You never know what you're going to get with Alexander Wennberg.
As a first-round draft pick for the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2013, there were high hopes of Wennberg budding into a No. 1 centerman for the club. And early on, it looked like that was a real possibility for the Swedish product.
After a rookie campaign of 20 points in 68 games in 2014-2015, Wennberg went on to add nearly 20 points each of the next two seasons. His 59-point season in 2016-2017 at just the age of 22 had potential all-star written all over it. He got paid, rightfully so at the time, with a six-year, 29-million-dollar contract (4.9 million AAV).
The club believed that they had found their elite center, a position that had needed to be filled with the departure of Ryan Johansen the season prior.
After the ink dried, though, it was downhill for Wennberg's play.
Which was...odd. Following his breakout campaign, Wennberg was another year more experienced, had better teammates and less pressure to be "the guy" with the arrivals of Pierre-Luc Dubois and Artemi Panarin.
But for whatever reason, it seemed Wennberg began to shrink deeper and deeper into the shadows. His point production took a massive hit, and he started to be a healthy scratch at random points. He was a fine, defensive-minded forward for the three years following his new contract, but that wasn't supposed to be his role. He wasn't meant to put up Riley Nash numbers - he was meant to put up Matt Duchene and Logan Couture numbers.
He began shooting less often, being apprehensive in the offensive zone more often, and as a result, his playing time and value to the club heavily dipped.
But here was a bigger problem. You couldn't necessarily trade him, because no team would want to take on a contract like that for such little output. And if you benched him for long stretches, then his trade value goes away entirely. With his contract lasting until the summer of 2023, things were looking a bit awkward with what to do with Alexander Wennberg.
Then, this postseason happened. And I'll preface with I'm not going to say the man has been resurrected, because it was only a ten-game same size, but our guy Wennberg played as solid as any forward (aside from Dubois) for the Blue Jackets these playoffs. Also, he has been known to be a below-average postseason presence (three points on one goal in total in three different playoff seasons leading up to this year).
Wennberg was consistently put as the second-line centerman for the club against the Toronto Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning, and he stepped up to the challenge. His five points was good for second on the entire club, and his three goals were tied for second. He was also shooting at 27.3%, best on the club for those who played the whole postseason.
His advanced-analystics in the Toronto series were just alright, but the Tampa series is when he was solid. His 41.04 CF% was seventh amongst club forwards, and SF% was ranked fifth at 42.47.
From the eye-test - Wennberg was doing what he was drafted to do: buzzing in the offensive zone, controlling the pace of play, and using his speed to quarterback posessions and spring his wingers for chances. He also took it upon himself to insert himself into scoring chances, which if you know the guy, he is rare to do.
I want to stress that I'm not saying an encouraging ten-game stretch in August is not going to bring Alexander Wennberg back to his 59-point self from a few seasons ago, but I will say that because confidence has seemed to be the centerman's issue, these playoffs certainly weren't bad for his play going forward.