Jack Roslovic found himself at a crossroads.
Through 46 games to start this season, the Columbus Blue Jackets' forward had posted an underwhelming 8-12-20, and was also coming off one of the most egregious mistakes of his career.
Roslovic "was almost in tears", says Blue Jackets President of Hockey Operations John Davidson, because of a turnover he forced that led to an immediate goal-against.
That was game 46. In the 33 games since, Roslovic has been on a tear, registering 13-11-24. In his last eight games, alone, he's posted a ridiculous 9-3-12 stat line, which included a four-point game (a hat trick) against the Detroit Red Wings.
Boone Jenner's injured back opened the door for the Columbus native to see more of a role at center, and he's thrown that door wide open. A few months after being something of a defensive liability, Roslovic is now centering the club's de facto top line between Jake Voracek and Gus Nyquist, killing penalties, and seeing a major uptick in ice time.
That turnaround is significant for the pending RFA. For starters, the Blue Jackets are in the midst of a youth infusion, and the 25-year-old Roslovic is suddenly one of the elder statesmen on a Blue Jackets forward group that is expected to roster Cole Sillinger, Kent Johnson, Yegor Chinakhov, and Kirill Marchenko, to say nothing of other sub-25 year-olds like Patrik Laine, Alexandre Texier, and perhaps Emil Bemstrom, in the 2022-23 season.
Aside from the sheer volume and competition that is expected on next year's club, the versatility to play both center and wing, and also skate on both the power play as well as the penalty kill, means that Roslovic is something of a Swiss Army Knife.
A Roslovic detractor would argue that his versatility is more of an indictment than an exoneration (pardon the pun), in that he's not perfectly well-suited for any one spot in the lineup. On a contending team, is he a center, much less a top-six center? Maybe in a second-line capacity, but even that seems rich. He definitely doesn't profile like a 'prototypical' bottom-six center, though he could maybe be a 'plus' third-line center with some offensive pop. And with a crowded group of wingers, which includes Oliver Bjorkstrand, Voracek, Nyquist, Laine, and Eric Robinson, to say nothing of the aforementioned youngsters, there's not really a seamless, natural fit.
Midway through this season, I wondered if the pending RFA would even get a qualifying offer after the season, that is, if he wasn't traded at the trade deadline. Now, I think the Blue Jackets will be able - and will choose - to keep him in the fold into the future. I still wonder where he'll fit in the lineup (next year as well as into the club's contending years), but he brings some strong assets to the table, namely his elite edgework/skating and his ability to transport the puck from the defensive zone to the offensive zone, something that separates him from many of his peers.
Who can say if Roslovic and the coaching staff had a 'Coming To Jesus' moment after his turnover against Calgary. Whatever it was, we've seen a different, more confident, dynamic, and (most importantly) responsible player in the games since. And that alone may keep Roslovic in Columbus well into the future.