Alexander Wennberg is expected to be a top-six center for the Columbus Blue Jackets this season, but it's up to him, of course. After the team didn't retain Matt Duchene and wasn't able to bring in a center during free agency, all eyes are on Wennberg – whose game could best be described as "struggling."
Wennberg had a solid World Championships with Team Sweden after the Blue Jackets were knocked out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and by all accounts, has performed well in the first couple of scrimmages in training camp. It's early, so let's proceed with caution, but progress is progress.
It's obviously early, but John Tortorella said Alexander Wennberg has had two good scrimmages. I can see his approach just through his play, the concentration is right where it needs to be. #CBJ— Jeff Svoboda (@JacketsInsider) September 15, 2019
The World Championships and scrimmages don't mean much when it comes to the NHL regular season and playing for John Tortorella, but as the head coach says, "adding layers" will help his confidence level.
And so far, it's clear that Tortorella likes what he's seen from Wennberg and the early line combinations suggest Wennberg will get an opportunity right off the bat. Thus far in camp, he's skated on a line with fellow Swede and newcomer Gus Nyquist, with Oliver Bjorkstrand on the right wing.
The next step is for Wennberg to have solid performances during preseason games, which will not only build that confidence but earn him more opportunity from the coaching staff. If Wennberg can play with conviction in himself and with confidence that he's in control of what is happening around him; if he does that, then he could get back to his old self and really help the Blue Jackets.
Yes, he'll need to shoot more. In 2018-19, Wennberg took 10 fewer shots in nine more games compared to 2017-18, and a whopping 45 fewer shots than he did in 2016-17 –when he up up his best numbers on 109 shots.
If this newly-formed line of Nyquist, Wennberg and Bjorkstand stays together, Wennberg will be armed with two quality shooters alongside him, and they're going to need the puck. So while the Blue Jackets want him to shoot more, they're also giving him a chance to use his playmaking and vision to set up his line mates.
No player wants to be a healthy scratch, and after two rough seasons, the 2019-20 campaign is a great time to be an underdog on a team that's an underdog to most of the NHL.