Unlike the forwards unit, at least two-thirds of the defensive line-up should look the same as last year. This may come as a bit of a surprise to those who remember that the Columbus Blue Jackets gave up a record number of goals last season. However, this will likely happen for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the defense was very young last year and still needs time to develop. Players such as Adam Boqvist and Andrew Peeke have a lot of potential but also have room to improve. And lastly, players that look to figure into the future of the Blue Jackets blue line such as Corson Ceulemans, David Jiricek, and Denton Mateychuk aren't ready for the big stage quite yet.
Jarmo on the #CBJ D: We felt we were a little light at times. Thats probably one cause of the defensive issues we had. We have a lot of guys who are mobile and skilled and good NHL players, but we were a little light back there. Well, were a lot heavier back there right now.— Jeff Svoboda (@JacketsInsider) July 13, 2022
Also, there is still the assumption, when it comes to point total production, that said player will have played 75 or more games in order to reach the projected point total range. If they are unable to play that many games, then the projection would have to be converted to points per game in order to judge its accuracy. Some of these players have a fairly lengthy injury history and it may be unlikely that they play 75 or more games in the upcoming season.
|LINE||LEFT D||PROJ.||RIGHT D.||PROJ.|
|LINE 1||Zach Werenski||60-70||Andrew Peeke||10-20|
|LINE 2||Vladislov Gavrikov||25-30||Adam Boqvist||30-40|
|LINE 3||Nick Blankenburg||10-25||Erik Gudbranson||8-10|
Yes, Werenski's point projection is quite bullish, but a 75-game projection of his numbers last season would have him sitting at 53 points and an 82-game projection would have him at 58. Couple that together with the fact that he set his personal point record last year and is young enough to still be progressing, and you have a recipe for a potential 60-70 point season if he can stay healthy.
If I were to interject my personal opinion into the projections, I would play Werenski and Gavrikov on the top line. However, head coach Brad Larsen and his staff have their jobs for a reason and they are much smarter than I am. Based on what they did last season, unless something has changed this offseason, I'd be willing to bet that Peeke plays with Werenski on the top line. An interesting side note though is that the player that played the most minutes opposite Werenski, last year, was non-other than Jake Bean. But somehow I don't see history repeating itself this season. In fact, possibly shockingly to some, Bean has been left off the projections entirely. Though he will likely at least be the 7th man.
It is hard to argue anything on the second line unless you believe there is no way the Jackets put a player who just signed a 4x4 on the third line. The issue with elevating Gudbranson to the second line for that reason (though a valid reason) is that it causes more pairing issues than a Gavrikov, Boqvist line.
Then we reach the third and final line. I know it may be a surprise that I have Blankenburg here instead of Bean, but there is a 100% chance someone gets injured this season, and whichever one of them is the 7th man will undoubtedly get minutes at some point. If you instead happen to project Bean on the third line it would be hard to argue with you. Projecting this spot is a crap-shoot at this point.
It is also a decent possibility that Jiricek and maybe even Ceulemans get on the ice at some point this season. Jiricek is considered one of the most NHL-ready prospects to come out of this year's draft, and Ceulemans has already sat out a year at this point. Though if Cuelemans gets a chance to play, it will almost definitely be toward the end of the season.
Just like the forward projections, this is largely a thought exercise due to not being at practice and hearing what the coaches are thinking and planning. Though there are reasons that each player has been projected in each of these roster spots. We will have to wait until the much-anticipated start to the season in order to find out for sure.