3 players who can breakout for the Columbus Blue Jackets next season

As Columbus Blue Jackets general manager, Jarmo Kekalainen continues to mold and shape the teams roster it became clear last season that this make over while not fun, could yield a very fun, dangerous hockey team. Going over last seasons roster, and projecting what is to come, I have found 3 players who I believe are likely to breakout next season.

COLUMBUS, OHIO – MARCH 05: Yegor Chinakhov #59 of the Columbus Blue Jackets gets set during a face off against the Boston Bruins at Nationwide Arena on March 05, 2022 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Rick Osentoski/Getty Images)

Yegor Chinakhov, RW, while nothing really jumped off the boards during his rookie season, Chinakhov’s all around play improved as the season moved along. 7 goals and 14 points with 7 assists  is not earthshaking. Looking ahead to projections, the fleet footed young winger has some very good upside. Chinakhov is a natural goal scorer and I believe much like Oliver Bjorkstand will find his scoring touch in time. I look for Chinakhov to take the next step in his development this coming season.

MONTREAL, QC – FEBRUARY 12: Adam Boqvist (27) of the Columbus Blue Jackets waits for play to begin during the third period of the NHL game between the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Montreal Canadiens on February 12, 2022, at the Bell Centre in Montreal, QC(Photo by Vincent Ethier/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Defensemen, Adam Boqvist is the next on my list of breakout player watch. Playing 52 games because of injuries, Boqvist flashed what is to come. 11 goals, 11 assists with 22 points, suggests that the young blueliner has some serious offensive upside. In what was his first full season in the NHL, Boqvist showed while young and still learning, his defensive game will be solid when it all comes together. Putting on more weight and getting stronger will help fend off the pesky injuries he sustained this past season. It will be fun to watch his development this coming season for the Blue Jackets.

COLUMBUS, OH – APRIL 22: Columbus Blue Jackets center Cole Sillinger #34 skates with the puck during the game between the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Ottawa Senators at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio on April 22, 2022.(Photo by Jason Mowry/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The next player may make some or all of you say, really? Or no kidding? But for me a player who should take a big step forward is Cole Sillinger. Sillinger, who at just 18 years old mind you had a very good rookie season. 16 goals, 15 assists with 31 points, including a hat trick. There was and is a lot and I mean a lot to like from the young center. When drafted the only knock on Sillinger was his “suspect defense.” Yet Sillinger played well at both ends of the ice. Can he improve? Yes! In my opinion, Sillinger has not even scratched the surface of what he is capable of doing, which should delight the Blue Jacket fan base.

So those are my 3 players who I believe will or very well could breakout for the Columbus Blue Jackets, next season. Drop a comment and let me know your thoughts.

Columbus Blue Jackets, Cole Sillinger feels like he can give more

When the Columbus Blue Jackets drafted Cole Sillinger with the organizations second first round draft pick (12 overall) in 2021 the thought was that the young forward would slide into one of the center positions quickly. That did happen and now Sillinger is firmly planted as the second line center. Not bad for an 18 year old. In what started out as a shaky rookie campaign, Sillinger has turned up his game. Yet, it feels like he can give even more.

COLUMBUS, OH – NOVEMBER 12: Cole Sillinger #34 of the Columbus Blue Jackets shoots the puck during the third period of a game against the Washington Capitals at Nationwide Arena on November 12, 2021 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Ben Jackson/NHLI via Getty Images)

14 goals, 13 assists with 27 points (as of this moment.) Cole Sillinger has had a nice rookie season for the Blue Jackets. The young center went from starting to being a healthy scratch to starting again to earn time on the second power play line. Such is rookie life in the NHL.

When he came into the league, Sillinger was known as a pure sniper. In fact many scouts had him listed as the best shooter in the draft. Playing center however is more tricky and there is considerably more responsibility as centers do not just fire the puck at the net. Centers must set up line mates and pass into the tough areas all that means is there is a lot to learn.

Being the youngest player in the NHL means that even though Cole Sillinger has had a nice rookie season, he feels like a player who can give more and by and large will give more.

In my opinion once Sillinger learns his craft even further he should be closer to 20-25 goals and 50 points. I do not think that is a stretch. In fact Sillinger has shown enough flashes of what he will be once his development is complete.

Things that can not be taught are toughness and playing with an edge which Sillinger does. He is also more than capable to take over a game such as when he sored his first career hat trick against the Vegas Golden Knights. The sky seems to be the limit for Sillinger.

