2022-23 Player Review: Jack Roslovic isn't the answer
But what was the question?
Since joining his hometown team in early 2021, Jack Roslovic's play has been up and down – like a toilet seat, as some would say.
That first season carried a lot of promise. Roslovic finally got to play center, which he wasn't able to do in Winnipeg. He also got top 6 minutes, averaging two more minutes per game than his last season as a Jet. His faceoff numbers and defensive zone performance were dreadful, but he put up career highs in goals, assists, and points in just 48 games.
After a summer spent working on the finer points of the center position with Mark Letestu, Roslovic entered fall 2021 with high expectations...then fell flat on his face, playing fourth line minutes for the first half of the season. It was only after an injury to Boone Jenner that Roslovic got a chance to play higher in the lineup, and it was mostly his performance in the last months of the season that led to him again hitting career-high marks.
This season didn't have such a stark contrast in halves; instead there was game-to-game variation. Which Roslovic would show up each night? He had 6 different stretches where he was without a point for at least 4 straight games. But he also had 4 streaks of at least 3 games with a point. He played over 20 minutes in 6 games, and under 12 minutes in 5.
The good news: he set a new career high for assists, for the 7th straight season. He was second on the team in assists, trailing Johnny Gaudreau by 20. He was 4th on the team in points, behind Gaudreau, Patrik Laine, and Boone Jenner, and 4 points ahead of Kent Johnson. Also, surprisingly, he had the second best GA/60 at 5v5 (2.96), among the 14 CBJ forwards with at least 300 minutes. He was also the most effective penalty killing forward, and had 2 shorthanded goals.
The bad news: Any positive offensive stat is boosted by him having one of the heavier offensive deployments. He allowed the highest rate of unblocked shot attempts against. Despite being on ice for the second-lowest rate (behind Laine), he had the worst expected goals against per 60 minutes, ahead of the defensive forwards Eric Robinson and Sean Kuraly. He benefitted from the second best on-ice shooting percentage and on-ice save percentage.
The other issue is simply a numbers game on the roster. Also returning at center are Jenner, Cole Sillinger, and Kuraly. Dmitry Voronkov has a strong case to make the roster and play that position in a third line role. Alexandre Texier, Johnson, and even Laine have gotten reps at the position and could fill in if necessary. This doesn't even include the potential of the #3 pick coming in and making the roster. If Roslovic isn't consistent enough to be the 1C, and not defensively strong enough to be a 3C or 4C, is he good enough to be the 2C? Even if there are younger players in the mix who have higher upside?
On the other hand, he's still a good enough offensive talent that he would have trade value for a team looking to use him at the wing. That could make him a useful piece, perhaps in a trade for a second pair left-handed defenseman.
5v5 CF%: 43.7
5v5 FF%: 43.0
Roslovic has one year remaining on the two-year contract he signed last summer, with a cap hit of $4 million. He will be an unrestricted free agent next summer. I don't subscribe to the school of thought that says "we have to get SOMETHING for him." If he's contributing to the team, then play out the contract and deal with it later. But, if there's a deal to be made this summer or even mid-season, which provides significant enough return in the short or long term, then I have no problem with it.
In a high scoring Saturday afternoon game in February in Columbus against the Oilers, Roslovic broke a 4-4 tie with two goals in the third period, to go with two assists in the second. He was also a season high +3.
On April 6 in New Jersey, Roslovic got just one shot on goal in 18:52, and had a -3 in an ugly 8-1 loss (6 Jackets were -3 in that game)
He puts up points, but they feel like empty calories, and you don't know which Roslovic you'll get. There probably is not a spot for him by 2024.