In the past years, college hockey has produced some great talent throughout the league, but no program lines up with the University of Michigan in making NHL-ready stars. In the past 4 years, 18 different players were taken in the NHL entry draft, including big names such as Owen Power (Buffalo), Matty Beniers (Seattle), Luke Hughes (New Jersey), and Kent Johnson (Columbus). One went under the radar and ended up undrafted, but signed a deal with Columbus and he might be the best one out of the bunch his name, Nick Blankenburg.
The 5’9″ 175 lbs defenseman, Nick Blankenburg was the captain of the Michigan Wolverines for the 2021 season, but unfortunately, because of his size, he wasn’t sought out as a prospect for any NHL teams. Seeing a lot of his teammates wind up in the NHL must have given him a drive like none other to get to the next level.
Blankenburg signed with the Blue Jackets as an undrafted free agent in the middle of last season, and appeared in 7 games alongside fellow Wolverine Kent Johnson. Blankenburg made an immediate impact out on the ice and looked like a seasoned vet, even though his numbers didn’t add up to his impact he still posted a 1-2-3 line over 7 games scoring against western conference finalist the Edmonton Oilers.
Going into the 2022-2023 season Nick signed an extension with the Blue Jackets bringing him back for years to come. With the revamped defense that hasn’t really panned out for the Jackets, Nick found his way on the roster paired up with yet another Michigan Wolverine, Zack Werenski. Not missing a beat his impact was certain in his first game against the Vancouver Canucks with 21:06 TOI, and putting his body on the line with some massive hits.
Even though his stats didn’t back up his play, that didn’t stop him that didn’t hurt his confidence at all as he came back the next game, and recorded his first assist of the season then topped off the game with a game-winning goal!
Every team needs a player like this, an underdog that was always told no because of his size, but took all of the criticism, and used it to further drive and hunger. Someone who all of the fans can root for and gather around.
It’s not just the fans who praise Blanks, but he also got shoutouts from the Gaudreau’s, the front office, and other players in the locker room.
Guy Gaudreau with high praise for the Michigan rookies.
Fellow undersized player Johnny Gaudreau states that Blanks is a huge reason why they won, and his offensive IQ is incredible. Obviously, they can’t control their height, but knowing the game, having the IQ and chemistry trumps whatever height they might be.
Head coach, Brad Larsen has taken note of Blankenburg’s performance as well stating
You’re watching him, right? He’s a hockey player. He’s a fearless competitor. … For the short time he’s been here, he’s been very, very impressive.Brad larsen
This UDFA has made a huge splash in the NHL against all odds and has all the makings of a future NHL captain. It’s an exciting time to be a Blue Jackets fan looking into the future.