2023-24 Season Preview: Reasonable Expectations For Blue Jackets Defensemen

By Coby Maeir on October 1, 2023 at 10:18 am
Zach Werenski addresses the media at the Columbus Blue Jackets' annual media luncheon.

The season is just 11 days away.

In this edition of the 2023-24 season previews, we'll be going over reasonable expectations for the Columbus Blue Jackets defensemen. One thing that will be crucial this season, as with any season, is the health of the players. The team's defensemen combined for 223 man-games lost in 2022-23, per nhlinjuryviz.blogspot.com.

Unlike the preview for the forwards, there will be no expected point totals here, as it's not a fair way to judge the impact of a defenseman the same way it is for forwards. However, we will be giving an expected role to each of the defensemen listed below. Additionally, the roles will reflect what they'd be expected to have when playing, not over the course of the season. Obviously, you cannot have five defensemen playing in the top four, seven defensemen playing in the top six, etc.

Let's get started.

Zach Werenski: 2022-23 Stats (NHL): 13GP, 3G, 5A, 8P

After a torn labrum in November cut Werenski's season short, the hope is that he can stay healthy in 2023-24, as he hasn't played a full season since 2018-19. When healthy, however, he's an elite defenseman. A true No. 1. While he's most known for his offensive ability, his defense has significantly improved. Last season, he led NHL blueliners that played at least 10 games in defensive goals above replacement per 60 minutes, according to evolving-hockey.com. Offensively, he's scored at least 10 goals every season where he's played in at least 60 games, so his durability would be a huge boost to a team that finished 30th in goals scored last year. 2023-24 Expected Role: No. 1 Defenseman, 24:00 TOI/Game

Damon Severson: 2022-23 Stats (NHL): 81GP, 7G, 26A, 33P

The Blue Jackets acquired Severson in the summer via a sign-and-trade with the Devils and signed him to an eight-year, $6.25M AAV deal. He's been durable throughout his career, missing just 37 games since entering the league in 2014-15, according to nhlinjuryviz.blogspot.com. The price the Blue Jackets paid for him suggests he'll have a big role this season, and they'll need him to play well. 2023-24 Expected Role: Top-Four Defenseman, 21:30 TOI/Game

Ivan Provorov: 2022-23 Stats (NHL): 82GP, 6G, 21A, 27P

Like Severson, Provorov is durable, playing in 532 of a possible 535 games since entering the league in 2016-17. After a few down years in Philadelphia (read more about that here), the Blue Jackets will need Provorov to bounce back in his first season with the Jackets. Like Werenski, he has offensive upside, tallying at least 13 goals in two different seasons. 2023-24 Expected Role: Top-Four Defenseman, 21:20 TOI/Game

Adam Boqvist: 2022-23 Stats (NHL): 46GP, 5G, 19A, 24P

Boqvist has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career, but since arriving in Columbus ahead of the 2021-22 season, he's played well offensively when on the ice, posting 0.47 points/game. The No. 8 overall pick in the 2018 Draft has the ability to be a high-end offensive defenseman, but he has to stay healthy. 2023-24 Expected Role: Bottom-Four Defenseman, 18:05 TOI/Game

David Jiricek: 2022-23 Stats (AHL): 55GP, 6G, 32A, 38P

The No. 6 overall pick in the 2022 Draft, Jiricek had a fantastic first professional season, making the AHL's Top Prospect Team and the AHL All-Star Game as a teenager. He also appeared in four NHL games and dominated at the 2023 IIHF World Juniors, where was named the tournament's best defenseman. In training camp, Jiricek has shown flashes of brilliance, especially in the playmaking department. If he makes the team, he'll be another young player the Blue Jackets will be relying on. 2023-24 Expected Role: Bottom-Four Defenseman, 18:25 TOI/Game

Erik Gudbranson: 2022-23 Stats (NHL): 70GP, 1G, 12A, 13P

Entering the second year of a four-year, $4M AAV deal on the heels of a season where he had the 14th-lowest wins above replacement, per evolving-hockey.com, the Blue Jackets need Gudbranson to bounce back to how he played in 2021-22, when he posted a 0.7 WAR compared to last year's -1.3 WAR. Last season, he played nearly three minutes more per game (21:17) than his career average (18:29), so a decrease in minutes could benefit him. 2023-24 Expected Role: Bottom-Pair Defenseman, 16:30 TOI/Game

Denton Mateychuk: 2022-23 Stats (WHL): 63GP, 8G, 57A, 65P

Mateychuk, the No. 12 overall pick in the 2022 Draft, has impressed in this year's training camp, and arguably has been one of the team's six-best defensemen. As is the case with Jiricek, whether or not Mateychuk makes the team remains to be seen. 2023-24 Expected Role: Top-Four Defenseman, 20:00 TOI/Game

Nick Blankenburg: 2022-23 Stats (NHL): 36GP, 4G, 10A, 14P

Injuries limited Blankenburg to just 36 games in his first full NHL campaign, but he still made an impact while on the ice. His 5-foot-9-inch frame doesn't impact with the high level of physicality that he plays with, either. 2023-24 Expected Role: Bottom-Pair Defenseman, 17:10 TOI/Game

Andrew Peeke: 2022-23 Stats (NHL): 80GP, 6G, 7A, 13P

No Blue Jacket has played more games over the last two seasons than Peeke, who's appeared in 162 of 164 contests. Last year was tough for him, as he was a healthy scratch for two games, but his toughness and ability to block shots are assets for the team. 2023-24 Expected Role: Bottom-Pair Defenseman, 17:45 TOI/Game

Jake Bean: 2022-23 Stats (NHL): 14GP, 1G, 5A, 6P

A torn labrum limited Bean last season, but he still registered nearly half a point per game. He certainly has offensive upside, but he'll have to stay healthy to have a chance to make the lineup. 2023-24 Expected Role: Bottom-Pair Defenseman, 16:55 TOI/Game

Stanislav Svozil: 2022-23 Stats (WHL): 56GP, 11G, 67A, 78P

After Svozil helped Connor Bedard take the Regina Pats to the WHL Playoffs last season, he played two NHL games, held his own, and recorded an assist. He's had an impressive camp, and while he might be on the bubble to make the roster, he's proven that he can play in the NHL. 2023-24 Expected Role: Bottom-Pair Defenseman, 17:05 TOI/Game

Which defensemen will suit up on opening night? The answer to that question is 11 days away.

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