That's all Nick Blankenburg needed to show he is an NHL-caliber defenseman. Not only did he prove he can play in the best hockey league in the world, he quickly became a fan favorite amongst the Blue Jackets fans.
Over the seven games he played, he ranked sixth on the team in average time on ice (ATOI) at 17:34 and was tied with Jake Bean for the defensemen lead in points over that stretch with three. Blankenburg shined on both ends of the ice, and the Blue Jackets needed him to because he was just one of four Jackets defensemen that played all seven games with him.
Blankenburg continues to impress with the assist and Voracek picks up his 52nd assist to move into a tie with Ray Whitney for third on the franchise list for helpers in a season. #CBJ pic.twitter.com/AYVcbtYct6— 1st Ohio Battery (@1stOhioBattery) April 24, 2022
He also played on special teams, playing 0:38 of power-play time per game and 0:37 of short-handed time per game.
Over that seven-game stretch, he was also not afraid to throw his body around and take a beating, tying for first on the team in hits with 19 and tying for second on the team in blocked shots with 12.
While he did miss the final two games of the regular season with an upper-body injury, Blankenburg represented Team USA at the recent IIHF World Championship and played in four games. He suffered a knee injury there and missed the remainder of the tournament.
Speaking of young #CBJ D Nick Blankenburg is no longer with U.S. in Finland for @2022iihfworlds— Brian Hedger (@BrianHedger) May 24, 2022
The rookie from Michigan sustained a knee injury over there, but it isnt expected to affect his availability for training camp in the fall.
The Blue Jackets currently have five defensemen under contract for next season: Zach Werenski, Bean, Gavin Bayreuther, Andrew Peeke, and Vladislav Gavrikov. Blankenburg, along with Adam Boqvist and Gabriel Carlsson, is a pending restricted free agent (RFA). If these are the eight defensemen on the roster for training camp 2022, Werenski, Gavrikov, Peeke, Bean, Boqvist, and Blankenburg would likely be the six defensemen that are dressed for game-one of the regular season.
His Next Deal
However, Blankenburg is still not under contract. So, what will his next contract look like? He is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent following the 2024-25 season, which means he could sign a three-year deal that could take him to that point. However, with such a small sample size, GM Jarmo Kekalainen may be hesitant to hand out a long-term contract that includes a significant pay raise and instead may offer just a one-year extension. From Blankenburg's perspective, a one-year deal may be best for him, too. If he does sign a one-year "prove it" deal and has a great year in 2022-23, he'll be set up to sign a more lucrative deal next summer.
Regardless of what his next contract looks like, Blankenburg made the most of his brief time in the NHL this season and proved he can play with the best players in the world in the best league in the world.