Blue Jackets Goal Scoring Almost Exclusively From Young Players On Recent Western Road Trip

By Dan Dukart on January 30, 2023 at 10:15 am
Kent Johnson skates with the puck against the Calgary Flames
Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

The Columbus Blue Jackets capped off their western road trip with a 1-2-1 record, getting points in the first two games before losing in regulation in the final two.

All things considered, it wasn't a terrible trip, save for the fact that pending UFA trade chip Gus Nyquist was injured and is out indefinitely. The Blue Jackets were outscored 14-9 on the swing, and it wasn't difficult to see where the offense was coming from.

Kirill Marchenko continued his torrid scoring pace, scoring four (!) of the club's nine goals. He's on a 40-goal pace over an 82-game season, and when the book is closed on the 2022-23 season, it's plausible - likely, really - that Marchenko's breakout is the best storyline from the season. Marchenko is quietly (honestly, is anyone outside of Columbus seeing what this guy is doing?) second among rookies in goals with 13, and leader Matty Beniers has scored just four more goals in twenty more games. 

Kent Johnson scored two goals and added an assist on the four-game trip, scoring the lone goal in Saturday's 3-1 loss and the OT winner against the Oilers, meaning that 66.6% of the goals scored on the road trip were by the two ascending youngsters. Incredibly, the last five goals scored by the Blue Jackets have been scored by one of those two players.

The other three goals on the trip were scored by Boone Jenner, who had a pair in his own right, and Patrik Laine, who scored a power-play goal. Johnny Gaudreau added four assists in the four games and remains the club's leading scorer by a country mile, with 13-35-48 in 50 games. Adam Boqvist, who was made a scratch with an upper-body injury in the last game of the four-game trip, also added four assists in the three games. 

Nobody considers Jenner (29) or Gaudreau (29) young players, and there are no additional points for being young and scoring, but Laine (24) and Boqvist (22), are still in the early stages of their respective careers.

With the All-Star break coming up, it's natural to reflect on the season that has been, and what's to come in the next few months. This team is in the NHL's basement, and the only thing that really matters at this point is that the club's future is properly developed. We've written ad nauseam about Marchenko and Johnson, and for good reason - they've been among the team's best players. There's a reason that there has been little to say about other youngsters, like Emil Bemstrom or Liam Foudy; they haven't done enough to warrant additional attention. 

It's not a coincidence that Marchenko (career-high) and Johnson (second-most) played a lot of minutes in the final game of the road trip against the Seattle Kraken. By that point, it had become obvious to the coaching staff that these two players needed to get more than just a regular shift. Thank goodness.