In a month's time, the Blue Jackets' prospects will be in Traverse City.
That means training camp is right around the corner and in less than two months, the 2019-20 NHL regular season will be under way. While the next 7-8 weeks are sure to drag along (these are the dog days of hockey summer), our team at 1OB is here to help.
Many faces are gone, many remain and a few have come on board. And there’s a lot we don’t know about this team as it enters a new era–which can be good, and can also be bad. There's a lot of room between the two.
What is your hottest Blue Jackets take entering the 2019-20 season?
Dan Dukart: Joonas Korpisalo has a brutal start to the season and the coaching staff hands the keys to the castle to Elvis Merzlikins (not a hot take yet, I know). Merzlikins takes the NHL by storm, becomes an overnight fan-favorite and media sensation. By Christmas, everybody has forgotten about the Sergei Bobrovsky/Nick Foligno postgame hug, which has been replaced with Merzlikins’ firing up the Nationwide Arena crowd by (diving) dancing like a damn fool to some terrible Elvis Presley song that we lovingly mock. It’s going to be great.
Jacob Nitzberg: Alexandre Texier will score at least 25 goals and put up at least 50 points. The young Frenchman’s skill is no secret, and now that he has some NHL minutes under his belt, he’ll be ready to contribute in a big way come October. Participating in training camp and the preseason with the NHL club will pay big dividends for the two holes in his game: strength and defensive-zone awareness. Due to the mass exodus of forwards, there are spots open on the power play and in the top six. Texier has the skill, and this season he’ll have 82 games to show it off.
Rob Mixer: I'll keep mine simple...the Blue Jackets will make the playoffs for a fourth consecutive season. The over/under points total for Columbus in 2019-20 is set at 82.5, which seems pretty low. Are these Blue Jackets better than last year's Philadelphia Flyers, who finished at 82 points? Yeah, I think so. They're better than the Buffalo Sabres, who improved a bit this summer but finished at 76 points in 2018-19. I know there are some major question marks (ahem, goaltending!) but I do think, on the whole, this is a generally solid team with quality depth. They'll surprise a lot of people.
Chris Pennington: Oliver Bjorkstrand will break the Blue Jackets' franchise record for goals scored in a season. The mark is currently held by Cam Atkinson (2018-2019) and Rick Nash (2003-2004) with 41 goals apiece. With the departures of Artemi Panarin, Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel, there will be plenty of opportunity for Bjorkstrand. Plus, Bjorkstrand has about doubled his goals every year he has been in the league–so why not do it again this coming season and add a mere 18 more, right? Easy.
Ben Jandrain: Joonas Korpisalo will be a steady force next season, but Elvis Merzlikins will make it a tough choice to decide who is the starter in net. Instead of keeping both goaltenders on the roster, the Blue Jackets will trade Merzlikins at the deadline, and in the process try to package Alexander Wennberg in the deal to open up even more cap flexibility.
Peter Fish: Wennberg will hit 40 points as the Blue Jackets' second-line center. After another disappointing season of only 25 points in 75 games (including the lowest total of goals output of his career, 2), there's only room for him to improve. After the season, he joined Sweden for the World Championship and put up 10 points (with three goals) in only six games, reminding us that he has the skill to produce. Sweden runs a different offense and defense than Columbus, but it should help Wennberg’s confidence heading into the 2019-20 season and with the potential of an increased workload, we could see him back to producing offense.