As Blue Jackets Upgrade Roster, Crowded Forward Group Gives Management More To Consider Ahead Of Season

By Will Chase on July 4, 2023 at 1:45 pm
Columbus Blue Jackets' Patrik Laine celebrates his goal with Johnny Gaudreau and Jack Roslovic during the first period against the Detroit Red Wings at Little Caesars Arena.
Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Odd-men out?

The Columbus Blue Jackets roster is undeniably different since last season ended.

With Ivan Provorov and Damon Severson coming in from Metropolitan Division rivals to help form a new-look blue line, it's possible the Jackets will still make more moves to accommodate the surplus of defensemen on the back end.

Such as shipping someone out.

Two weeks ago we talked about that side of the roster and potential players that could be on the outside looking in by the time next season is here.

Even before last week's NHL Draft, the Blue Jackets' forward group was getting crowded.

Alexandre Texier is back in the mix after a season and a half away overseas and recent third-overall draft pick Adam Fantilli made things official, signing his entry-level contract on Saturday.

Fantilli's addition alone provides interesting lineup possibilities in where he could conceivably end up by opening night on Oct. 12 against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Dan Dukart addressed all the possibilities that could await Fantilli and, in turn, the Jackets as far as where Fantilli could fit into the lineup.

Johnny Gaudreau Boone Jenner Kirill Marchenko
Kent Johnson Adam Fantilli Patrik Laine
Cole Sillinger, Emil Bemstrom Alexandre Texier Yegor Chinakhov, Jack Roslovic
Eric Robinson Sean Kuraly Justin Danforth, Dmitri Voronkov, Mathieu Olivier

Fantilli's spot aside, the top six appears more cut and dry, assuming Fantilli has a good first NHL training camp this fall and can slot into a top-six role. It's the bottom six that gets interesting.

Mathieu Olivier signed a two-year extension on June 21 and Justin Danforth is set to return following his season-ending labrum injury suffered last October. Danforth broke out the season before in his first NHL season, scoring 14 points (10 goals, four assists) in 45 games, resulting in a two-year extension in Mar. 2022.

"When you look at a lot of the players from last year, they didn't have stellar years," Blue Jackets head coach Mike Babcock said during Saturday's introductory press conference.

Among those forwards that struggled mightily was Cole Sillinger.

Sillinger only scored 11 points (three goals, eight assists) in 64 games before spending the tail end of the season in Cleveland, after scoring 31 points (16 goals, 15 assists) in his rookie season. He's among the players to get back on track and he could even begin 2023-24 in the minors.

With Texier back, he or Sillinger could slide to the wing. Emil Bemstrom played in 55 games last season, and just about every game after Christmas. Yegor Chinakhov missed 52 games due to an ankle injury. He's played in 92 of 164 NHL games over the last two seasons since breaking into the lineup.

Jack Roslovic's Columbus future might be murky and if there's a guy that could probably use a change of scenery, Roslovic is a contender.

Jack Roslovic, Evolving-Hockey
Evolving-Hockey, Jack Roslovic

His overall stat line doesn't look bad, putting up 44 points (11 goals, 33 assists) last season. Roslovic's 44 points were good for fourth on the team and his 33 assists ranked second, but the Jackets know they need more across the board.

Roslovic ended the 2021-22 season red-hot with 10 goals, a franchise mark for April, and 13 points, tying an April franchise mark with Gus Nyquist and Jake Voracek, who also had 13 points in Apr. 2022.

Roslovic had 45 points (22 goals, 23 assists) the season before and signed a two-year extension that runs through 2023-24. If the Jackets were to move a forward off the roster this summer, he's certainly one that could garner a look there. There are also players like Liam Foudy, who played in a career-high 62 games last season and scored a career-high 14 points—his seven goals and seven assists are high watermarks. 

Eric Robinson found chemistry with Sean Kuraly and Mathieu Olivier on the fourth line, and Robinson's 72 games played and 12 goals last season were career highs. He'll be a UFA after the 2023-24 season.

NHL Free agency got underway on Saturday and though the Jackets didn't dip their toe in the free agent pool, the trade market will remain one spot to watch this off-season.

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