Alexander Wennberg's Improved Play is Crucial to the Blue Jackets' Playoff Hopes

By Jacob Nitzberg on October 14, 2019 at 1:45 pm
Oct 7, 2019; Columbus, OH, USA; Buffalo Sabres center Casey Mittelstadt (37) battles against Columbus Blue Jackets center Alexander Wennberg (10) for the face-off in the second period at Nationwide Arena.
Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

This feels like a make-or-break season for Alexander Wennberg.

Since his stalwart 2016-17 campaign, his performance has waned. Entering this season, it was no secret that the Blue Jackets needed to solve their departure of offensive production internally, with the exception of Gus Nyquist. 

Through five games this year, Wennberg has notched three assists and registered a plus/minus of +2. Perhaps most importantly, he is averaging 18 minutes and 43 seconds of ice time per night, which is three minutes and 38 seconds more than last year.

Wennberg has been noticeably more physical, both with and without the puck. This is the kind of play that head coach John Tortorella rewards, and it's clear that Wennberg (for now) has worked himself back into Tortorella's good graces.

Last year, Wennberg bounced around with many different linemates, seeing time on lines 1-4. This year, he's been consistently playing with Gus Nyquist on the left and Oliver Bjorkstrand on the right. With two skilled offensive-minded players on either side of him, the pressure isn't on Wennberg to put the puck in the back of the net — although it wouldn't be frowned upon. The Blue Jackets have struggled to finish their chances in the opening five games, and Wennberg has created several chances that could have been converted but weren't.

In every area on the ice, he's looked more dynamic. He's driving play too, registering a 52.6% Corsi-For percentage. Both Nyquist and Bjorkstrand have a CF% of more than 50, meaning that their line is taking more shots than they allow.

While it's still early, Wennberg's resurgence is nothing but good news for a young team who's suffered through some growing pains so far. The pains likely aren't over yet, but consistency is key. If Wennberg can remain consistent, that's one more player Tortorella can rely on. 

That's never a bad thing.

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