek (who was assigned to Cleveland). Joonas Korpisalo (hip) and Joona Luoto (lower body) were placed on the IR to start the season.
Forwards: This is going to be an interesting and fun group to watch this season with the addition of Johnny Gaudreau, and a returning group of mostly young guys, they are going to be explosive and hungry.
The first line has been announced by having Johnny Gaudreau and Patrik Laine on the same line this will be electric and fans will be on the edge of their seats every shift. Plugging in captain Boone Jenner in between the two will add a gritty presence, and be a defensive asset to the line as Gaudreau and Laine haven’t really proved themselves to be the best defenders.
Now with only predictions for the rest of the lines, I’ll be going off the lines in the latest Washington Capitals preseason game.
An exciting line that could shock some people include second-year player Yegor Chinakhov, Columbus native Jack Roslovic, and proven vet Jakub Voracek. Chinakhov proved himself this offseason to be on the opening day roster and is looking more and more like an NHL player each day. Voracek posted a 6-56-62 line last year while being on the ice with Laine, now he’s with another young winger that can find the back of the net. Now with Roslovic in between the two, this might be the year to prove himself as a true NHL center, he proved that he can hold his own defensively now can he live up to his offensive potential with this line? While this has the potential to be a very exciting and productive line for the Blue Jackets, it will be interesting to see how the 3 mesh together as they are all in different parts of their career.
The third line includes the 5th overall pick in the 2021 draft Kent Johnson, second-year standout player Cole Sillinger, and 2019 first-round pick Liam Foudy. Now I will be shocked if they are on the same line on Wednesday as Johnson and Sillinger both can’t purchase alcohol legally and Foudy hasn’t played a full NHL season despite being the first-round pick in 2019. Johnson has proven to be an exciting young player that can produce at International and Collegiate levels, but now with all his focus on the NHL can he still be that player? Sillinger surprised everybody except himself last season by making the roster at 18 years old, now with a season under his belt will he be in a Sophomore slump or explode this season? Liam Foudy surprised me by making the roster this season while spending the 2021-2022 season in Cleveland and posting 7-12-19 in 29 games because of injury, could he have a breakout season this year and prove to everyone why he was a first-round pick? This line is full of questions but will be very fun to watch these young guys develop this season.
This fourth line could be one of the best fourth lines in the NHL with speedster Eric Robinson, sparkplug Sean Kuraly, and newcomer Mathieu Olivier. Despite a slump and some injuries last year, Robinson is in line for a very productive season, as he learned last year his speed will get him all of the opportunities in the world but putting the puck in the net doesn’t come easy. The Columbus kid, Sean Kuraly is one of the best glue guys in the NHL and proved that he could play with anyone, if Tex needed to get going last year he was put on a line with Kuraly, and the same for Robinson when he was in a slump, I’m very excited to see what Kuraly can do this year. The former Predator, Mathieu Olivier, fills a huge need for Columbus and will make a big impact right from the start, being a defensive-minded player surrounded by playmakers Olivier will help out with one of the worst defensive teams from last year.
Now, I’m not saying these will be the lines, as the management has kept it pretty quiet leading up to game one. Some forwards that will play, but were not in the Washington game is Gustav Nyquist who is still dealing with a lower-body injury but will be a great veteran addition as he is entering his 12th year playing professional hockey, Justin Danforth is also a name to look out for, as he has finally found a home in Columbus after being all around the world looking for a team. Both of these guys will bring great leadership and experience to lead this young team.
Defense: Despite being one of the worst defensive teams in the NHL last year, the Blue Jackets gained another year of experience for the young guys, and brought in a big-body defenseman, Eric Gudbranson. This defense is still young and we are going to see a lot of different pairings this year trying new things out. Going off the Washington game again the starting pairings may look like this.
The first pairing includes Zach Werenski, who is going into his 7th season in the NHL and developed as a leader for Columbus, and Adam Boqvist, playing his second season for the Blue Jackets after coming over from Chicago. This is the most ideal pairing for the Jackets as both can produce offensively and can lock it down defensively.
Next, we have fan favorite Vlad Gavrikov, who really found his groove last year posting 33 points in 80 games, and is a big body who can be an anchor on defense. Being paired with Andrew Peeke, who is coming off his first full NHL season, can really turn some heads this year. Both have proved to be NHL starters, but can they solidify themselves as a top 4 pairing for the Jackets.
The third pairing we had on Saturday included Jake Bean and Nick Blankenburg. Bean is entering his second season with the Blue Jackets and looking to solidify himself as an NHL starter, putting up 25 points last season was a great start in doing that, but he had a couple lapses that ended up poorly for the Jackets. Blankenburg is one of the biggest question marks on this roster after having a phenomenal college career with the Wolverines, and had a solid 7 games for the Jackets at the end of last season, he also showed his heart by stopping an Alex Ovechkin slapshot on Saturday, could he prove himself to be a NHL starter despite his size?
Only one defenseman didn’t play on Saturday due to a minor lower-body injury, Eric Gudbranson looks to help this roster with his size and play style by being a defensive-minded defenseman, something that the Jackets desperately needed for this season. Gudbranson will be good to go Wednesday to start the season.
Goalies: Bringing back one of the most fun goalies in the NHL, Elvis Merzlinkins, the Jackets look to finally have a healthy season for their goaltenders. Which didn’t get off to a good start as Joonas Korpisalo is already out with a hip injury. Elvis started in 56 games last year with a record of 27-23-7 and a save percentage of 90.7%, and we saw spurts of an elite goaltender but with the lack of defense he wasn’t granted much help. The other netminder named to the 23- man roster is Daniil Tarasov, who is a 6’6″ Russian trying to make a name for himself in North America, the 23-year-old started in 3 games last year posting a 93.7% save percentage before a season-ending hip injury. Despite injuries and poor defensive play last year, the potential that the Jackets have this year in net is something special.
Predictions: Now I’m not delusional so the Jackets winning the cup this year is very very unlikely, and with the strength of the Metro this year it’ll be very tough for them to sneak into the playoffs. With that being said I think this group of players will make significant progress this year. Last year they were in contention for the playoffs, but a bad stretch towards the end of the season and the Cap’s getting hot kept them out. With the new additions and experience that they got I see them putting up anywhere from 90-100 points this year and possibly sneaking into the wild card.
This team is young and hungry there is no doubt that they’re going to be exciting to watch.
It’s about time to fire the cannon!