The Columbus Blue Jackets open up their eight-game preseason schedule later tonight as they take on the Pittsburgh Penguins. We've got you covered on what to watch for in game one, but there are plenty of headlines to keep an eye on for the entirety of the preseason, with question marks at several key positions. Here are the three storylines that have especially piqued our interest.
Eyes On The Kids
Cole Sillinger and Yegor Chinakhov dominated the NHL Prospects Tournament in Traverse City, but the preseason will present a stiffer challenge. Both should have ample opportunity to make their mark over the course of the eight games, and both are in the lineup tonight.
#CBJ head coach Brad Larsen said Cole Sillinger and Yegor Chinakhov probably won't play all 8 preseason games, but they'll get a good look. Im excited to watch them play. There is a lot to be excited about with these two young men. Are they ready for it? Were going to see.— Jeff Svoboda (@JacketsInsider) September 27, 2021
Sillinger has already caught the eye of the coaching staff, as he centered Patrik Laine and Jakub Voracek as training camp opened last week. Chinakhov scored six goals in just three games at the prospect tournament, proving that his game is clearly ready for the next challenge. It's not going out on limb to suggest it's likely that both play North American pro hockey this season... but will they start the year in Cleveland (AHL) or Columbus?
Sorting Out The Bottom Of The Lineup
In a strange paradox, the rebuilding Blue Jackets have more NHLers than roster spots. As such, it will be fascinating to keep tabs on a number of players vying for spots. Barring injuries, we can say with some confidence who will start the year in the top six: Laine, Voracek, Jack Roslovic, and Oliver Bjorkstrand. Others, like Boone Jenner, Sean Kuraly, Gustav Nyquist, and Alexandre Texier, are locks for the roster, but who knows where they'll slot.
It's the rest of the bunch: Josh Dunne, Liam Foudy, Justin Danforth, Gregory Hofmann, Emil Bemstrom, and the aforementioned Chinakhov and Sillinger, who could all find themselves basically anywhere in the lineup... or possibly in the AHL.
Who Sticks On The Blueline?
For all of the questions surrounding the forward group, the defensive corps is equally unsolved. For better or worse, it sure seems like Jake Bean is going to get a chance to at least start the year on the team's top-four, either alongside Zach Werenski or Vladislav Gavrikov. Adam Boqvist figures to get the other spot in that group, but which players start on the third pair? One figures that the club will keep seven defensemen, so assume that three of Dean Kukan, Andrew Peeke, Gabriel Carlsson, Scott Harrington, Mikko Lehtonen, and Gavin Bayreuther will make the team.
Harrington seems to be a safe bet to make the team, as does Peeke. Can Kukan edge out the others?