The Columbus Blue Jackets have the formula down and they’ve made one significant addition in the off-season thus far. That’s by design, as the club posted 50 wins in 2016-2017 and finished fourth in the NHL for their best season to date.
Unfortunately, the Blue Jackets also saw an early exit in the post-season when they lost to the Penguins in the first round of the playoffs. As a result, they swapped for winger Artemi Panarin and took a big run at Colorado’s Matt Duchene. The latter hasn’t panned out yet, but Columbus general manager Jarmo Kekalainen can’t be faulted for trying.
The Blue Jackets also bought out Scott Hartnell’s contract, saw Sam Gagner depart for the Vancouver Canucks and lost centre William Karlsson to the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft. Even so, there’s a lot to like about the team for 2017-2018.
25-year-old Panarin posted 31 goals and added 43 assists for 74 points in 2016-2017 with Chicago and he’ll be in for a new set of linemates in Columbus. He’s a lock for the top line with Alexander Wennberg and Cam Atkinson and that should ensure quality numbers, especially as he sees time on the first power play unit as well.
Atkinson had 35 goals in 2016-2017 and came up with a total of 62 points, with 10 goals on the power play. He’s consistently increased his goal totals in each of the past six seasons and hit career-highs last season, plus he’s only missed a total of eight games over the last four years. That makes the 28-year-old a high value selection for fantasy owners.
Wennberg also put up career-high totals in goals, assists and points last season and should find himself on the top line with Panarin and Atkinson. The 22-year-old Swedish centre is versatile and accomplished, but he doesn’t crack off a lot of shots and won’t notch a lot of goals. He’s a skilled playmaker and should chart assists at a high level, however.
Nick Foligno scored 26 goals and added 25 assists for a 51-point performance in 2016-2017. That’s a good step forward from a disappointing 2015-2016, but he might see his digits diminish with Panarin on the top line. If head coach John Tortorella bumps the 29-year-old down the depth chart, he might take a step back in the stats department.
Seth Jones is one of the best pure athletes in the NHL and the Blue Jackets love him on the blueline. The 22-year-old is hoping to build on his best season to date and should have every opportunity to do so. He had 35 even strength points in 2016-2017, but he posted just one power play goal. He may see more time on the man advantage in 2017-2018 and it’ll help if he uncorks his heavy shot more often.
Zach Werenski had a terrific first year in the league. He posted 47 points in 78 games and emerged on the top pairing with Jones. The 20-year-old is already solidified as one of the club’s best defencemen and he saw plenty of ice time in the brief playoff run. He’s in line for more in 2017-2018, especially alongside Jones. He has a lethal offensive capacity and could improve on his 11-goal rookie season.
Jack Johnson is the veteran presence on the Columbus blueline. The 30-year-old had 23 points in 82 games and added two points in five playoff games. He’s a tremendous skater and averaged almost 26 minutes of ice time in the post-season, plus he can score on the breakaway.
Two-time Vezina winner Sergei Bobrovsky amassed 41 wins and seven shutouts in 2016-2017, so it may be hard to top those totals in 2017-2018. He’s easily among the top five netminders in the NHL and a generally safe bet for fantasy owners, plus he’s one of the best goalies in terms of tracking the puck. The 28-year-old is cool under pressure and should see plenty of starts once more.
Joonas Korpisalo is the backup. The Finnish netminder has two years of NHL experience since being drafted by Columbus in 2012. He picked up a 7-5-1 record in 2016-2017, with a 2.88 goals against average and a .905 save percentage.