Check Point: Handicapping the Remaining Roster Decisions for the Columbus Blue Jackets

By Dan Dukart on September 28, 2017 at 8:10 am
Markus H
Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

With two preseason games remaining, the Columbus Blue Jackets have trimmed down their roster to just 29 skaters. In one week's time, that number must shrink to 23, so the players remaining in camp are well aware of what's at stake.

Due to injuries to Brandon Dubinsky and Boone Jenner, coupled with the ongoing contract saga of Josh Anderson, several forwards find themselves with a golden opportunity to make the opening night roster. John Tortorella has said the situation is an open book throughout the season; because you make the opening night roster does not mean you'll be around for the duration. Your play dictates that.

Of the remaining players, who finds themselves on the bubble, and in which direction are they trending? Let's take a closer look.

Pierre-Luc Dubois

The 19-year old has looked completely different since moving to the wing, and leads the club with three goals this preseason. He skated 20:44 against the Blues on Tuesday night, giving management and the coaching staff a long look at a player with high expectations. Is any player remotely aided by the absence of all three players (Jenner, Dubinsky, Anderson) the way Dubois is? Not even close, and he'll likely be the beneficiary of a roster spot.


Tyler Motte

Motte had a relatively uneventful start to camp, neither in a good way or bad. He showed well for himself in the 'bubble' game against the Blues, though, and hopes to ride that momentum to the finish line. His versatility could help him, and he can skate with the best of them. Don't forget, he made the Blackhawks out of camp as a rookie a year ago.


Sonny Milano

No player on this list has been under more scrutiny than Sonny Milano. He's a 21-year-old who led his AHL team in scoring a year ago, but somehow leaves one wanting more. This year, something feels different. He's looked more confident than in years past and keeps playing well enough to remain on the "safe" side of the roster conversation. After losing a decent chunk of scoring depth this summer, Milano (who has yet to score a goal at the NHL level) could be looked upon to help fill that void. 


Zac Dalpe

Dalpe is your typical "bubble guy." He went from a major storyline in a 3-2 preseason loss to the St. Louis Blues to now back in the shadows a week later, but he's still hanging around (though the odds seem longer than they did a week ago). His versatility and ability to play center may give him an edge, and he clearly did enough to survive the latest round cuts, but can you envision him making the team over some other names on this list? It's a tough call.


Markus Hannikainen

The 24-year-old Finn is in a precarious spot. He has a one-way contract, meaning he'd require waivers to be sent down, and the Blue Jackets would have to eat his heftier contract even if he's playing in the AHL. That helps his chances, but he hasn't exactly solidified a spot with his play, either (he was better on Tuesday). While others on this list are versatile, speedy forwards, Hannikainen is an offensively-challenged winger who tops out as a bottom-six winger. The Blue Jackets have a few of those.

(Editors note: Hannikainen does not require waivers, our mistake.)


Jordan Schroeder

Schroeder was brought in from Minnesota as an insurance policy at the center position, making his current injury a tough pill to swallow. With injuries to Dubinsky and Jenner, the door would have been open for Schroeder, but once healthy, he will be a call-up option for the Blue Jackets.


Gabriel Carlsson

While we shouldn't read too much into preseason lineups, seeing Carlsson paired with Ryan Murray for the past week is a good sign for the young Swede. He just looks solid, and it appears, at least for the moment, that he's made the team.


Scott Harrington

Coming out of training camp a season ago, the Blue Jackets kept Scott Harrington on their opening day roster, afraid that they would lose him via waivers if they sent him to the minors. A year later, the same story applies. He's the kind of player the team is probably happy to have in their hip pocket just in case an injury were to pop up. Harrington has shown to be a dependable defenseman, though he's only played 47 regular season NHL games over the past three years.


Markus Nutivaara

There's so much to like about the young Finn's game, but unfortunately, he's got some outside forces working against him. Nutivaara can be sent to AHL Cleveland without requiring waivers (for only two more NHL games), and after offseason hip surgery, it wouldn't be the end of the world for him to spend some time building his game back up in Cleveland. Would it be tough to go from playing 66 games as an NHL rookie (and show well in the playoffs) to starting the following season in the AHL? Sure, but it's not an indictment of his play as much as it is part of the business. Regardless of where he starts the season, Nutivaara stands to be a key piece to the Blue Jackets future.


The Blue Jackets finish off their preseason slate with two remaining games: tonight against the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena (8 p.m.) and Saturday, Sept. 30 in Pittsburgh at 4 p.m. Their game against the Penguins is scheduled to air on NHL Network.

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