Blankenburg Will Look To Solidify Himself As A Mainstay On The Blue Jackets Roster

By Dan Greene on September 21, 2022 at 10:15 am
Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Nick Blankenburg celebrates his first NHL goal against the Edmonton Oilers in the third period at Nationwide Arena.
Gaelen Morse-USA TODAY Sports

Nick Blankenburg signing with the Columbus Blue Jackets in April surprised many in the fifth line. The arrival of his college teammate, Kent Johnson, was much anticipated, however, Blankenburg coming along for the ride caught many off-guard. It did make sense though, as the Jackets' defense had been abysmal for most of the season. So the team decided to take a low-risk flyer on an undersized defenseman who had been a standout in college.

It remains to be seen just how good the Michigan product will turn out to be, but as our own Coby Maeir pointed out, Blankenburg did enough to show that he could hang with the best players in the world. Columbus agreed, giving him a two-year extension in order to provide him with enough time to prove what else he can do.

In only seven games, the 5-9 defenseman posted 12 blocks and 19 hits, demonstrating his willingness and ability to mix it up with players much larger than himself. He often threw caution to the wind while squaring up to deliver hits on opposing players speeding toward him. He not only played aggressively, but he was also smart, showing skill and maturity as he often showed impressive timing with his checks. He was also adept at blocking shots, placing second on the team in blocks per 60 minutes.

Blankenburg is known more for his defense, however, he showed that he can be an asset on offense as well. He was tied with Jake Bean for the most points among Blue Jackets defenders during the seven games in which he saw ice time. He had three points, including one goal during that timespan. 

Due to his small stature and equally small sample size of games played, he may end up in Cleveland or as the seventh defender, to start with. Though, wherever he ends up at the beginning of the season, he will look to prove that what we saw at the end of last year wasn't an anomaly. That he is, in fact, the same over-producing, small-statured, Tasmanian devil we witnessed in April. 

He will have to prove this in order to find playing time with Columbus. Coach Larsen, among others, was singing his praises at the end of last season. But while the coaching staff has been encouraged by what they've seen thus far, they will need to see much more of it in order for Blankenburg to receive consistent ice time. 

It's not so much that the team needs to see a lot more from the Michigan native than what they've already seen. It's just that they are going to need to see it consistently displayed over a much longer period of time. Blankenburg is on the right track. The question now is, can he keep it up?

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