The final roster is set.
Though there was some serious drama getting to this point, the final roster decisions have been made, and your 2014 / 2015 Columbus Blue Jackets are ready to hit the ice on Thursday in Buffalo. The team will look familiar to the one that lost to the Penguins in six games last season, save for the addition of Scott Hartnell and a trio of rookies.
Let’s meet this season’s Blue Jackets:
Ryan Johansen – His contract dispute dominated the offseason and training camp headlines, but yesterday he finally signed a new three year contract. He missed all of training camp, so don’t be surprised if he starts the season slowly. At the time of writing it was still unknown if he’d be ready to play in the season opener, but eventually he will regain his spot as the team’s number one center. He’s a superstar in the making.
Brandon Dubinsky – "Dubi" endeared himself to the fanbase last year after a herculean effort in the playoffs against the Penguins, where not only did he completely shut down Sidney Crosby, but he also scored to tie the game with 24 seconds left in Game 4 of that series, a game in which Nick Foligno scored in overtime to give the Jackets their first home playoff win. Dubi is slotted as the team’s second line center, where he brings an agitating, chirpy style to go along with solid offensive numbers.
Scott Hartnell – The only major offseason acquisition, Hartnell was brought over from Philadelphia in a trade for disgruntled winger R.J. Umberger. Hartnell should play a top-six role, doing his best work around the crease. He’s known for scoring the ugly goal and providing physical play.
Cam Atkinson – What he lacks in stature, he makes up for with the ability to put pucks in the net. He’s primed for a breakout, and has looked good with Dubi as his centerman. He’s elusive, and is lethal with the puck on his stick in the offensive zone.
Artem Anisimov – Like Dubi, "Arty" is effective in all zones, able to put up points in addition to taking on defensive assignments. Arty is good in the faceoff circle, and his patented backhand has drawn fans out of their seats on more than a few occasions. He’s got the third line center spot locked down.
Nick Foligno – There’s a theme with the Jackets’ forwards- hard working, with a dash of skill and ability to make things happen anywhere on the ice. Foligno typifies this, and his versatility allows him to play on any forward line.
Matt Calvert – A blood and guts, heart and soul type, he has a motor that never quits. He’s not the most skilled player, but he’s an incredibly hard worker and often gets rewarded for that hard work. He’s got terrific chemistry with Atkinson, with the duo likely flanking Dubi to start the season.
Mark Letestu – He’s the NHL equivalent of a super utility player in baseball. No matter the line or assignment, Letestu is willing and able. In a healthy lineup, he’s the team’s number four center. When needed, he can moonlight on a scoring line, or move to wing if necessary. He’s a very important player for the Jackets.
Jared Boll – The NHL is moving away from pure enforcers, a role that Boll has filled since he joined the NHL full time. He’s been working on enhancing his game though, looking to become more of a physical forechecker who can work the boards and create energy. He wears a letter for the team and when he does drop the gloves, he can still lay down a good beatin’.
Corey Tropp – Tropp is an interesting player. He brings the classic elements of a fourth liner – energy, a bit of toughness, once-in-a-blue-moon scoring and some speed. The coaching staff has faith in him, and will be a fourth line player for the team when in the lineup.
Jack Skille – Acquired two days ago off waivers from the Islanders, Skille is a player who really should never have left, as he brings NHL-level depth to the organization. He’s familiar with the systems in place, and brings speed and an elite shot to the lineup. He’s another player who can moonlight higher in the lineup when required.
Michael Chaput – Chaput was acquired in a trade a few seasons ago, and after getting a look with the Jackets last year he’ll make the team after having a very good training camp. He’s the classic tale of a guy who’s not necessarily on the radar forcing his way on to the opening night roster. He’s not overly physical, but he works hard and puts in an honest effort every shift. The fact he can do things with the puck is a bonus. He’ll rotate between the fourth line and the press box, at least early on.
