Sonny Milano, now Oliver Bjorkstrand. Is Alexander Wennberg next?
Not super likely. But it's not out of the question that fifth-year center Alexander Wennberg is on the hot seat to slide his way out of the Blue Jackets' lineup at some point this season.
Wennberg was a first-round pick by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2013 draft (No. 14 overall), and showed promise early on with his playmaking and speed.
In the 2016-2017 season, Wennberg racked up 59 points on 13 goals and 46 assists in 80 games played. He was attempting almost 1.4 shots per game, and was receiving 18-plus minutes of ice time every game, a career high to this date. Much of his success in that season was driven by the Blue Jackets' power play, which started red-hot and Wennberg was a focal point.
Now 14 games into this season, Wennberg is averaging exactly one shot per game, has zero goals and the fifth-fewest points on the club for those who have played as many games as him. To top it off, he's averaging 15:46 of ice time a game – the lowest average workload since his rookie season.
Frustration from fans towards Wennberg is typically regarding his hesitancy to shoot the puck. Don't get it twisted, though: Wennberg is absolutely a pass-first player, and a pretty good one at that. He should definitely be racking up assists (but he's not right now).
At the same time, Wennberg has a good shot and draws a crowd wherever he skates, and he seems to lack the desire to jump into the play.
And this year, he doesn't even seem to be standing out in that playmaking area. Wennberg has zero offensive points shared (an estimate of the number of team points contributed by a player due to his offense).
The only other Jackets' player with 14 games played with zero offensive points shared? Oliver Bjorkstrand. This number should be back-pocketed.
John Tortorella doesn't shy away from critiquing Wennberg, but he also seems to want to continue to grow him. It doesn't mean that a lineup change couldn't be in the future, but it's obvious that Tortorella has wanted to be patient with his young centerman.
"(Taking pucks to the net)...that's been an inconsistent part of his game, (but) it's probably the most important part of the game," said Tortorella on Tuesday.
"His biggest asset is his passing and seeing the ice, but he has to take things to areas to have people draw to him and other things open up from there. I think that's the best assessment I can give you, and that's one of his biggest strengths, but he needs to be in those situations more."
Wennberg is one of the most talented players the Blue Jackets have, and surely would be a huge asset if he started to hit his potential as a top-line center. They desperately need him to get going.
If there's not growth in the next few months, it will be interesting to see how long Wennberg's leash is with Tortorella and the Blue Jackets.
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