Projecting Where Max Domi Fits In With The Columbus Blue Jackets

By Ed Francis on October 8, 2020 at 1:20 pm
Max Domi Should Anchor The Blue Jackets 2nd Line
Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

In the unlikely event that the Columbus Blue Jackets make no other moves when free agency starts Friday, they are already in better position for the 2020-21 season than they were during their time in the bubble.

The pre-draft acquisition of Max Domi adds a top six forward, which was at the top of general manager Jarmo Kekalainen's wish list. 

This meant the departure of Josh Anderson, who was traded to Montreal for Domi. Another shoe in Columbus' offseason plans dropped Thursday, when center Alexander Wennberg was placed on waivers. Additionally, free agency opens Friday, and Kekalainen expects Columbus to be active there, as well.

Despite that, we may already know who the newly acquired 25-year-old will be skating with when the puck drops again. 

To sort out where Domi fits in, we need to look at what he brings to the table and how it could mesh with other players.

During his time with the Habs, he logged minutes as both a center and a winger, though Domi has been clear that his natural position - center - is where he wants to be. Given Columbus' lack of depth at the position behind Pierre-Luc Dubois, it's all but a lock that Domi will anchor the second line as a center.

Domi's game is predicated on speed and puck movement. In terms of winning possession of the puck in the faceoff circle, he's only average: Domi's 48.9% win percentage in the dot this season was nearly a career high, and almost three percentage points higher than his career average of 46.1%, but still less than the 50% threshold. Despite his pedestrian faceoff skills, his ability to drive the play and get the puck where it needs to be will take precedence.

This should pair well with Oliver Bjorkstrand, who has proven he can flourish as a goal-scorer when paired with a play-making center. He struggled during a majority of his time in the bubble, but was coming off a significant ankle injury. Assuming he's at 100% for the start of the season, being paired with an equally speedy player like Domi, who can also read the ice well, is going to generate a lot of opportunities for Bjorkstrand.

While he is a pass-first center, Domi is not a pass-only center, a category that Wennberg fell in more often than not during his final two seasons with Columbus. Defenses will need to be aware of Domi's ability to put the puck in the net; he had 17 goals this season (in 71 games), and that came off a career high of 28 goals during the 2018-19 campaign.

If there is one area that Domi may be a liability, it would be on the defensive side. As Alison Lukan points out, opposing teams get a good number of offensive chances when Domi is on the ice. 

With that in mind, look for head coach John Tortorella to put Domi with a forward who has strong two-way ability. The best option here could be another face that's already on the roster: Gustav Nyquist. He would provide a veteran presence and balance out a line with Domi and Bjorkstrand, while also being someone that is still a threat to score. Nick Foligno or Boone Jenner could be candidates in this slot as well, but Nyquist provides the best balance with his awareness on both sides of the puck.