The 2021-22 Columbus Blue Jackets will be an interesting case study in roster building.
After trading away Pierre-Luc Dubois and Seth Jones in 2020-21, the team enters the new season with question marks at arguably the two hardest positions to acquire: a number one center and a top-pairing defenseman.
To be clear, Zach Werenski is a number one defense pairing defenseman. But it takes two to tango, and the Blue Jackets could try a number of defensemen - Adam Boqvist, Andrew Peeke, Vladislav Gavrikov, Jake Bean, etc. - opposite the 24-year old Werenski.
Interestingly, for the lack of star power on the defense corps, the Blue Jackets boast up to nine NHL-caliber defensemen, as Dean Kukan, Scott Harrington, Mikko Lehtonen, and Gabriel Carlsson all vie to fill out the roster. Gavin Bayreuther, too, could play himself into an NHL role, but with the depth in front of him, it's a long shot.
At the forward position, the Blue Jackets have a surplus of wingers. Patrik Laine, Jakub Voracek, Oliver Bjorkstrand, and Gus Nyquist are penciled in as top-six wingers, and there are plenty of depth options, with players like Boone Jenner, Alexandre Texier, and Max Domi able to play both center and the wing.
#CBJ have added some interesting forward depth over the last few weeks with the signings of Chinakhov, Dunne and Danforth -- plus the Gregory Hofmann trade. Could be a really fascinating camp next year to see where everyone fits.— Jeff Svoboda (@JacketsInsider) May 3, 2021
Adding Jack Roslovic and Sean Kuraly gives the Blue Jackets two more centers, but both may be asked to play above their paygrade. Roslovic, for example, could be tasked with filling the number one center job. Even the most ardent Roslovic supporter would acknowledge that his name doesn't belong in the same conversation as Metropolitan Divison rivals Sidney Crosby, Nicklas Backstrom, Mika Zibanejad, Sean Couturier, Nico Hischier, Sebastian Aho, and Mat Barzal.
Kuraly fits perfectly as the team's 4C, but, again, may be asked to fill the 3C slot. That would bump someone like Jenner up to the 2C, and the same story above with Roslovic would apply, to a lesser extent, to both of these situations.
Of course, the thought/hope is that these building blocks already exist within the organization. Cole Sillinger and Kent Johnson would ideally become the club's top two centers in the coming years. The same goes for Bean, Boqvist, or Corson Ceulemans slotting opposite Werenski on the team's top defense pair. But there will be no reprieve in 2021-22, and the Blue Jackets will once again head into a season with serious question marks at several of the premium positions.