With the Blue Jackets' presumed first line of Gustav Nyquist, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Cam Atkinson and the third line of Nick Foligno, Boone Jenner and Josh Anderson looking like strong bets (for now) to open next season, the focus is primarily on filling holes on the second line and answering questions on the fourth line.
On the second line, there is a hole next to Alexander Wennberg and Oliver Bjorkstrand, and while the fourth line will likely consist of Riley Nash, Brandon Dubinsky and Markus Hannikainen (or another similar variation), there are players champing at the bit to knock one of them off.
Starting with the hole on the second line: Alexandre Texier joined the Columbus Blue Jackets at the end of the 2018-19 season and saw action in two regular season games and eight playoff games, giving him to have a leg up on another European player, Emil Bemstrom.
While Texier was in Columbus gaining important experience in the NHL, Bemstrom was in the SHL playoffs with Djurgårdens and while they lost in game six of the Finals to Frölunda, he put up five goals and five assists in 19 games.
The early edge in this battle goes to Texier due to his time spent in Columbus and on ice experience with the club, but he cannot rest on his laurels due to the Jackets being high on Bemstrom and they are going to give him every chance to make the roster before the beginning of the season.
Projected Line: Alexandre Texier – Alexander Wennberg – Oliver Bjorkstrand
The fourth line is more difficult because both Nash and Dubinsky are paid well, and sitting either of them would be tough to do because of that fact. This means that the only real spot up for grabs on a consistent basis is Hannikainen's spot.
The top competitor is Eric Robinson, with Emil Bemstrom, Kevin Stenlund, Kole Sherwood and Sonny Milano in contention as well.
Robinson, Stenlund and Sherwood saw time toward the middle to end of the season, while Milano saw time at the beginning of the season before being sent down to the AHL.
Meanwhile, despite Bemstrom being a candidate for the spot next to Wennberg and Bjorkstrand and not being a bottom six player, if he is given power play time – where he excelled in Sweden – then giving him minutes on the fourth line make sense. If they are not planning on giving him power play time, then it would be better to allow Bemstrom to develop in the AHL.
Hannikainen certainly has a leg up on Robinson, Stenlund, Sherwood and Milano because he was around all last season, while Milano likely has an inside track towards being around more next season due to not being waiver exempt next season, while the others do have the exemption.
Projected Line: Riley Nash - Brandon Dubinsky - Markus Hannikainen