The summer has finally slowed down. The Columbus Blue Jackets made headlines weekly for what seemed like months. Players were traded, contracts were signed, and picks were made. Earlier this week, MrSwift13 took a look at how Jarmo Kekalainen’s vision for the future of the team is starting to come into view. With the vision in place and a little more clarity on a few key players, we can start to take a look at what the roster might look like in two years. This timeframe lines up with the potential decline of teams like the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins and with the emergence of new talent in Columbus, hopefully leading to a playoff contending lineup.
The forward group will likely see the most change over the course of the next two seasons. Only five forwards are currently under contract for the 2023-2024 season - Jakub Voracek, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Boone Jenner, Sean Kuraly, and Eric Robinson. Young players like Alexandre Texier, Liam Foudy, Emil Bemstrom, and Yegor Chinakhov will still be under team control, but their futures have yet to be determined.
The 2023-2024 roster will have several new names who will not be on the team this season. Newly added prospects Kent Johnson and Cole Sillinger will likely be seen as NHL regulars by then. Kirill Marchenko will probably have one NHL season under his belt while his fellow countryman, Dmitri Voronkov, should be looking at his NHL debut. There are other notable prospects that have shown an upward trajectory, but they are still question marks. That list includes Tyler Angle (AHL), Mikael Pyyhtiä (Liiga), and Josh Dunne (AHL).
There will be some additional roster turnover in the next two seasons, but that’s nearly impossible to predict. Recently, however, Elliott Friedman reported that the Blue Jackets are likely to move on from Max Domi. It’s also hard to imagine Gustav Nyquist remaining after his contract is up. All of that to say this: the Columbus forward group will look a lot different in two years.
Under contract: Jakub Voracek, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Boone Jenner, Sean Kuraly, Eric Robinson
Team control: Alexandre Texier, Liam Foudy, Emil Bemstrom, Yegor Chinakhov
Additions: Kirill Marchenko, Dmitri Voronkov, Kent Johnson, Cole Sillinger
Departures: Gustav Nyquist, Max Domi
Unknowns: Patrik Laine, Gregory Hofmann, Jack Roslovic, Kevin Stenlund
With the recent long-term signing of Zach Werenski and the additions of Jake Bean and Adam Boqvist, the defensive core may not look much different in two years. Only Werenski and Bean are signed through 2023-2024, but the team will still hold the rights of Boqvist and Andrew Peeke, should they still be on the team. Vladislav Gavrikov will be an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2023.
The Columbus pipeline does contain players that could see playing time in 2023-2024, but the defensive position among prospects is especially difficult to predict. Recent first round draft pick Corson Ceulemans could be an NHL regular by then, but he’ll still only be 20 years old. Other notable defensemen in the pipe line include Jacob Christiansen (AHL), Samuel Knazko (Liiga), Eric Hjorth (Liiga), and Ole Julian Bjorgvik Holm (AHL).
Under contract: Zach Werenski, Jake Bean
Team control: Adam Boqvist, Andrew Peeke
Additions: Corson Ceulemans
Departures: Dean Kukan, Scott Harrington
Unknowns: Vladislav Gavrikov, Gabriel Carlsson, Mikko Lehtonen
Leading up to this summer, many in the Blue Jackets community believed Joonas Korpisalo would likely be traded over Elvis Merzlikins, but that now seems more solidified than ever. Since the tragic death of Matiss Kivlenieks, the bond between the fans, Elvis, and the city of Columbus seems to have grown stronger. Recent rumors around the hockey world seem to support that notion. Regardless of whether or not Korpisalo is traded before the upcoming season starts, it looks like Merzlikins is the goalie of the future. At least until Daniil Tarasov develops.
Under contract: None
Team control: Daniil Tarasov
Departures: Joonas Korpisalo
Unknowns: Elvis Merzlikins
(Too Early) Lineup Prediction
This is a very difficult lineup to sort out once you add new forwards to the mix. Adding the three Russians, Sillinger, and Johnson leaves little room for players like Foudy, Texier, and Bemstrom. If Laine gets signed to a long-term contract, that provides even less room. In addition, a top ten pick in the 2022 draft could provide another elite prospect that could be looking at an NHL entrance around the same time. This way too early lineup also doesn’t take into consideration any future trades or free agent signings.
Laine - Johnson - Bjorkstrand
Voracek - Sillinger - Marchenko
Chinakhov - Roslovic - Voronkov
Jenner - Kuraly - Dunne
Werenski - Boqvist
Bean - Peeke
Christiansen - Ceulemans
What do you think? What’s your way too early lineup prediction for the 2023-2024 season?