Naming the Breakout Stars of This Blue Jackets Season

By Chris Pennington on April 1, 2020 at 1:48 pm
Oliver Bjorkstrand (28) looks on from the ice during the second period of game one of the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Following massive free agency loss, we have seen some rise to the occasion.

This Columbus Blue Jackets season needed a few heroes to step up following a grim offseason, and we saw just that. From breakout goal scorers to a two-headed monster in between the pipes, it's been exciting to watch this young team respond in the midst of adversity.

Here are a couple of breakout players at each position group that has kept the Blue Jackets afloat, and should they resume their season, perhaps push the club to a fourth-consecutive postseason appearance. 

Let's take note - being a breakout player doesn't mean just having a good statistical season. Evaluating how a player has played in previous seasons and analyzing context is important to claim who has been a "breakout" player.



Oliver Bjorkstrand

It seems that the past three seasons were "supposed" to be breakout seasons for Oliver Bjorkstrand, but 'The Maestro' has finally started hitting his stride. In only 49 games this campaign, Bjorkstrand has put himself within four points of his career-high in that category.

The tear he was on before the season suspension was absolutely wild, too - Bjorkstrand had scored 14 goals in 17 games, putting himself on pace for a 30-goal year. The Blue Jackets have needed someone to light the lamp this year, and he's certainly stepped up to help the cause.


Pierre-Luc Dubois

The young centerman is still only in his third NHL season, believe it or not, and though he's on pace to barely match his career-high in points from a season ago, his 2019-2020 performance has proved a lot of doubters wrong. 

In light of the departure of superstar winger and linemate Artemi Panarin, Dubois was expected to decline significantly in play by many in the hockey world. Instead, Dubois rose to the occasion and leads the Blue Jackets in points with 18-31-49 through 70 games. He's been a powerful (literally) offensive leader for a club that needed consistency following last summer.

Emil Bemstrom

Bemstrom makes the cut for this list based on the fact that he was the final addition to the top-twelve forward roster for the Blue Jackets coming into the regular season, and has improved drastically over his rookie campaign.

He's one of the hottest team members right now with five goals in his last eight games, bumping his season total to 10-10-20. His play in the most recent games has helped salvage a Blue Jackets season that was looking to begin to sink quickly. 



Zach Werenski

This (22-year-old?!) defenseman is playing at an elite offensive level right now, and his work in his own end is not to be knocked in the process. Werenski is lighting it up on the stat sheet with a 20-21-41 line through just 63 games. His 20 goals are leading all defensemen in the league on the season, the closest behind him being at 16. 

His CF% is nearly clipping 50.0, and he leads the club in offensive, defensive and total point shares. This is just really good.


Vladislav Gavrikov

A late-season addition a year ago for the Blue Jackets who played his first career game in the Stanley Cup playoffs has been an absolute unit on the blue line for Columbus. His defensive point shares, hit and blocks are all in the top-five ranking on the team, and he's getting nearly 19 minutes of ice time a night.

Oh, yeah - his 18 points (including five goals) is nothing to ignore, too. This points him only behind Werenski and Seth Jones amongst defensemen, and 11th in comparison to the whole team.



Joonas Korpisalo

This was a tough one to decide who was the "star" but Joonas Korpisalo was literally an all-star this year (after being a career backup), so he takes the cake. Korpisalo struggled out the gate this year, but got red-hot before a knee injury, and has been solid in his return.

In his last 14 games since early December, Korpisalo has posted a SV% of .926, a GAA of just over 2.0, and gone 8-2-4. His sparked play at the end of 2019 got the Blue Jackets on track away from a failed season. This all, again, from a career backup.


Elvis Merzlikins

Merzlikins, for a rookie, has been outstanding in his first campaign with the Blue Jackets as a whole, and not making him the "star" breakout player for goaltenders was a brutal choice for me. However, Merzlikins' expectations coming to the club were sky-high for many, and his slow play out the gate was fairly underwhelming.

Thankfully, he's caught fire since, going 13-5-4 in his last 22 games with five shutouts and a .935 SV%. Merzlikins was red-hot following a Joonas Korpisalo injury where he was thrust into the starting position, and though he cooled off a bit in February, he's been excellent on the season.

If you want to swap these two, I understand.

Who are your breakout players from this Blue Jackets season? Let us know in the comments.

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