NHL Team Preview: Columbus Blue Jackets
The Columbus Blue Jackets are in the middle of an on-the-fly rebuild. They aren’t quite bad enough to bottom out, but they also don’t yet seem good enough to make a deep playoff run. After trading away players like Pierre-Luc Dubois, Nick Foligno, and David Savard last season, trading Seth Jones and Cam Atkinson during the offseason, and parting ways with head coach John Tortorella, this year’s Columbus squad will look noticeably different.
Behind the bench, Brad Larsen is the new head coach, promoted from his previous position as an assistant. He’s been with Columbus for the past seven seasons but he’s had the Blue Jackets looking sharp during the preseason. He’s a dark horse candidate to win the Jack Adams Trophy at +7500.
In exchange for Seth Jones, the Blue Jackets landed Adam Boqvist, a pair of first-round picks and a second-round pick. Boqvist is one of the top young defensemen in the league, and at 21 years of age, he’s just starting to break out in his NHL career.
One of those first-round picks turned into Cole Sillinger, who is expected to make the Blue Jackets roster out of camp. Sillinger, who was born and raised in Columbus, was selected 12th overall and scored 46 points in 31 USHL games last season.
Jakub Voráček is back in Columbus after the Blue Jackets reacquired him in the Cam Atkinson trade. A reliable offensive forward, Voráček should be the first line right wing this season.
Sean Kuraly adds solid forward depth after being signed in free agency. Another Ohio native (he is from Dublin), Kuraly will be a physical force on the fourth line who is also a threat to score 10 goals and 25 points.
Joining Boqvist on the back end, the Blue Jackets traded for Carolina defenseman Jake Bean. Bean was the 13th overall pick in 2016 but with the defensive depth the Hurricanes had ahead of him, Bean was the odd man out. However, he carries a ton of upside, and with a chance to break out this season, expect big things from Bean.
While all eyes will be on the new arrivals, there are a couple of returning players I’ve got my eye on.
Patrik Laine is at the top of that list. For the Blue Jackets to return to the playoffs, Laine needs to become the best player on Columbus’ roster. Last year, he wasn’t, though part of that could’ve been the trade from a toxic situation in Winnipeg, as well as not being a great fit in Tortorella’s system.
However, Laine is still a great hockey player. He scored 44 goals and 70 points his second season in the league, and while he has yet to replicate that success, he’s still just 23 and capable of a bounce-back in a new system.
Similarly, Jack Roslovic could be in for another big season this year. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic shortening the schedule to 56 games, Roslovic set a career-high in points (12 goals, 22 assists) in 2021. Locked in as the second-line center and playing with Oliver Bjorkstrand and a healthy Gustav Nyquist on his wings, Roslovic should reach a new career-high in 2022.
Finally, I’m eager to see what happens with Yegor Chinakhov. The 21st overall pick in 2020, Columbus drafted Chinakhov several ROUNDS ahead of his draft projection. Some seven-round mock boards didn’t have Chinakhov at all.
After an impressive showing with Avangard Omsk of the KHL, Chinakhov is stateside now and looks like he should make the roster out of camp. He may start out the year at the AHL level, but I can’t imagine he’d be down very long after an impressive preseason.
Columbus Blue Jackets Season Predictions and Odds
2021-22 Over/Under Point Total: Over/Under 78.8 (both are -115) Metropolitan Division Title Odds: +10000 (last in division) Eastern Conference Champions Odds: +8000 (tied for 14th) Stanley Cup Odds: +20000 (tied for 28th)
* All odds provided by Action247 Sportsbook and all odds subject to change.
**All views expressed are my own. My picks are my own and are not a guarantee, bet at your own risk.