Alexander Wennberg – The team’s prized prospect from the 2013 draft has made the team, but at this point it seems as though he may still be around as Ryan Johansen insurance, in case the latter isn’t ready to play in the season opener. The additions of Johansen and Skille should mean that Wennberg isn’t needed at the NHL level yet. A stint in the AHL is ideal for his development, rather than miniscule minutes in the NHL. There is still a chance that the coaching staff sees a role for him in the top nine, in which case he would see legitimate minutes and has a chance to show off his sublime skill.
Marko Dano – Dano was one of three first round picks in 2013, along with Wennberg and Kerby Rychel. Dano performed the best of the trio in camp, not looking out of place at all. He’s got electrifying skill, but is also responsible defensively and isn’t afraid of mixing it up a bit. He’s got fan favorite written all over him. His contract status and the typical "rookie wall" may mean that he isn’t with the team all season, but for now he’s earned his spot in camp.
There are three key forwards who are currently on injured reserve- Nathan Horton, Boone Jenner and Brian Gibbons. Horton and Jenner were penciled in as two-thirds of the top line with Johansen, while Gibbons is fourth line material. Jenner had a terrific rookie season last year, and should make his return in about five weeks. Horton’s situation is a bit murkier, as it’s only been reported that he has a degenerative back issue. After signing a huge deal last summer, we’re all waiting to see him in action.
James Wisniewski – The team’s top offensive threat from the blueline, "Wiz" had a great season last year before playing injured in the playoffs. He’s fully healthy now, and will continue to be the shooter on the powerplay, in addition to applying a physical brand of hockey.
Ryan Murray – Most of the time we all forgot last season that Murray was a rookie, he was that solid and dependable. He formed an excellent duo with Wisniewski, allowing the latter to have one of his best seasons to date. Technically Murray is on the IR at present, but he’ll be good to go sooner, rather than later. He’s a stud, hands down.
Fedor Tyutin – Tyutin is perhaps the team’s most well-rounded defender. He can chip in with points, while playing steady in his own zone. He plays big minutes and is a special teamer.
Jack Johnson – Johnson is one of those players who you have to see in action to fully appreciate what he does. Stats alone don’t tell the story- he plays a lot of minutes against difficult opposition, and after getting snubbed for the Olympics last year he went on a tear where his offensive abilities were on full display and he was hitting everything that moved.
David Savard – After breaking out last season and cementing himself as a full time NHLer, Savard will be looking to improve even further this season. He’s an offensive defenseman who relies more on positioning than skating, as he isn’t the most fleet of foot. He has a big shot from the point and is adept at getting pucks to the net through traffic.
Dalton Prout – Prout is the opposite of Savard, sticking to a defense-first game, relying on positioning and physicality to shut down opposition forwards. He’ll drop the mitts when required, and keeps the crease clear.
Tim Erixon – It’s put up or shut up time for Erixon, as he’s played the role of perennial prospect for too many years now. He was signed to a last chance deal this past summer, and will look to nail down a starting spot. He’s got offensive talent that he’s showcased in Europe, internationally and in the AHL, but hasn’t been able to translate that in the NHL. This is a big season for him.
Cody Goloubef – With Murray still on IR, Goloubef remains on the roster. He’s the team’s clear-cut number eight defender, but must pass through waivers if he’s sent down to the AHL. There’s a good chance he clears, and there’s a slim chance the he stays with the team if they decide to go with 13 forwards and eight defensemen instead of the current 14-7 format.
Sergei Bobrovsky – Two years ago, "Bob" was the league’s top goaltender, winning the Vezina Trophy. This season is his last of a two-year bridge deal, and will look to put in another Vezina-caliber season en route to a big payday. He’s an elite goaltender, and gives the Jackets a chance to win every night.
Curtis McElhinney – McElhinney is a classic backup, as he’s able to provide Bob with occasional days off, and when needed he can take over the starting job in the event of an injury to the number one. He was solid this preseason.