5 Pack: The Most Interesting Blue Jackets to Watch During the 2017-18 Season

By Jeff Svoboda on August 11, 2017 at 8:20 am
Alexander Wennberg

USA TODAY Sports

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Everyone knows certain things about the Columbus Blue Jackets.

For the team to be good, you need good goaltending, and that means Sergei Bobrovsky must be both healthy and at the top of his game. You can also expect Cam Atkinson to put the puck in the net and Zach Werenski to be, well, awesome.

But when it comes to players on the spot, players who might need to show a little more than they have in past years or whose performance could vault the Blue Jackets to new heights, the questions are a little more obtuse.

That's why we're here, though. It's time for some answers, and with camp slowly but surely on the way, we're looking at five Columbus players whose development will be a big deal in the upcoming season.

1. Alexander Wennberg. Just yesterday, Wennberg admitted in an interview with NHL.com that "some games I didn't show up the way I wanted." We're not going to crush him; heck, the guy is 22. Consistency is the hardest thing to have in life. And let's also be honest: If Wennberg can put up 59 points and feel he has more in the tank, that's a pretty darn good thing. There's still a debate out there whether Wennberg is a No. 1 center, a question he will have every opportunity to answer in 2017-18 while likely starting on a line with Artemi Panarin. If Wennberg takes a step forward, the Jackets should have one of the most consistent scoring lines in the league no matter who is in the third spot. He has a unique chance to shine.

2. Pierre-Luc Dubois: After the Jackets jettisoned some forwards this offseason, the message was clear: They think – or hope – Dubois is ready to be an NHL player. Heck, some people thought he'd be in Columbus last year, but his slow start in the Q and the team's hot start made that a moot point by Christmas. He picked it up as the season went on and looked a lot more like the guy the Jackets chose third overall last summer, and Dubois will now come to camp with an open chance to be a Blue Jacket. Is that an awful lot to ask for someone at the age of 19? Perhaps, but unless Matt Duchene walks through that door, much will be asked. If he's up to the task, Dubois will go a long way toward solidifying this team's forward lines.  

3. Ryan Murray: OK, this one is relatively easy. Simply put, the Blue Jackets need to know what they have in the defenseman who was taken No. 2 overall in the 2012 draft. He's had injuries. He's had some really darn good moments. He's also had some uneven play, and we've said it before – you don't draft someone second overall in the draft to be a third-pair defenseman, which is what Murray was a season ago. Murray is also entering the final year of his contract, with restricted free agent status awaiting. It would be difficult to overstate just how much is on the line for Murray this year when it comes to determining the arc of his career.

4. Gabriel Carlsson: I don't think we ever fully grasped just how crazy it was that Carlsson took the plane over from Sweden, played a handful of AHL games, suited up for two NHL games and then was on the ice for the start of the playoffs against two of the best players in the world (and eventual Cup champs). That's pretty nuts, right? But that was Carlsson's 2016-17. He's not gonna score much, it appears, but if he's a shutdown defenseman, he could very well wedge his way into a Jackets lineup that's pretty deep on the blue line to begin with. Boy, that should be fun to watch, right? Actual depth is so cool.

5. Joonas Korpisalo: Would the real Joonas please stand up? When Bobrovsky went down in 2015-16, Korpisalo stepped in and earned the nicknames Magikorp and Korpisolid with a 2.60 GAA and .920 save percentage. The numbers weren't as good last year – 2.88 and .905 – and he didn't quite pass the eye test as much either. Young goaltenders can have their ups and downs, though, but with the backup role fully entrusted to him and his Jackets development twin Anton Forsberg off to Chicago, a lot is on Korpisalo's plate. His performance two years ago shows he deserves the shot. Now, with around 20 starts likely in his grasp, he can cement himself at this level and also help the Jackets immensely.

 

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