2016 Season Preview: The Forwards
2015-2016 Roster Stats
|Scoring||Goals||Assists||Ice Time||Point Shares|
Technically the club still could make two more cuts, but here’s the lineup that finished the preseason, and is likely to hit the ice on Opening Night.
Boone Jenner: Formally made an assistant captain last year, Boone displayed a lot of maturity on and off ice, putting up 30 goals and playing in all 82 games - his first season with no time lost to injury.
This season, the challenge for Boone is to keep up his offensive punch while improving his defensive game, and to show that he can thrive in the top line role. If he can stay healthy and round out his play while maintaining his physical playing style, he could be a force to be reckoned with. Top 25 Under 25 Profile
Brandon Dubinsky: Moved into the top line C role after the departure of Ryan Johansen, he’s become one of the “old men” in the locker room at age 29. One of the better possession players on the team, his sandpaper style draws criticism and penalties almost every night. If Dubi can channel his on-ice aggression a bit more effectively, he could put up serious numbers with these linemates, but he needs to stay out of the box to make it happen.
Cam Atkinson: One of the team’s pure scoring threats, Cam has continued to grow into his role as an offensive dynamo, tying Brandon Saad for the team’s scoring lead last season. By all indications, Torts wants to let the horses run this year, and Atkinson should be in the perfect position to exploit that.
Brandon Saad: After a bit of a disappointing performance in the World Cup of Hockey with Team North America, Saad is expected to deliver another 50+ point season as the team’s purest scorer. His speed, stick handling, and on ice vision are exceptional, and the ability to play away from opponents top defensive players will make him a threat every time he hits the ice. Top 25 Under 25 Profile
Sam Gagner: After being signed to a “show me” deal this offseason, fans weren’t really sure what to expect from the journeyman forward, but Gagner has impressed fans and coaches in camp, looking a lot more like the top line performer he showed flashes of in Edmonton than the player Don Maloney dismissed as “no longer able to perform as an NHL center.” His chemistry with Saad has been obvious, and he’s shown good defensive skills as well. This could easily be the start of a new chapter in his career.
Nick Foligno: Uneasy lies the head that wears a “C”. In his first season as the Blue Jackets’ captain, Foligno had one of the worst years of his career, compounded by the team collapsing around him. His game finally started to improve towards the tail end of last season, and it appears he’s taken advice from coaches and teammates alike to stop trying to put the world on his shoulders. If he can get back to an effective game alongside his new linemates, he’s poised for a rebound season.
Scott Hartnell: Once again performing in the role of mentor to his younger linemates, it’s still a bit shocking that Scott Hartnell is still here. Seemingly out the door last season, particularly after clashing with Tortorella and being healthy scratched at the end of the season. Hartnell has been adamant about wanting to finish what he started here. Let’s see what happens.
Alexander Wennberg: Although many expected him to anchor the second line going into training camp, Wennberg’s in a good position with his current assignment. His natural playmaking ability and excellent on ice vision make him a perfect fit for what should be an excellent “counter-punch” line, able to protect the puck and exploit opportunities. If he can combine that with a bit more willingness to shoot the puck rather than look for the pass first, he’s going to be one of the most “complete” players on the roster - just in time to negotiate his new contract. Top 25 Under 25 Profile.
Oliver Bjorkstrand: One of the most anticipated prospects to make the jump to the NHL level in the last few years, Bjorkstrand’s seemingly effortless offense translated almost immediately to the NHL level when he received his first callup last season, and performance for the Monsters in their Calder Cup run can only be called exceptional. After scoring the championship winning goal in OT, he came into camp and made it clear he wants to be an NHL player this season. Like most fans, I’m excited to see what happens next. Top 25 Under 25 Profile.
Matt Calvert: Aside from “hustle”, the most often used description for Calvert is “consistent.” Always working, never hesitating, he’s put his body through incredible punishment thanks to playing one of the most physical games of anyone on the roster, and just keeps coming. Last season’s 73 games was a high point for him, and he delivered a third consecutive 20+ point season. There’s no reason to expect anything less.
William Karlsson: Coming into camp last year and pushing his way onto the roster, “Wild Bill” played in 81 games last season, and has arguably pushed Gregory Campbell into the press box for the foreseeable future. Quick, defensively responsible, and with a good hand in the faceoff circle, he’s exactly what the team needs for the 4th line Center position. Top 25 Under 25 profile.
Josh Anderson: After making the jump to the AHL two years ago, Josh Anderson has caught many fans attention thanks to his willingness to get into the corners, make plays, and use his body to create space and separate opponents from the puck. Starting the year in the spot vacated by Jared Boll, he’s not really an “enforcer” type - but on paper he’s an excellent fit for a team that wants to challenge opponents with all four lines. It’ll be interesting to see what he does with this opportunity.
Top 25 Under 25 Profile.
Gregory Campbell: Signed in free agency last offseason to provide a veteran bottom six presence after the departure of Mark Letestu, Campbell appeared in all 82 games, but struggled to make a positive impact, posting some of the worst numbers of his career. Waived by the team on Monday, he’s likely to be sent to Cleveland to act as a stabilizng force for the young Monsters, acting in a leadership and mentoring role, and potentially looking at the end of a 13 season NHL career.
Pierre-Luc Dubois: A controversial pick at #3 at this summer’s NHL entry draft, PLD has put a lot of work into proving that he was worthy of the honor. Delivering solid results in the Traverse City prospects tournament and his preseason appearances with the big club, he’ll most likely get a brief look in a live game or two before heading back to the Q. Top 25 Under 25 Profile
Lucas Sedlak: One of the biggest surprises of the Monsters’ Calder Cup run, the former 6th round pick delivered at a point a game pace in the postseason, and was rewarded with a one year deal. He may not get a chance to play on opening night, but if he can deliver another surprise or two this season, it might be enough to earn him a longer contract. Top 25 Under 25 Profile
On paper, this is arguably one of the best forward groups the team has put together. Physical but quick, every line contains a player the opposing team cannot take for granted. Three lines of true scoring threats, and a fourth line that has shown they can make you pay for a mistake.
Hope is a four letter word in Columbus, but there’s reasons to be excited about all of these combinations.
We’ll have the opportunity to see how paper translates into reality on Thursday night.