The long-term status of Artemi Panarin remains a looming black cloud over top of the roster, as there have been discussions out in the public forum, that if he doesn't accept a long-term contract extension with the club, then the team might try to deal him away and the return could be just about anything these days.
Otherwise, this team is really coming along, a lot of which is coming from within, from drafting some really good young talent. This team remains as one with one of the more competitive bluelines in the game, they already have one of the league's best goalies and the forward group has a pretty good blend of speed, grit and finish.
The Jackets didn't make a great deal of moves in the off-season, adding some depth, something they obviously felt they lacked against the Capitals in the opening round of the playoffs last year. We'll see how that all pans out for them here soon.
Table last updated on August 9th
Most Intriguing or Breakout Player
Looking at the numbers for the first two seasons for Zach Werenski, it looks like the sophomore slump applied, dropping his numbers down from 47 points to 37 points, between 2017 and 2018. Now, that means that the bounce back will come and he'll start making a great case to start making some real money out of his entry-level deal next summer. I am thinking that Werenski is due for a breakout and that should really solidify this Jackets team.
First Round Picks
Assuming that Panarin is still in town, by the time the draft rolls around, the Blue Jackets have a couple of decent options for your opening round consideration, including number one goalie Sergei Bobrovsky. Panarin emerged as a player that didn't need his Chicago counterparts, dazzling those in Columbus as well, while Bobrovsky is a sure fire pick in the 1st round, as the goalies often get snapped up, especially the big-minute number ones.
Other Pool Worthy Forwards
I like how the Jackets have been building this team and their roster of worthy forwards is a great indication of how far they've come in recent years. Cam Atkinson, Alexander Wennberg, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Boone Jenner, Josh Anderson and Nick Foligno should all be on your radar for the coming year. And if for some reason, one or more of these guys fail to play in enough games to be worthy, the team's depth is impressive enough to take a spot or two, just in case.
Other Pool Worthy Defensemen
Maybe more impressive than their forwards is their defense, led by Seth Jones, as they could have four or more worthy players for the pool this season. Werenski already got his nod, while Ryan Murray and Markus Nutivaara should both get some consideration as well. This is a pretty impressive core group and they're all under the age of 25 as well, meaning they'll be around for a long while yet.
Backing up Bob again this year will be Joonas Korpisalo, who appeared in 18 games last season for the Jackets and I have him projected for 20 points, just inside the conversation of being pool worthy. One should hope that they don't need to get a 20-point goalie at the draft and if they do, they're hoping for something drastic to happen for more starts and more points.
Team to Pick From Late?
Yes, I think this Jackets team is going to put up the points, even from some of their depth pieces on the roster. Rookie defenseman Gabriel Carlsson could be one of those guys that could get a lift up into the big roster and he has the potential to do well. Riley Nash joined the team in the off-season from Boston and could be a great option as well.
Unsigned Players and Salary Cap
This team is not only impressive on paper, skill-wise, they are also quite cost-efficient, having their 23-man roster coming in with $6.3 million to spare under the salary cap ceiling. The team has no other free agents that need any attention, so it's all systems go to start the year.
Okay, so there could be a slight issue with my breakout player in the post, Zach Werenski, as he did undergo shoulder surgery in the off-season and he is projected to miss most, if not all, of training camp, but be close to start at the opening of the regular season. This will be something to keep an eye out for, but I don't think that should hamper his numbers too greatly. A week or two to shake off the rust and he should be right as rain.