The Five: Gifts That Columbus Blue Jacket Fans Should Be Thankful To Have

By Ed Francis on December 25, 2020 at 1:25 pm
John E. Sokolowski-USA Today Sports


Whether it's opening presents that you're into, or giving gifts that will bring a smile to the face of those around you, there is one common denominator of the holiday - and it's amplified this year: being thankful. 

Thankful for our friends, our family, our pets, our health, our safety, and of course, thankful for hockey. 

Specifically, the Columbus Blue Jackets have given their fans many things to be thankful for heading into the new season. Things that we should take a moment to step back and appreciate, because these are gifts that not every team can give their fans.

In The Five, we count down the top five gifts the Columbus Blue Jackets have given us as the season draws near. 

#5: The Gift Of Youth

Pierre-Luc Dubois. Zach Werenski. Andrew Peeke. Liam Foudy. Four players who will help dictate the Columbus Blue Jackets upcoming season - and four players who are under the age of 24. Werenski, at 23, is the oldest of the group, but it's Dubois, 22, who may have the biggest impact of this bunch. If we get the PLD that we saw in the bubble, he will get Hart Trophy votes for the league MVP. (According to Vegas, Dubois has the 36th best odds to win the award, at +7000.) 

If the 22-year-old Peeke can play to his potential on the third defenseman pairing with Dean Kukan, the Blue Jackets could have a better-than-average third pairing to help compliment their way-above-average top two pairings. 

As for Foudy, we saw flashes of brilliance from the first Blue Jacket to be born in the 21st century. He also seems to have the trust of head coach John Tortorella. Expect big things from Foudy in what should be his first full NHL season. 

#4: The Gift Of An Improved Center Lineup

Last season, the Blue Jackets were using Alexander Wennberg and Boone Jenner as their second and third centers behind Dubois. They aren't bad players, but Wennberg was in his third consecutive struggling season, and Jenner is a natural winger. 

General manager Jarmo Kekalainen saw a need, and turned a 2019-20 weakness into a 2020-21 strength by acquiring Max Domi from Montreal in exchange for Josh Anderson, and signing veteran Mikko Koivu, who previously captained the Minnesota Wild. This is a huge upgrade at center. While Koivu is 37 and on the downside of his career, he's a smart player who excels at faceoffs and will be a huge help to both Dubois and Domi. 

Wennberg is now in Florida after being waived this fall, and Jenner is now in his traditional left wing spot. 

#3: The Gift Of Young Russians

The gift of future firepower from Russia (with love) checks in at number three, but if the future comes to its max fruition, history will show this to be too low of a slot. 

Yegor Chinakov looks more and more like a smart pick every day. He's still years away from coming over from Russia, but at this rate, we're in for a real treat when he does. Then there's Kirill Marchenko. Give it a couple years before he's United States-bound, but it'll be fun to see his snipe in Nationwide Arena. 

Two other Blue Jacket prospects, along with Chinakov, are on their way to the World Juniors Championship. 

And this doesn't even touch on the potential of goalie Daniil Tarasov or center Dmitri Voronkov, two more players in the pipeline to keep a close eye on. 

#2: The Gift Of A Top-Notch Defense

Seth Jones and Zach Werenski, provided they stay healthy, is one of the three best defensive pairs of hockey, at worst. At +2000, they are tied with each other for the 11th best odds to win the Norris Trophy at the best defenseman in the league. That seems about right for Werenski, but the fact that Seth Jones isn't in the top ten is a joke - and not a funny one. 

David Savard and Vladislav Gavrikov are one of the better second pairings in the NHL, and Dean Kukan has consistently improved his game and has come to be a reliable NHL blueliner. As mentioned earlier, young Andrew Peeke is likely to get the first crack at the sixth and final spot defenseman spot on the roster. If he can be as advertised, the Blue Jackets will skate out one of the best defenses in the entire league...

#1: The Gift Of Two Elite Goaltenders

...but no defense is complete without a good goalie. The Columbus Blue Jackets have given fans the gift of not one, but two goalies that we can trust on any given night. In a shortened season, the power of two is even more important than ever, and whether it's Joonas Korpisalo (2.60 GAA, .911 SV%) or Elvis Merzlikins (2.35 GAA, .923 SV%) between the pipes, Columbus can win on any given night because of who is between the pipes. 


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