VANCOUVER, BC – DECEMBER 14: Columbus Blue Jackets Center Cole Sillinger (34) on ice against the Vancouver Canucks during their NHL game at Rogers Arena on December 14, 2021 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Devin Manky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The Columbus Blue Jackets have had a glaring need at center for some time, Sillinger has helped to ease that need. He is one player fans should focus on this offseason as a player who could very well have his breakout next season.

Officially eliminated from the playoffs, here is why Columbus Blue Jackets fans should be excited

In a “normal” season playing out the string is less than desirable. It can be even worse if a franchise is facing a long daunting rebuild. Last season when Columbus Blue Jackets general manager, Jarmo Kekalainen began trading veteran players and announced a reset (call it what you will,) the future of the Blue Jackets became the focal point. Gone was a nice playoff run, enter a painful rebuild. Right? No!! Here is why fans should be both excited and optimistic for the future.

ELMONT, NEW YORK – MARCH 31: Patrik Laine #29 of the Columbus Blue Jackets skates in his 400th NHL game against the New York Islanders at the UBS Arena on March 31, 2022 in Elmont, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Hovering around .500 this season with a new head coach (Brad Larsen) has been a pleasant surprise. The young Blue Jackets have battled together and by in large grown as a group throughout the season. Officially eliminated from the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs is not all bad. Armed with two first round draft picks this summer, fans can count on the Blue Jackets battling through the final game of the season and not throwing in the towel.

Being the youngest team in the NHL has set the Blue Jackets up for success sooner than later. Being young and less physical than many teams the Blue Jackets have had to stand up for one another this season. There is a real (and I mean real) need that needs to be addressed, a physical player or two needs to be brought in during free agency this summer.

With it’s core players now being young and very skilled, the Blue Jackets are in good shape going forward. Already this season the young Blue Jackets have shown they can play with anyone including the best teams in the league. Now it is just a matter of those same young players taking another step in development.

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON – DECEMBER 11: Vladislav Gavrikov #44 of the Columbus Blue Jackets talks to Andrew Peeke #2 of the Columbus Blue Jackets prior to a face-off during the second period of a game between the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Seattle Kraken at Climate Pledge Arena on December 11, 2021 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Christopher Mast/NHLI via Getty Images)

I am going to go a step further, I believe the Columbus Blue Jackets future is bright. Look I really liked those playoff teams. But, there is something in the air in Columbus. A new dawning of Blue Jackets hockey is coming. This team is young, fast and has some high-end skill on it.

This has been a fun season even with no playoffs. This summer will be very interesting.

Drop a comment and let me know your thoughts on the direction of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

 

From walk-on at The University Michigan to a solid Columbus Blue Jackets debut Nick Blankenburg is scrappy

Seven University of Michigan men’s hockey team were draft by NHL teams. Four of those players were an NCAA record first round draft pick. The Wolverines team captain Nick Blankenburg was not drafted, in fact he was not offered a scholarship. Nick Blankenburg fought and made the team. The Columbus Blue Jackets chose to sign him to a one year contract as he went undrafted. While this is not quite a Rocky story, it is a feel-good one.

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – APRIL 07: Nick Blankenburg #7 of the Michigan Wolverines looks on during the first period of the Frozen Four semifinal game between the Michigan Wolverines and Denver Pioneers at TD Garden on April 07, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

At 5′ 9″ Nick Blankenburg does not have the intimidating presence as say Zdeno Chara (who stands 6′ 9″) yet the defensemen played as though he was as tall as Chara.

I quote the great Jedi Master, Yoda “size matters not.” Talent matters, heart matters, determination matters. Blankenburg checks all of those boxes. Wednesday night at Nationwide Arena, Nick Blankenburg took the ice for the Columbus Blue Jackets what ensued was that of a fairy tail.

Big hits, five blocked shots, first NHL point, oh and Blankenburg earned the third star of the game. Blankenburg was all over the ice. He uses his stick very well and is not afraid to jump into the mix. Blankenburg  plays with an edge to his game and has a tough man mentality.

The Blue Jackets fans ate up this small yet powerful rookies debut. A kid from Michigan, who played at the University of Michigan now in Columbus Ohio showing the heart of a lion was the stuff of legends, going from college walk-on to undrafted to third star in his first NHL game.

COLUMBUS, OH – APRIL 13: Nick Blankenburg #77 of the Columbus Blue Jackets skates after the puck during the game against the Montreal Canadiens at Nationwide Arena on April 13, 2022 in Columbus, Ohio. Blankenburg was making his NHL debut in the game. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)

Columbus Blue Jackets head coach Brad Larsen said he likes the toughness in Nick Blankenburg’s game. It would seem that general manager Jarmo Kekalainen found an absolute steal.

