Five Burning Questions About The Blue Jacket Forward Group As Training Camp Beckons

By Sam Blazer on September 11, 2019 at 8:03 am
Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Oliver Bjorkstrand (left) reacts to the goal scored by center Pierre-Luc Dubois (right) against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first period during game four of the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Nationwide Arena.
Aaron Doster-USA Today Sports

Hockey is almost back folks. To me, this is a good development. It means the hypotheticals can begin to come to a close and you can begin to have some summer long questions answered.

As training camp begins to approach, the Blue Jackets will need to answer questions about their team. Thusly, we present you with five burning questions that the Blue Jackets are facing as training camp approaches.

Can Pierre-Luc Dubois do it on his own?

This is the question that could very well answer every other problem on this list and make it all irrelevant. Last year Dubois made a massive leap and showed that he has the qualities to be a number one center in this league. He has the size, skill, and strength to compete against any player in the league.

The caveat comes with the fact that he did all of this with Artemi Panarin on one side of him last season. That is a good player, even an all-world player but as part of that, you're going to be asked if you're the catalyst or the passenger. Dubois needs to answer that, and quickly, if they don't get immediate production from his spot, it could be a long, long season.

Will Oliver Bjorkstrand finally make the leap?

It is asked almost every year since he has made the team. Will Oliver Bjorkstrand be the dynamo that everyone hoped he would be? He was just short of his career-high in multiple statistics, but in this case, that is actually a bad thing. He has only been in the league for a couple of seasons, with his growth he should be more than a half a point per game player. 

Only averaging a couple of shots per game over the past couple of seasons, Bjorkstrand has too good of a shot to not have him put the puck on net at a rate at least double that. No one is asking him to be a Panarin proxy, but out of all the players on the team, he has maybe the most significant opportunity.

Who is going to be the twelfth forward on this team?

It is going to be compelling to see how they fill out this team. They have plenty of options when it comes to bottom-six forwards, but they also have a few high-end players that could come into the mix. Alexandre Texier and Emil Bemstrom are the two names that immediately come to mind that could fill in. Those two are both risers and wouldn't necessarily stick toward the bottom of the lineup.

If you think they fill it out with more grit, you believe Eric Robinson and Markus Hannikainen should be getting a fair shake as well. There aren't a lot of slots left on the roster, making an impact in any way shape or form is going to make this competition fascinating to follow.

How will the Blue Jackets replace Artemi Panarin's production?

It has been the question that has been asked all summer to a point where many don't want to hear it anymore. Unfortunately, it needs to be answered. The answer has mostly been the same. A scoring by committee approach will be employed, and with it, each player is going to need to step up. It is admirable, and it is true, that is how they're going to need to replace him.

But who exactly needs to step up? We have already mentioned the likes of Oliver Bjorkstrand but Texier if he makes the team needs to bear some responsibility. The "heavy" line of Josh Anderson and Boone Jenner need to be more consistent this regular season. Both have had streaky moments in them, but to take the next level in the league, they need to do it on a nightly basis. Finally, Gustav Nyquist should be expected to pot some goals and make sure that the Blue Jackets offensively continue to hum.

Will age catch up to some players?

Age is catching up with everyone. Heck, it is undefeated. But the curve for some players isn't as bad as you would think. The Blue Jackets employ Riley Nash, Brandon Dubinsky, and Nick Foligno, all of them are on the other side of thirty. All three have seen their production slide down. If they want to continue with meaningful minutes, all three need to step up.

This isn't just a pep talk; this is younger players nipping at their heels if they don't step up. Jobs are on the line, and if you're not up to the task, the Blue Jackets have shown they will find someone else that will be.

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