Did any of the Blue Jackets players leave you wanting more last season?
According to CapFriendly, the Blue Jackets still have three players on the injured reserved list. The current iteration of the list includes Captain Boone Jenner, French centerman Alexandre Texier, and potential future starting goaltender Daniil Tarasov. Aside from the three still on injured reserve, star right winger Patrik Laine missed significant time due to a combination of injury and grieving the loss of his father. Also, Nick Blankenburg and Kent Johnson played a combined 16 games as rookies, due to not signing until late in the season.
- Laine may already be a star, but he gave us a taste of what he is capable of. I'll give you a hint, he is capable of quite a bit more than we have seen from him, so far, in a Jackets sweater. That taste came in the form of an 11-game point streak in which he put up 21 points, just shy of two points per game. He also posted 41 points in the last 35 games of the season.
While Laine wasn't traded to Columbus till partway through the 2020-21 season he has only played 101 games the past two seasons (2020-21 being a Covid-shortened season). In all four of his full seasons with Winnepeg, he scored more goals than the 26 he posted last season, including a personal record of 44 goals he notched for the Jets during the 2017-18 season. This season he will have the added advantage of playing with one of the best facilitators in the NHL, Johnny Gaudreau. The towering Finnish goal-scoring machine has proven he is capable of being a full-fledged star, will he continue to gel with his teammates and grow into a second superstar? If so, this will be a nightmare for opposing defenses as he and Gaudreau will form quite the one-two punch.
- "Oh captain, my captain", while he may have come just short of breaking a lot of his personal records, last season was a career season for Jenner. It was his first season at the helm as the captain of the Blue Jackets and he rewarded the coaching staff with the best season of his career. The only downside was that Jenner played only 59 out of a possible 82 games, missing most of the last two months of the season. However, Jenner is still just 29 and has played 70 or more games in six of his nine seasons in the NHL, including two seasons where he played all 82 games. Factor in last year being shortened because of Covid-19 and Jenner has been quite healthy up to this point in his career. Therefore it stands to reason that he will play more games this coming season.
Speaking of his career year, the center out of Dorchester, Ontario did set career highs in assists, goals, points, and goals created per game. He also played a personal best, 20:28 per game. Boone did an excellent job stepping up from an alternate to being the full-fledged captain last year. He filled the void left by former captain Nick Foligno, and then some. If Jenner can continue his career resurgence, the projected first line of Gaudreau, Jenner, and Laine will be fun to watch.
What about Texier? He missed the last 46 games of last season, but showcased some serious potential in the 36 games he did play. He is one of a few centers that have drawn speculation as a possible long-term solution at 1-C. Whichever line he slots into, and whether he even plays center, he will almost assuredly build off his 20-point (.56 PPG) performance from last season, over half of which (11) were goals.
Texier also showcased his ability to be a two-way center, something which is valuable in the NHL and even more valuable on this team, which has been starved of solid defensive play from its forwards, and defenders for that matter. At 22 years old and just over 120 games under his belt, it's safe to assume that he will progress on both ends of the ice in the next few years. Texier was easy to forget towards the end of the year since he didn't play past the end of January, but he isn't a player you should sleep on. Players such as Gaudreau, Laine, Werenski, and Merzlikins will grab headlines, but if this team has success next season, you can bet Texier will have played a key part in it.
- There is simply not enough NHL game data to get a proper idea of what Tarasov's impact on the team will be. But however small the sample size may be, his numbers are impressive. In four games played, three of which he started, he has a 2.4 GAA and a .937 SV%. Once healthy, he is expected to push Korpisalo for the backup goaltender role and may eventually end up dethroning Merzlikins as the starter. He did sign a three-year extension with the club this summer so whatever the plan is, he is a part of it.
- The rookies didn't suit up for the Jackets till mid-April, but they did create a buzz amongst the fifth line. Blankenburg finished with three points in seven games and showed the tenacity and strength of someone much larger than himself. Johnson had three points in nine games and gave just enough of a peak in order to whet the appetite of the coaching staff as well as the fan base. They should appear in far more games this year as well as receive more playing time in each game.