Andrew Peeke will be relied on this season, and he doesn't need to make a huge impact — he just needs to be consistent.
He performed well in his debut season at the age of 21. Now, with the departures of Ryan Murray and Markus Nutivaara, the Blue Jackets' second-round pick in 2016 will likely be on the third pairing when the Blue Jackets begin their season.
Peeke, a Notre Dame product, saw the ice in 22 NHL games last season, registering one goal and two assists while averaging 13:51 of TOI. If it weren't for the Blue Jackets being decimated with injuries, Peeke likely would never have seen the NHL roster last year, but he took his opportunity and played well. He scored his first NHL goal on February 16th vs. the New Jersey Devils.
First NHL goal for Andrew Peeke! pic.twitter.com/U3isT1etKU— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) February 16, 2020
The Blue Jackets aren't expecting Peeke to score in bunches, but I'm sure they wouldn't mind if he developed his offensive game a bit more. With AHL Cleveland last season, he notched 5-11-16 in 29 games.
Another important attribute of Peeke's is simple: he's right-handed. The Blue Jackets, to put it bluntly, have struggled to have three right-handed defensemen in the lineup every night. When Peeke wasn't playing last year, it was typically a 4-2 split in favor of left-handed defensemen. Peeke's handedness will allow Dean Kukan, his likely partner on the third pairing, to excel offensively.
The six-foot-three Florida native would likely be in the AHL for this upcoming season and potentially even the next one if the Blue Jackets didn't make the offseason moves that they did. Now, he's got an opportunity to step up and become an everyday player — a chance that he may have thought was incredibly unlikely just months ago.
The Blue Jackets don't need Peeke to be an All-Star. If he's able to play to his strengths, some of which are physicality, defensive positioning, and vision, the Blue Jackets will be just fine. His cameo last year showed the Blue Jackets that they had a solid right-handed defenseman with upside, and he earned John Tortorella's respect. If there's anything we've learned about Tortorella, it's that his respect doesn't come easy. With that in mind, Peeke should become a fixture in the Blue Jackets' lineup. The sky's the limit.