One more thing of note, Nick Blankenburg also joined the Blue Jackets penalty kill unit all in his first game. It would only be fitting if the Blue Jackets increase Blankenburg’s ice time which I feel could happen tonight as the Blue Jackets are in Los Angeles to take on the Kings.

Kent Johnson set to make his Columbus Blue Jackets debut

2021 Columbus Blue Jackets first round draft pick (5 overall) Kent Johnson is set to make his debut tomorrow night against the Montreal Canadians. Having just ended his college career at the University of Michigan, Johnson looks to show why the Blue Jackets drafted him so high. He is a high end player who has the elite skill to make an impact at the NHL level.

SOUTH BEND, IN – FEBRUARY 26: Michigan Wolverines forward Kent Johnson (13) skates towards the Notre Dame Fighting Irish goal during a men’s college hockey game between the Michigan Wolverines and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on February 26th, 2022 at the Compton Family Ice Arena in South Bend IN. (Photo by Joseph Weiser/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Blazing speed, check.  Offensively fearlessness, check. Solid defensively, check. Kent Johnson is a well rounded player. Playing on the wing, Johnson projects as a very good two-way center at the NHL level. That said the Columbus Blue Jackets will bring him along slowly and start him on the wing.

Some fans were upset the Blue Jackets signed Johnson to his entry level contract (ELC) only to bring him up the final seven games to burn through one year of the contract. I actually side with the Blue Jackets on this one. You see had Kent Johnson not gone back to Michigan he would have been in Columbus. He is simply to good for the minor leagues.

Johnson is a very strong skater has top end speed and is a nightmare matchup. He is fearless in his playmaking and is not afraid to try things. His passes are as good as any of the top NHL players.

Johnson has a full understanding of his responsibilities in the defensive end and is not shy about getting into the mix and fight for the puck. While his goal scoring still needs some work there is little question he will make himself a scoring threat.

WASHINGTON, DC – FEBRUARY 08: A detailed view of the Columbus Blue Jackets jersey logo during the first period of the game between the Washington Capitals and the Columbus Blue Jackets at Capital One Arena on February 8, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

Seven games is somewhat of a tease heading into the offseason. Johnson needs to add some weight which is probably going to be on his summer to-do list. Still Columbus Blue Jacket fans should be very excited Johnson should enter next season as a favorite to win the Calder Trophy next season.

Improved special teams and more consistent play from the blue line has the Columbus Blue Jackets playing well

Just like that the Columbus Blue Jackets are winning hockey games again. The team started the season in solid shape, and then youth proved to be a downfall of sorts. Having a rough December and January the Blue Jackets looked like a team that was rebuilding. When the All Star break came around it was almost like the team and coaching hit the reset button. A 7-1 record in February has given hope again.

COLUMBUS, OH – JANUARY 23: Andrew Peeke #2 of the Columbus Blue Jackets checks Zach Sanford #13 of the Ottawa Senators into the boards during the second period of a game at Nationwide Arena on January 23, 2022 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Ben Jackson/NHLI via Getty Images)

Two things jump out in the Blue Jackets turnaround, special teams play and the defensive unit (blue line.) Ranking 24th on the power play does not seem all the great. In actuality it is not. However, the power play has improved as it is creating better scoring chances by getting the puck down low.

The Blue Jackets penalty kill ranks 12th. That is pretty good. This unit has been lights out in wins against the Maple Leafs and Florida Panthers. In fact the penalty kill allowed zero shots on goal vs Florida.

Speaking of the Columbus Blue Jackets blue line, they seem to have benefited most from the All Star break. The very young defensive crop has had a rough time cutting it’s teeth. That is until after the All Star weekend. Now the unit is rotating to the spot of the puck and forming a wall in front of the Blue Jacket goalies.

For a team that is supposed to be in a rebuild/reload the Blue Jackets are in position to make one of the NHL’s wild card spots for the playoffs. Yes, there is still a lot of hockey to play. The fact they even in this position is promising.

The Blue Jackets are sure to at the very least have one lottery draft pick from the Chicago Blackhawks as part of the Seth Jones trade. If they miss the playoffs there is a chance (all be it slim) the Blue Jackets could have two lottery draft picks.

NEWARK, NJ – JANUARY 06: Columbus Blue Jackets head coach Brad Larsen looks on during the second period against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on January 6, 2022 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

All and all Brad Larsen has done a very good, very solid job with the team who is fun to watch.

