How, Why, And Where Columbus' Own Jack Roslovic Fits In With The Blue Jackets

By Ed Francis on January 24, 2021 at 8:05 am
Patrik Laine wasn't the only player Blue Jacket fans should be excited to see after Saturday's trade.
James Carey Lauder-USA TODAY Sports

Turning Pierre-Luc Dubois into Patrik Laine by itself is more than Columbus Blue Jacket fans could have hoped for.

But getting Jack Roslovic as part of Saturday's blockbuster trade as well? Proof that on rare occasions, you can have your cake and eat it, too. 

Roslovic has already etched his name in Columbus hockey history. In 2015, he became the first player born in Columbus to be drafted in the first round of the NHL draft, when he went 25th to the Winnipeg Jets. In April of 2017, he became the first Columbus native to play in the NHL - making his debut at Nationwide Arena, because, of course he would. 

Roslovic, who will turn 24 on Friday, acknowledged that he had always thought about being traded to the city he grew up in, and that spending time training and working out in Columbus, often with players on the Blue Jackets, was beneficial.  

"The community and the guys on the team, I'm really familiar with already," said Roslovic. "It's just going to make things that much easier to transition."

Roslovic, who came to terms on a two-year deal with Columbus upon completion of the trade, will get into the Jackets lineup sooner than his former-but-still teammate Laine. He's already entered the team's COVID protocol and should be able to make his debut either Tuesday or Thursday against the Florida Panthers at Nationwide Arena, whereas Laine will need to quarantine in coming to the United States from Canada and will likely join the team in early February.

For that reason, the Blue Jackets will be missing their full lineup for at least the next four games. That could have an impact on where Roslovic slots in with the team intiaally, but in his first conversations with general manager Jarmo Kekalainen and head coach John Tortorella, one thing was made clear to the Columbus native: he'll be a key part of the team.

"They're (Kekalainen and Tortorella) just excited to get a player who can play the full length of the ice, and hopefully fill in at a good center role," said Roslovic. "With (Laine) coming in as well, we'll really round out the offensive group and strive to make us a good team, and a Cup-contending team."

Whether or not he sees center as his primary position from the get-go remains to be seen. Roslovic should slot in to the second or third line, and could do so as any forward position. Max Domi is expected to become the Blue Jackets first line center, and will likely be joined by Laine when he is able to join the team, with Oliver Bjorkstrand to his right. Emerging star Alexandre Texier has bounced between center and winger on both the first and second lines, but likely ends up on the second line when the dust finally settles. 

Mikko Koivu, who signed as a free agent during the offseason and has cleared the COVID protocol that kept him out of the first six games of the season, will make his debut Tuesday. The 37-year-old former captain of the Minnesota Wild is a natural center, but will likely be on the third line, with Riley Nash and Kevin Stenlund the best fits to round out the center position for Columbus.

In other words, Roslovic's most likely fit with the Blue Jackets will be as the second line center, alongside Texier and Cam Atkinson. That will get him minutes that simply weren't there in Winnipeg. For Kekalainen, it was easy to see that Roslovic was being underused north of the border. 

"He had (29) points last year. His ice time increased a little bit, but Winnipeg has a lot of skilled forwards, so I think he's going to get a more offensive role with our team."

Somewhat buried behind those other skilled forwards, Roslovic averaged just over 12 minutes of ice time per game over his two and a half seasons with the Jets. Between the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons, Roslovic scored a combined 14 goals and added 24 assists over 108 games. Last season, in just 71 games, he had 12 goals and 17 assists, and averaged a career high 14:54 of ice time, as well. 

While he's proven that he can score, Roslovic is similar to Domi in terms of using his above-average speed and vision to his advantage. He's able to handle the puck from anywhere on the ice, and can make plays in short order with his passing skills. Where he'll differ a bit from Domi though, is his defense. Roslovic takes that part of his game as serious as any other, and is an above-average backchecker who doesn't shy away from jumping in to make plays when the opposition has the puck.

With a chance to flourish in his hometown, Roslovic is ready for the new opportunities that await him in Columbus; both for himself and for his new team.

"As you develop, as you get better, you want to make the people around you better, you want to make your team better," said Roslovic.

"You want to do everything to get to that ultimate goal (a Cup), and I want to be a big part of it - on this team."