Major success in the NHL normally means the Stanley Cup, but the Blue Jackets will take a second round appearance. They hadn\’t won a playoff series in their nearly two decade existence, until 2018-19, when they took down the mighty Tampa Bay Lightning, who tied the record for most wins in a season. The Blue Jackets did that by trading a whole lot of picks at the trade deadline, then saw a ton of good players leave in free agency.
Additions: Gustav Nyqvist, Marko Dano
Subtractions: Artemi Panarin, Sergei Bobrovsky, Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel, Adam McQuiad, Keith Kinkaid, Mark Letestu
The main loss for the Blue Jackets was winger Artemi Panarin, whose 59 assists and 87 points were both single season franchise records. Speaking of single season franchise records, Cam Atkinson tied the one for goals, with 41. When Pierre-Luc Dubois was drafted 3rd overall in 2016 over expected pick Jesse Puljujarvi, there was outrage. But while Puljujarvi wants out of Edmonton and very likely could go to Europe, Dubois scored 27 goals with 61 points, and hasn\’t missed a game in his two year career. Gustav Nyqvist was their big forward acquisition. He had a career high 60 points last year, and scored 22 goals. Captain Nick Foligno has never come close to his 73 point 2014-15, with just 68 over the last two seasons combined. Josh Anderson scored a career high 27 goals, but his goals per game was similar to his 19 goal 2017-18 season. Boone Jenner has never lived up to his 30 goal 2015-16 season, with 29 over the last two seasons. Oliver Bjorkstrand had 16 less assists than in 2017-18, but he scored 12 more goals, up to a career high 23. Alex Wennberg has always been a pass-first center, scoring a career high 13 goals in 2016-17, but he had 46 assists that season. He had just two goals in 2018-19, and his 23 assists were his lowest since his rookie season. Brandon Dubinsky has completely fallen off, with 12 goals and 30 points over his last 123 games. At age 19, Alex Texier had 41 points in 55 games in the Finnish League (against men), five goals in seven AHL games, and played in two NHL games, and eight playoff games, and was impressive. He should get a starting role. Riley Nash enjoyed a 15 goal, 41 point season in Boston, then came to Columbus and had just 12 points in 78 games. Markus Hannikainen has gotten limited action over four seasons. He has 15 points in 91 career NHL games. With all the offensive losses, he could fill in as a starter. Marko Dano was a first round pick by the Blue Jackets back in 2013, and was traded for Brandon Saad. He returns this year, and he has never reached his potential. Eric Robinson has no points in 14 NHL games, but had 24 points in 45 AHL games last year. 23 goals in 47 games in Sweden could earn Emil Bemstrom an NHL shot this year.
Seth Jones has matured into one of the top defensemen in the league. He had 46 points last year, and averaging nearly 26 minutes a night. He finished 9th in Norris voting. Zach Werenski was a terrible -12 last year with 44 points. He is currently an RFA, and while he had bad defensive numbers, he should be the only Blue Jacket with a cap hit of at least $6 million. Former second overall pick Ryan Murray hasn\’t lived up to the expectations, mainly because of injuries. In just 56, he scored a career high 29 points, with all but one of them coming from assists. David Savard scored eight goals, the second highest in his career, and he was a +19, also the second highest in his career. Markus Nutivaara has settled in as a nice bottom pair defenseman, with 51 points and a +23 rating over three seasons. Scott Harrington\’s career high games played in a season was more than doubled, up to 73, leading to a career high 17 points and +6 rating. Swiss defenseman Dean Kukan was mainly in the NHL for the first time last year, with five assists in 25 games, and scored his first career goal in the playoffs. Adam Clendening has played in just 90 NHL games, but he\’s played for seven (!) teams. If he plays in one game for the Jackets this year (he played in four last season), it\’ll be the first team he has played for in two separate seasons.
With star goalie Sergei Bobrovsky off to Florida, the Blue Jackets will turn to two 25 year old in the crease. To start the season, Joonas Korpisalo should be the starter. As Bobrovsky\’s backup, Korpisalo has a .907 SV% and a 2.89 GAA over four seasons. Top prospect Elvis Merzlikins will likely take over the starting job by the end of the season. Merzlikins comes to North America after a 2.44 GAA and .921 SV% in the Swiss League.
Zac Dalpe has played in 141 games in his NHL career, included one in 2018-19. He scored 33 goals with 55 points in 55 games in the AHL this year. Kole Sherwood made his NHL debut in 2018-19. He scored 16 goals in the AHL. Nathan Gerbe has nearly 400 games of NHL experience, but is now an AHLer. He had 32 points in 41 AHL games last year.
Up and Coming
Liam Foudy, a 2018 1st rounder, scored 36 goals in 62 OHL games, and could be NHL ready by 2020-21. Vladislav Gavrikov came over from the KHL, and played in two NHL playoff games. He had 20 points in 60 KHL games. Gabriel Carlsson, a former first rounder, has dealt with injuries, but could be a sneaky late developer.
2019 draft class
Round 4, 104th overall: Eric Hjorth
Round 4, 114th overall: Dmitri Voronkov
Round 7, 212th overall: Tyler Angle
John Tortarella is already the longest tenured head coach in team history, and despite his wacky ways, he should be around for at least 2-3 more season unless 2019-20 goes catastrophically wrong. GM Jarmo Kekalainen doesn\’t seem to be on the hot seat, even after everyone left in free agency.
Gustav Nyqvist – Pierre-Luc Dubois – Cam Atkinson
Nick Foligno – Alex Texier – Oliver Bjorkstrand
Boone Jenner – Alex Wennberg – Josh Anderson
Markus Hannikainen – Brandon Dubinsky – Riley Nash
Extras: Marko Dano, Eric Robinson
Zach Werenski – Seth Jones
Ryan Murray – David Savard
Markus Nutivaara – Scott Harrington
Extras: Dean Kukan, Adam Clendening
The Blue Jackets had a good core pre Panarin, and while losing him and your goalie will hurt, I don\’t think the Jackets will be as bad as everyone thinks. I still think they\’ll miss the playoffs, but finish 7th in the Metro Division.