The dust is settling on an incredibly busy summer for the Columbus Blue Jackets.
After a flurry of moves in late July and a couple of more minor moves in August, the Blue Jackets appear to have their full roster for the upcoming season. Where these players are positioned, though? That now becomes the fun part.
There are less changes here than they were between versions 1.0 and version 2.0, of course, but general manager Jarmo Kekalainen has given some hints at what the team is thinking heading into the beginning of training camp September 22nd.
House rules for the projections are as followed:
- Players on the roster as of today are not guaranteed a spot on the opening night roster.
- This projection includes any trades, free agent signings, and other roster moves.
- This projection is for a roster at full health and wellness. It does factor injuries.
|LW: Patrik Laine||C: Jack Roslovic||RW: Jakub Voracek|
Patrik Laine needed a playmaker on his line, and the Blue Jackets got him one in Jakub Voracek. In the 2010's, Voracek had 425 assists - putting him 10th in the league for the decade. So, check that box off. Center is, as it has been for so long with this team, the question mark. Kekalainen has spoken of Jack Roslovic this offseason that make it clear he's the favorite for playing between Laine and Voracek. He finished the 2020-21 season with six goals and six assists in 16 games. Extrapolated over a full season, that would be 31-31-62 for the Columbus native. The Blue Jackets don't seem to have full faith in Max Domi, so even when he does come back from shoulder surgery (likely in December), he could find himself on the second or third line, especially if Roslovic starts this season as he ended last season.
2nd Line / 3rd Line
|LW: Alexandre Texier||C: Max Domi||RW: Oliver Bjorkstrand|
|LW: Eric Robinson||C: Boone Jenner||RW: Gustav Nyquist|
Too many men on the ice? Not quite. The second and third lines for the Blue Jackets, in many ways, are one in the same. Oliver Bjorkstrand sticks out as the best of the bunch, but the other five players here will likely be intertwined with each other along the middle six, and three of those five (Domi, Alexandre Texier, and Boone Jenner) can flex between either forward position and center. Jenner is a career 54% in winning faceoffs, and the Blue Jackets best chance at winning the draw. With Domi out until December, Jenner and Roslovic are the top two centers on the team. The steady leadership of Gus Nyquist assures him a middle spot, and here's to hoping that Eric Robinson takes the next step the team expects.
|LW: Gregory Hofmann||C: Sean Kuraly||RW: Emil Bemstrom|
My heart says to put Cole Sillinger here, but my brain says to hold off. Nonetheless, it's looking increasingly likely that the 12th overall pick in July's draft will see some time with the Blue Jackets at some point this season. He's eligible to play for the AHL's Cleveland Monsters this season and, while training camp will be the ultimate decider of where he ends up, he's a dynamite player and could make the decision an easy one for Columbus.
Yegor Chinakhov will need some time to adjust to the NHL style, and probably plays this season in Cleveland. So for now, it's Sean Kuraly at center, flanked by Emil Bemstrom and Gregory Hofmann. Kuraly gives the team plenty of grit and edge. A myriad of other options are here, including Kevin Stenlund, Liam Foudy, and Justin Danforth. Bemstrom probably has the most upside of the four players, and he'll have more of an opportunity this season than he did in his first two with the team. Hofmann is 28 and was drafted by the Carolina Hurricanes all the way back in 2011, but will be an NHL rookie if he makes the roster. He's spent a decade in the Swiss Leagues, and over the last three seasons has averaged more than a point per game. 136 games, 72 goals, 67 assists, 139 points. That's pretty damn good, and the Blue Jackets should give him the chance to see how his game transfers to the NHL.
|LD: Zach Werenski||RD: Adam Boqvist|
|LD: Vladislav Gavrikov||RD: Andrew Peeke|
|LD: Gabriel Carlsson||RD: Jake Bean|
You know it's a young blue line when the oldest player of the likely top six, Vladislav Gavrikov, is going to be just 25-years-old on opening night, but hey, that's what a rebuild is all about. The blue line will be particularly frustrating at times this season and that's something that the 5th Line will need to accept, but there will awesome be moments where the youngsters show what they can bring to the team as they mature as players. Plenty of other options are here, from Gavin Bayreuther to Mikko Lehtonen to Dean Kukan. They'll all see time, but the team should prioritize its youth and find out if the likes of Andrew Peeke and Gabriell Carlsson can flourish with a true opportunity at consistency.
Between The Pipes
|Starter: Elvis Merzlikins||Backup: Joonas Korpisalo|
The Blue Jackets, long term, would be better served to move Joonas Korpisalo. Rebuilding teams don't need two #1 goalies, both entering the final year of their contracts. If nothing else, trading him would allow the Blue Jackets to use Elvis Merzlikins as their unquestioned top goalie - a role that he's not yet had, despite finishing 5th for the Vezina Trophy in his 2019-20 rookie season where had just 31 starts.
But the Blue Jackets haven't pulled the trigger on a trade yet, and each passing day makes it seem more and more like they'll wait until the season starts in the hopes that a contending team comes calling. So it's likely that Korpisalo starts the season in Columbus, meaning the Blue Jackets will (again) have 1a and 1b - doing no favors for either goalie.