Don't get me wrong.
It's not good news that Blue Jackets winger Gustav Nyquist will be out for 5-6 months following successful surgery to repair a labral tear of his left shoulder.
However, it presents an opportunity to the young Blue Jackets wingers: Eric Robinson, Emil Bemstrom, Liam Foudy, and Kevin Stenlund. It was likely that one would make the cut to be in the lineup on opening night, but now it's possible that two may be.
In my eyes, the forwards that are locks to be in the Blue Jackets' opening night lineup are:
- Pierre-Luc Dubois
- Oliver Bjorkstrand
- Alexandre Texier
- Cam Atkinson
- Boone Jenner
- Nick Foligno
- Max Domi
- Mikko Koivu
- Mikhail Grigorenko
- Riley Nash
Nyquist's injury leaves two open slots. We've seen in the past that GM Jarmo Kekäläinen likes to fill roster gaps from within, and it's entirely possible that the Blue Jackets don't make another free-agent signing this offseason, despite names like Mike Hoffman and Mikael Granlund still out there.
With that in mind, here's what each of the four young wingers can bring to the Blue Jackets if they're in the lineup.
Bemstrom's strength is his wicked wrist shot, and he's been working on his game with HIFK in Liiga during this uncertain offseason. He tallied 10-10-20 in 56 games last year.
Wheels. Robinson can absolutely fly. He's working on the finesse part of his game, but his raw size and strength make him a nightmare to play against. He notched 7-5-12 in 50 games last season.
Stenlund is great with the puck on his stick, and he has a massive slapshot. He's not the fastest skater in the world, but he's a good option to have on the power play. In 32 games with the Blue Jackets last season, Stenlund accumulated 6-4-10.
The wildcard. At the beginning of the 2019-20 NHL season, he was playing junior hockey. By the end of it, he was suiting up for the Blue Jackets in the Stanley Cup Playoffs at the age of 20. He's elite defensively and has great speed. Head coach John Tortorella seems to love his style of play, too. He tallied 0-1-1 in two regular season games last year and scored his first NHL (and NHL postseason) goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
If the Blue Jackets don't bring anyone in in free agency, the two that I think will make the team are Liam Foudy and Emil Bemstrom. They bring a good mix of offensive talent and defensive skill, and Bemstrom's stint in Liiga this offseason should help him develop more physicality.