Where Do Gregory Hofmann and Justin Danforth Fit Into The Blue Jackets Plans?

By Dan Dukart on September 9, 2021 at 8:05 am
Gregory Hofmann skates for EV Zug in the Swiss League

The Columbus Blue Jackets will certainly have a new look when they take the ice on opening night on October 14th.

Between the high-profile departures, splashy trades, and under-the-radar signings, the Blue Jackets it's easy to see how we arrived at this point.

Barring injuries, it's not terribly difficult to project a good chunk of the opening night lineup. With Max Domi out, we can surmise Oliver Bjorkstrand, Patrik Laine, Jakub Voracek, Jack Roslovic, and probably Gus Nyquist and Alexandre Texier will start in the top-six. 

But the bottom half of the lineup will be fascinating to watch, namely because there are more faces than roster spots. We can comfortably project Boone Jenner, Sean Kuraly, and Eric Robinson into the lineup. That leaves three spots for a number of players, including (but not limited to) Liam Foudy, Kevin Stenlund, Emil Bemstrom, Yegor Chinakhov, Zac Rinaldo, Joshua Dunne, and perhaps even Cole Sillinger. But it also includes two veterans in Justin Danforth and Gregory Hofmann.

The latter two share some uncanny similarities: both are 28-year old players who have never played in the NHL. Both are signed to one-year, one-way contracts, meaning they'll be paid the same in the AHL as the NHL. Both, importantly, are waivers exempt, per CapFriendly

Danforth is a slippery, albeit small (listed at 5'9,185) forward. He posted strong numbers in Finland's Liiga before adding 23-32-55 in 58 KHL games a season ago. He utilizes his quick feet and deceptive release to confuse and torment goalies and defenders alike. Is there enough there to translate to the NHL? Time will tell.

Hofmann honed his craft in the Swiss-A League for the past decade. He's clearly a prolific player in that league, and it will be interesting to see him compete against NHL talent on a regular basis. The former teammate of Elvis Merzlikins in Lugano, Hofmann shined well for Switzerland at the World Championships earlier this year, posting 6-2-8 in eight games.

At first glance, they'll have an uphill fight to make the NHL roster. There isn't the proof of concept that is there with someone like a Stenlund, or even (I can't believe I'm saying this) a Rindalo. And since they were brought into the organization, the Blue Jackets signed Kuraly and Rinaldo and drafted Sillinger. Even if they beat out Rinaldo and Sillinger, which is reasonable to assume, they'll still need to impress beyond Stenlund, Foudy, and/or Bemstrom. 

On the other hand, management clearly brought them over for a reason. There are certainly cheaper options to fill out an AHL roster than 28-year old imports making $750k/$950k, respectively. 

With training camp right around the corner, keeping an eye on Danforth and Hofmann will be a priority for the organization.