A Burst of Youth: The Blue Jackets Will Have Three Rookies in Their Opening Night Lineup

By Jacob Nitzberg on October 4, 2019 at 1:45 pm
Apr 16, 2019; Columbus, OH, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets center Alexandre Texier (42) celebrates scoring an empty-net goal against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the third period during game four of the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Nationwide Arena.
Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

The Blue Jackets have the fourth-youngest opening night roster in the NHL.

At an average age of 25.63 years old, the youth movement is here to stay in Columbus. 

Emil Bemstrom, Jakob Lilja, and Alexandre Texier did enough during training camp and the preseason to nail down a spot in John Tortorella's opening night roster.

When Tortorella was asked if he had told the rookies anything special before the game tonight, he responded bluntly. 

"No," said Tortorella. "(I) just let them play." 

With the specific rookies in question, that might be a pretty good idea. 

Bemstrom and Lilja will play with each other on the fourth line, and Bemstrom will see some time on the power play tonight, per Tortorella. Lilja will also see time with special teams, but he'll be killing penalties. It's a huge moment for both of them.

And then, of course, there's Texier. He's still technically a rookie, but he made a splash in the AHL last year and earned a call-up to the NHL club. While the NHL experience is there, the wear and tear of a full, 82-game season is something that Texier has yet to go through.

While Elvis Merzlikins isn't starting in net tonight, there's a good chance that he'll be between the pipes tomorrow night in Pittsburgh. If he does, and Bemstrom, Lilja, and Texier keep their places in the lineup, the Blue Jackets will have four rookies dressed.

The Blue Jackets only have two players over the age of 30. Nick Foligno, the captain is 31. Brandon Dubinsky, who is currently injured, is 33. 

It's safe to say that the team is trending towards the younger generation. It remains to be seen what this will mean for the club's success this year — and in the future.