The Columbus Blue Jackets must extend Patrik Lanie

There have been players like this in Columbus before. Rick Nash, Sergei Fedorov and a few others. For the Blue Jackets organization there has never been a player on the same level as Patrik Laine. While he was unhappy in Winnipeg, Laine is said to be happy these days in Columbus his numbers dictate that is true. A pending restricted free agent (RFA) at the conclusion of this season, the Blue Jackets would be wise in entering contract negotiations now.

COLUMBUS, OH – JANUARY 23: Patrik Laine #29 of the Columbus Blue Jackets skates with the puck during the first period of a game against the Ottawa Senators at Nationwide Arena on January 23, 2022 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Ben Jackson/NHLI via Getty Images)

While Patrik Laine did miss several weeks due to an injury upon returning to the Columbus Blue Jackets lineup, Laine did not and has not missed a beat. In 29 games played, Laine has 16 goals, 15 assists and 31 points.

Blue Jackets captain Boon Jenner has played in all 48 games this season and has 20 goals, 17 assists and 37 points. In 19 fewer games played Laine has only six fewer points than the team leader Jenner.

It is simple, the Columbus Blue Jackets are a much better team when Patrik Laine’s skates hit the ice. Laine is a feared sniper who can carry a teams offense. When the team signed defensemen Zach Werenski to a massive extension this past summer it began to show that they are willing to sign young talent and keep them.

When the team allowed Artemi Panarin to walk as a free agent, fans were outraged, disappointed and frustrated that yet another star player was leaving Columbus. With plenty of salary cap space, the Blue Jackets must and I mean must sign Laine to a contract extension of 8-10 years as he has not entered his prime years yet.

There is no fair trade value in the NHL, the Blue Jackets would not be able to trade Patrik Laine and get a player back with the same caliber offensive skill set. The organization would be wise to build the offense around Laine. Blue Jackets fans need to keep in mind next season there is a high likelihood Kent Johnson will be in the starting lineup. Johnson projects as a top line center. Having Johnson feed the puck to Laine could be a lethal  combination for the Blue Jackets top line.

COLUMBUS, OH – JANUARY 27: Patrik Laine #29 of the Columbus Blue Jackets skates with the puck as Ryan Lindgren #55 of the New York Rangers defends during the first period of a game at Nationwide Arena on January 27, 2022 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Ben Jackson/NHLI via Getty Images)

Columbus Blue Jackets general manager, Jarmo Kekalainen recently went on a nation radio show and said the team wants to keep Laine long-term. In my opinion Kekalainen would not say that if he did not think a deal could be made.

The bottom line is that by keeping Patrik Laine, the Blue Jackets rebuild will not take as long. By trading him it would set the rebuild back.

Columbus Blue Jackets General Manager, Jarmo Kekalainen may have the last laugh

Jarmo Kekalainen, tried to tell us. He never wavered in his assessment of the Columbus Blue Jackets roster he put together. While media outlets and fans not to mention hockey experts scoffed at the notion that the Blue Jackets were not reloading but about to enter a full-blown rebuild. Kekalainen insisted his team was indeed reloading. At 7-3, tying the best start in franchise history, Jarmo Kekalainen has to be grinning.

COLUMBUS, OH – November 6th: Alexandre Texier #42 of the Columbus Blue Jackets celebrates with teammates after his goal against the Colorado Avalanche during the third period at Nationwide Arena on November 6th, 2021 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Ben Jackson/NHLI via Getty Images)

What is going on with the Columbus Blue Jackets? A massive roster overhaul chalked full of young players, some of which have barely any NHL experience while others are rookies sprinkled with some veterans have the Blue Jackets playing well.

I dare say not many people (myself included) saw this coming. Yet, here the Blue Jackets are and it appears they are not going away anytime soon. Is this a playoff team? It is still early in the season so that is difficult to forecast. That is not to say they are not. After the start they have had and as young players seem to be getting better with each game played, anything is possible.

Gritty, savvy, undeterred, pick one. Shoot pick all three. This is what I feel best describes the start of the 2021-22 Columbus Blue Jackets season. It has been very good to witness the job head coach Brad Larsen and his coaching staff has done. From game preparation to in-game adjustments Larsen is pushing all the right buttons.

Sure the 3 losses were clunkers, that said every team has clunker games during the course of the season including would be Stanley Cup champions. The bad games aside, the Blue Jackets have bounced back after the bad losses to win the next game played.

NEWARK, NJ – OCTOBER 31: Head Coach Brad Larsen of the Columbus Blue Jackets reacts to a call on the ice from the bench against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on October 31, 2021 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)

While a losing streak could turn up, so could a winning streak. How about the third periods for the Blue Jackets? In what use to be a bad timeframe the Blue Jackets are now finding a way to finish games. In fact, Columbus is making a  thing out of third period comebacks and wins.

