A Look Back At New Faces And A Look Forward To New Beginnings For Blue Jackets Prospects Ahead

By Will Chase on June 7, 2022 at 1:45 pm
Columbus Blue Jackets' Yegor Chinakhov and Cole Sillinger celebrate a goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the first period at PPG Paints Arena.
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

One more for the record books.

The Columbus Blue Jackets made franchise history in a variety of ways during the 2021-22 regular season.

Among the new numbers, they scored their most goals in a season (258) but allowed their most (297). Brad Larsen's crew were always in games, mounting 23 comeback wins to show off their resiliency. They also made history when they had 10 players make their NHL debuts with the club, tying the mark set by the inaugural 2000-01 club. 

Let's take a look back at all the new faces to adorn the union blue sweater before we take a look at some new names to come.

Cole Sillinger may have been a surprise to make the team initially, upon being drafted by the team just a few months prior to opening night. With the way things trended in training camp and pre-season, it became a clear foregone conclusion Sillinger would make the club out of camp. The question then became, could he stick with the club for the whole season and even have the opportunity to play in the World Juniors?

Instead, 79 games later and 31 points (16 goals, 15 assists) in an impressive first season and the rest is history. Invaluable experience for the youngest player in the league last season as he now looks to build upon that first year success.

Yegor Chinakhov was the surprise of the 2020 NHL Draft when general manager Jarmo Kekalainen took him with the 21st overall pick. From media pundits asking 'who' to one year later seeing some 'wow' moments. What we do know about Chinakhov is his shot can be downright filthy. In his first NHL season, the Russian put up 14 points (seven goals, seven assists) in 62 games.

Kent Johnson, in addition to Sillinger, was the other big prize from last year's draft to make his debut with the Blue Jackets. The 5th overall pick had a whirlwind year. From being drafted to taking part in the World Juniors in December, and getting to play in the Olympics with Canada, before making a Frozen Four run with the Wolverines, culminating in making his NHL debut in April. Still seeking his first career goal, Johnson did manage three assists in nine games and we saw flashes of why he's heavily touted.

Nick Blankenburg was among the surprises. Undrafted out of Michigan, the former Wolverine captain signed with the Blue Jackets on an entry-level deal for the rest of the season upon the conclusion of their club's Frozen Four run. Blankenburg stole the show with his gritty play. In seven games, the five-foot-nine defenseman had three points (one goal, two assists) to go with 12 blocks and 19 hits.​

Jake Christiansen was the other defenseman who earned his opportunity to the big club in Columbus. Christiansen played in eight games and scored his first career goal for his only NHL point.

Carson Meyer was one of two Blue Jackets rookies—the other being Sillinger—and one of three players (Sean Kuraly) born in Ohio to play with the Blue Jackets last season. Meyer registered three points (one goal, two assists) in 13 games.

Trey Fix-Wolansky was a seventh-round draft pick in 2018. He finally made his NHL debut in February, scoring a goal in his first game to help the Blue Jackets defeat the Washington Capitals. Fix-Wolansky even put together a point streak when he earned an assist in his second consecutive game against the Buffalo Sabres, finishing with two points in six games.

Daniil Tarasov earned his big moment when the Blue Jackets were suddenly down both Elvis Merzlikins and Joonas Korpisalo to illness, prompting the emergency recall for Tarasov. Though he didn't record a victory in three starts and four appearances, the potential future net minder flashed early brilliance. He finished 0-2-0 with a 2.40 GAA and .937 SV%. Hip surgery prematurely ended his season.

Gregory Hofmann played in 24 games for the Blue Jackets, scoring seven points (two goals, five assists). He was granted permission to leave the team in December and head home to Switzerland for the birth of his daughter. After deciding to stay in Switzerland rather than return, the Blue Jackets suspended him and ultimately terminated his contract. Hofmann is now playing for EV Zug of the National League in his home country.

Justin Danforth rounds out the list of Blue Jackets to make their NHL debut with the club. Danforth made up for the lost time. Undrafted out of Sacred Heart University, the 29-year-old saw his career range from the ECHL and AHL to overseas before finally catching on with the Blue Jackets. Over 45 games, Danforth registered 14 points (10 goals, four assists).

The following players below didn't make their NHL debut but did make their Blue Jackets debuts in 2021-22 running the total to 15 new players to appear in games with the team.

J-F Berube appeared in his first NHL action since '17-18 with the Chicago Blackhawks. In six starts for Columbus, Berube went 3-2-0 (4.12, .900), winning his first three starts.

Kuraly, as we mentioned, appeared in his first games with the Blue Jackets after signing a four-year contract last off-season, following five seasons with the Boston Bruins. He posted career-highs with 30 points and 14 goals to go with 16 assists. With 98 career points, Kuraly will achieve the 100-point plateau next season.

Jake Bean was among the blue line additions for the club, coming over in a trade with the Carolina Hurricanes during the 2021 NHL Draft. Bean set scoring highs with 25 points, seven goals, and 18 assists in 55 games.

Adam Boqvist was the other defenseman coming over via trade, alongside the draft pick that turned out to be Sillinger in the Seth Jones trade. Boqvist also set career marks in points (22), goals (11), and assists (11) across 52 games.

Brendan Gaunce had previously played for the Vancouver Canucks and Bruins but for Columbus, he scored seven points (five goals, two assists) in 30 games.

In looking at some names ahead that figure to make their debuts in 2022-23, we look to winger Kirill Marchenko from Russia who was drafted by the Blue Jackets in the 2018 second round.

Fresh off signing a two-year contract in May, the 21-year-old is ready to come to North America. Marchenko scored 20 points (12 goals, eight assists) in 39 games for SKA St. Petersburg in the KHL. As Aaron Portzline of The Athletic reported in May, Marchenko was offered a three-year contract to stay with his KHL club but he rejected that deal, and was essentially punished, having his ice-time docked and was a healthy scratch on Oct. 17.

Though he was the team's fourth-leading goal scorer, Marchenko was sent to the minors to play for SKA-Neva St. Petersburg in the VHL. There, he had three points (one goal, two assists) in two games and in 12 playoff games, he had eight points (six goals, two assists).

Mikael Pyyhtia, a winger from Finland, was drafted by the Blue Jackets in the 2018 fourth round and has been playing for TPS of the Liiga league. Last season, he was the team's second-leading scorer with 35 points (21 goals, 14 assists) in 56 games. He signed his three-year entry-level contract with the Blue Jackets in May and is under loan to play with TPS in 2022-23 so it's doubtful we see him right away.

Marcus Bjork signed with the Blue Jackets on May 24. A defenseman from Sweden, the 24-year-old played with Brynas IF of the SHL, scoring 15 points (three goals, 12 assists) in 52 games. He did not register a point in three playoff games.

Joona Luoto signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Blue Jackets on June 1. A 24-year-old winger from Finland, Luoto has previous NHL experience after playing in 16 games with the Winnipeg Jets in '19-20 where he did not record a point. He played with  Tappara in Liiga, winning a championship there and scoring 14 points (nine goals, five assists) in 27 games. Luoto was named the best player in the playoffs after leading the way with 17 points (eight goals, nine assists) in 14 games.

As for more new names to make their debuts on the team in 2022-23 and beyond, only time will tell. With still the NHL Draft and free agency to play out, and any roster additions between now and the start of the season, it'll be interesting to see what other unsung heroes and stars form for the club on the ice.