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Training Camp: Looking at the Blue Jackets forwards ahead of matchup with Toronto

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HOCKEY IS ALMOST BACK!!! We look over the Blue Jackets forwards.

NHL: MAR 08 Blue Jackets at Canucks Photo by Derek Cain/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It feels so good to talk — speculate? — about something directly related to the Blue Jackets on the ice. Ah yes. Training camp battles as we prepare for, and anxiously await the return of play this summer. We previewed the defenseman yesterday and today we go over the forward battles.

This will be of particular interest as the forward corps for the team is finally healthy and ready to get back at it. Josh Anderson is likely one of the few Blue Jackets players, from a physical aspect, that is still unlikely to return in time. And Brandon Dubinsky who missed all season with the wrist injury. Remember Dubi? Jakob Lilja has also left for a one-year deal in the KHL.

But obviously the return of guys like Cam Atkinson, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Alexandre Texier, and many others is a welcome bit of great news. And don’t forget about Liam Foudy who would also figure into the lineup. There’s also a guy like Calvin Thurkauf, someone that Elaine knows real well and wrote about earlier this year. He played his first three NHL games this season.

So what could lines look like with all these different players?

There’s lots of combination that could make sense. With everything being one gigantic question mark as it is, plus the months-off hiatus from play, we’ll soon start to see what makes the most sense for teams at the most important part of the season.

Like any team, Columbus will want to start fast and strong. Can they shake the rust and find chemistry quickly under such unique circumstances?

With lots of questions to find out, and hopefully answers soon to follow, I put together some potential line combinations.

Gustav Nyquist - Pierre-Luc Dubois - Cam Atkinson
Oliver Bjorkstrand - Alexandre Texier - Emil Bemstrom
Nick Foligno - Boone Jenner - Eric Robinson
Liam Foudy - Riley Nash - Nathan Gerbe

Per Natural Stat Trick, the line of Nyquist - Dubois- Atkinson CF% (50.48%) was only together for 103:54 of ice-time, and they combined for four goals while on the ice.

I don’t think we’ll necessarily see Foligno on the first line again, especially with a healthy squad, but the combination of Foligno - Dubois - Bjorkstrand had a 53.04 CF% with 10 goals and one against. In 46 games they had an xGF% of 63.00.

The combination of Foligno - Wennberg - Atkinson were together for a bit of time over 37 games putting up a 58.06 CF% and 60.17 xGF%.

Nyquist - Jenner - Atkinson had a 57.33 CF% and 70.88 CF%. They didn’t actually combine for any scoring when on the ice, or allow any goals, over their 44 game stretch.

One initial omission included Alexander Wennberg. There’s some others that will see the bench and there will be a lot of depth at John Tortorella’s disposal. Almost feeling like a preseason is ahead of us with so much time off heading into the playoffs, there will just be so many unknowns to sort through. Aside from the obvious rust factor, then you have young guys like Foudy, Robinson, and Texier.

Oliver Bjorkstrand - Pierre-Luc Dubois - Alexandre Texier
Gustav Nyquist - Alexander Wennberg - Cam Atkinson
Nick Foligno - Boone Jenner - Eric Robinson
Liam Foudy - Riley Nash - Nathan Gerbe

You can also throw center Devin Shore into the mix, as well as Kevin Stenlund.

It’s worth noting what the opening night lineup looked like between these two teams, very nearly a year ago by now.

Oliver Bjorkstrand

We saw Bjorkstrand flourish and go on a healthy scoring binge prior to his ankle injury that sidelined him in the weeks up to the Covid-9 shutdown. Scoring 36 points (21 goals, 15 assists) in 49 games, Bjorkstrand led the team with 21 goals on the season, hitting his stride and doing his part to make up for the overall lack of scoring from the Blue Jackets offense.

There was a stretch where he scored 10 goals in a nine-game stretch, with nearly a month of missed time in between. Bjorkstrand had four games with two goals in that span including three-straight two goal games.

Bjorkstrand’s scoring helped offset the lack of scoring from the forwards, as players like Atkinson struggled with scoring and then getting hurt. Texier went down with lumbar stress fracture, but sounds ready to go.

Gerbe missed time for an undisclosed reason and was such a key cog starting around the Christmas stretch. Defenseman Zach Werenski was second on the team with 20 goals which shows you where the bulk of offense came from. Dubois was able to keep up his form, even without Artemi Panarin, with 18 goals, 31 assists, for 49 points.

Through all the injuries on the season, it feels like there was always another lineup combination, so there’s lots of small samples and ideas for lineups with a healthy mix going forward. Whether next month or next year.