This is the team that Jarmo Kekalainen has put together. With it doubters have been silenced.

Can Jack Roslovic be a top line center for the Columbus Blue Jackets

As NHL training camp is about two weeks away, the Columbus Blue Jackets have some serious work to do. At the top of the training camp list is finding a top line center. At the moment the reshaped Blue Jackets roster is void of any such vital position player. It is being widely speculated the team is going to give a long look at Jack Roslovic to see if he can step in and step up.

COLUMBUS, OH – FEBRUARY 2: Patrick Laine #29 of the Columbus Blue Jackets skates after the puck during the game against the Dallas Stars at Nationwide Arena on February 2, 2021 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)

With newly drafted centers Kent Johnson (heading back to the University of Michigan) and Cole Sillinger (could be headed to the Cleveland Monsters) not expected this season in Columbus, the Blue Jackets still have a major issue at center. Both Johnson and Sillinger are projected to be very good NHL players, but first development must take place.

Jack Roslovic, who can play center and in fact did so for the Blue Jackets last season has never been viewed as a player who can handle the top line. Yet, that is what the Blue Jackets need. They also need a center who can feed the puck to Patrik Laine.

There is a lot of pressure playing on the top line in the NHL. After all that is the line that is supposed to lead the way in terms of goals and minutes played. One thing that Jack Roslovic will have going for him is he will have Jakub Voracek (right wing) and Laine (left wing) on either side of him. That can do nothing but help the young Roslovic.

Playing two minutes per game longer than he did the season prior with the  Winnipeg Jets (2019-20), Roslovic tied his NHL high with 12 goals and set career marks with 22 assists and 34 points.  Offense is not really an issue for Roslovic.

On defense however, Roslovic was a bit of a hot mess as was his alarming struggles in the faceoff circle. To be fair he did improve a bit on faceoffs late in the season. But, in today’s NHL top line centers are expected to be solid two-way players.

WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 04: Jakub Voracek #93 of the Philadelphia Flyers skates with the puck against the Washington Capitals during the first period at Capital One Arena on March 4, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

His growth into a top line center has a lot of variables to it. First, Roslovic needs lean into his work ethic and work his tail off. Secondly, Blue Jackets head coach Brad Larsen and his new system must be solid to give the young center an chance to grow his game. Assistant coaches will be counted on heavily.

It is not ideal, but this is what the Columbus Blue Jackets are going to see through, one way or another.

Jake Bean is finally a Columbus Blue Jacket

Flashback to the 2016 NHL Draft, the Columbus Blue Jackets had the third overall pick in the first round. That is the draft the Blue Jackets selected Pierre-Luc Dubois. What may not be well known to some Blue Jacket fans is that the team had a predraft visit with defensemen Jake Bean who would be selected by the Carolina Hurricanes. Yet, it was in the days before the draft that the Blue Jackets front office and Jake Bean developed a fondness for each other.

RALEIGH, NC – SEPTEMBER 12: Jake Bean of the Carolina Hurricanes poses for his official head shot of the 2019-2020 season in Raleigh, North Carolina on September 12, 2019 at American Institute of Health Care and Fitness.”n(Photo by Gregg Forwerck/NHLI via Getty Images)

Jake Bean became a full-time starter for the Carolina Hurricanes last season. He was then traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets and signed to a three year contract extension.

Jake Bean is happy to be a Blue Jacket. He also likes the city of Columbus. Jarmo Kekalainen, Blue Jackets general manager, recently said during the draft process the Blue Jackets really liked Bean. One thing has been clear, Jake Bean looks like he is ready to take his game to the next level.

The loaded Carolina Hurricanes defensive corps created a logjam and Bean had a hard time cracking the lineup so he was stuck in the AHL. Bean got his chance last season. Bean is a solid defender with an upside to his offensive game.

Jake Bean can quarterback the power play as well has help on a penalty kill. When he was drafted in 2016, Bean was widely viewed as a very good two-way player.

RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA – FEBRUARY 22: Jake Bean #24 of the Carolina Hurricanes attempts a shot against Tyler Johnson #9 of the Tampa Bay Lightning during the third period of their game at PNC Arena on February 22, 2021 in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

The Blue Jackets who are shaking  up the roster traded for a player with very good upside. The Blue Jackets organization was wise in trading for Bean and extending his contract. His minutes will certainly go up in Columbus and his style of play should make Blue Jackets fans happy.

Going back to the predraft visit, Jake Bean is finally a Columbus Blue Jacket and is happy he is.