Sergei Bobrovsky, Nick Foligno, and Ryan Johansen all have something in common, and it's not just that they'll be repping Union Blue in the NHL All-Star Game next weekend. No, what those three have in common is at some point in the recent past, someone didn't believe in them.
These aren't your prototypical top draft picks that are expected to have success. Even Ryan Johansen, drafted fourth overall, was met largely with a curious optimism - hopeful that he wasn't the next Gilbert Brule, rather than expecting him to be anything close to the next Jonathan Toews.
Nick Foligno, certainly loved in Ottawa, but not valued enough to be seen as more than a 3rd line grinder. Traded for solid if unspectacular defenseman Marc Methot. Foligno stepped into a similar role in Columbus to start and no one would've blamed him if he stayed there comfortably. Whether by pure force as he's come into his prime, or by a bit of dumb luck due to all this years injuries, he's now having an MVP (for Columbus) caliber season.
And Sergei Bobrovsky. What hasn't been said about Bobrovsky? He's clearly one of the top goalies in the league and don't forget - he's still young, at just 26 years old. What he's done so far, winning a Vezina trophy, keeping the Blue Jackets in too many games where the players don't all show up in front of him... at a certain point it's hard to find ways to describe his play and his work ethic without drifting into hyperbole.
All potential cast offs - had they not had anything to say about it. Think about where this team would be if reality looked like this: Bob buried on the bench in Philadelphia. Johansen toiling away on the fourth line, never stepping up and accepting responsibility. Foligno being happy with being a tweener, or grinder, or whatever other slightly condescending adjective used to describe a hockey player that means, "Good, not great."
But that wouldn't have been good enough for them. No, these guys want more. These three, specifically, did their darnedest to keep this team out of the pits when everyone else was knocked down, injured, playing uninspired hockey.
These guys are Blue Jackets hockey. Not always perfect, not always pretty, but they have a heart that bursts out of their chest. They make the players around them better, and they always support their teammates before all else.
Halfway through the season, leading into the last few games before the All-Star break, they've separated themselves from the pack. No longer will they fade into the shadows. Not Nick Foligno, with his 18 goals, 23 assists, and 41 points in 40 games. (A career best in goals, already.) Not Ryan Johansen, with his 16 goals, 24 assists, and 40 points in 41 games. (After a lengthy contract dispute, he's poised to crush his career bests when it's all said and done.) And certainly not Sergei Bobrovsky, whose stats only slightly lag this year due to the struggles and injuries of the rest of the roster, yet he still boasts a resume that speaks for itself.
No, those guys won't blend in with the crowd anymore.
Those guys are your All-Stars.