Shifting The Focus: The Only Thing That Matters This Season Is The Development of The Blue Jackets' Young Players

By Coby Maeir on December 7, 2023 at 10:17 am
Columbus Blue Jackets center Adam Fantilli (11) shoots the puck as Chicago Blackhawks center Connor Bedard (98) trails the play during the first period at Nationwide Arena.
Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

In terms of points percentage, the Blue Jackets currently sit in 29th place in the NHL and last in the Eastern Conference. For the second straight season, their chances of making the playoffs have nearly evaporated before New Year's. 

At this point, it's not about wins and losses anymore. If the Blue Jackets somehow go on a run at any point of the season and then revert to how they're currently playing, the only thing that they'd gain is a worse draft pick. 

This season is about the development of the team's young players like Adam Fantilli, Kent Johnson, Cole Sillinger, David Jiricek, Kirill Marchenko, Yegor Chinakhov, and Dmitri Voronkov. 

The seven players listed above are crucial pieces, some more than others, of the Blue Jackets' future, and therefore their development is paramount. 

We've written about the team's perplexing plan for Kent Johnson and how limiting his ice time at the NHL level doesn't make sense, but what about the other players?

Among rookie forwards with at least 10 games played, Fantilli ranks sixth in TOI/game at 15:20 and Voronkov is 18th at 12:53. Among first-year defensemen who've played at least 10 games, Jiricek is 14th in TOI/game at 13:43. 

Those time on ice numbers shouldn't be concerning, especially for Jiricek, who recently turned 19. 

For Marchenko, his game has picked up after he was a healthy scratch for two contests, as he's scored 8-3--11 in 18 contests since returning to the lineup on Nov. 2. 

While currently on the IR, Sillinger has had a bounce-back season, posting 1-8--9 in 24 games after registering just 3-8--11 in 64 games a year ago. 

While posting only 3-2--5 in 16 games, Chinakhov has shown flashes of brilliance as well after an injury-plagued 2022-23 season saw him score 4-9--13 in 30 games. 

It's unfortunate that this is what the Blue Jackets season has come to, but let's not kid anybody, the best outcome for the 2023-24 campaign is the development of the team's young players, not wins, unless those wins get them in the playoffs. 

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