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2022 Midseason Grades: Forwards find themselves searching for cohesion entering second half of the season

Like the defense, consistency has been the Jackets’ forwards most glaring issue

Florida Panthers v Columbus Blue Jackets Photo by Ben Jackson/NHLI via Getty Images

The Blue Jackets’ offense this year started off on a tear, averaging over 4 goals per game for almost a month as the Columbus Blue Jackets sprung out of the gate to a 12-6 record. Unfortunately, we all know how it went from there. Like most teams, the Jackets have had their share of illness and injuries that played a role in discombobulating the offensive flow that appeared to come so naturally in the early part of the season. The schedule definitely picked up in terms of difficulty the past month and a half, and the Blue Jackets’ forwards now struggle quite often to generate any sustained pressure or high danger scoring chances.

Lately, they have not been playing as a unit and it’s obvious when you see players attacking the opposing team one-on-three when entering the offensive zone. Who knows, maybe the Jackets just needed more time to learn Brad Larsen’s system to regress back to the mean. They still rank in the top half of the league in goals per game at 3.1 (thanks in large to a few unexpected offensive outbursts), so it’ll be interesting to see if the Jackets can reset after this break, and maintain or even climb the ladder in terms of scoring.


Forwards

Boone Jenner
Stats: 43 GP, 18-12-30, -9, 45.7% CF

Some players struggle with the added responsibilities of being named Captain of a team. Nick Foligno struggled mightily when given the “C”, causing then Jackets coach, John Tortorella, to wonder if he was cut out for the role. Well, Boone Jenner is not one of those players. Captain Boone Jenner is having a great season, leading the team in goals and points — well on his way to career highs in both. Most people assumed his previous 30 goal campaign was a fluke, but Jenner is proving everyone wrong and is on pace for an eye-popping 36 goals this year. Boone’s work ethic and effort are never questioned, and it’s great to see him thriving in his elevated role.

Grade: A

Oliver BJORKSTRAND
Stats: 41 GP, 12-16-28, -25(!), 50.1% CF

After starting the season off on a blistering pace — including a four point opening night — Oliver BJORKSTRAND has gone missing the last few months. In his last 15 games, he has a total of 4 points and is a -15. He is one of the team’s best shooters, and there are far too many nights when he struggles to fire off a single shot. I know +/- isn’t the best way to judge a player, but it’s not a great sign when the notorious “Green Jacket” is all but locked up by midseason. Consistency has always been a criticism for the Maestro, and it appeared that maybe this was the year he got beyond that hurdle, but unfortunately the issue remains. He is still second on the team in points, but there is definitely more to give from Oliver BJORKSTRAND.

Grade: C+

Jakub Voracek
Stats: 41 GP, 1-27-28, -5, 48.2% CF

Jake’s return to Columbus has been somewhat of a mixed bag. He is top 5 in the league in primary assists with 23, but somehow has just a single goal. Goal scoring has never been Jake’s area of expertise, but that number really jumps off the page at me. When you watch Jake play, he seems to ALWAYS be looking for the next pass, rather than taking the shot. However, he is 4th on the team with 80 shots on goal this year, they’re just not going in. Somehow, his shot percentage is a microscopic 1.3%. There is no way he finishes that low. I still expect for him to push for 10 goals and 60-ish points for the year. It was awesome to see him play his 1000th game in a CBJ sweater.

Grade: B

Patrik Laine
Stats: 24 GP, 10-11-21, Even, 44.5% CF

Although Laine is at times very frustrating to watch, this season is a drastic improvement over last years’ performance. Laine is producing at close to a point-per-game pace and pretty much everyone — including Laine himself — knows he has more to offer. Poor Patty has had a rough year on the ice with an injury, and off the ice with the tragic passing of his father. His underlying numbers could use a boost, but all things considered, this is the bounce back season he needed and is a step in the right direction. Jarmo Kekalainen has a decision to make soon regarding Laine’s future, and it does not look like it is going to be an easy one. He’s still just 23 years old and is still working to round out his game, so he fits the timeline of the rebuild. The tricky part is deciding whether to commit long term to a player like Laine at the salary he will command.

Grade: B

Alexandre Texier
Stats: 36 GP, 11-9-20, Even, 45.8% CF

Tex had been the Blue Jackets best forward for a while prior to his recent injury. It finally appeared that he had begun to really put it all together to be an effective player both with and without the puck, including playing a big role on the Jackets’ penalty kill. All it took was a “demotion” to the fourth line for his play to really elevate. I was surprised to see his CF% that low, considering that when I watch him, he always seems to be on top of the puck, driving play. I wonder if once Texier comes back from injury, he’ll get a prolonged chance to go back in the middle on the top line. When his confidence is high, he just oozes with skill and can make plays that will leave jaws on the floor.

Grade: B+

Gus Nyquist
Stats: 43 GP, 12-13-25, -7, 46.8% CF

It took a while for Gus to get going this year, but honestly, who can really blame him. He hadn’t played hockey in over a year. Now that he is caught up to speed, he’s been an important veteran presence for this young team, and has been producing some timely goals. Nyquist is tied for the league lead in shorthanded goals this year with four, and has been money in the shootout. You pretty much always know what you’re going to get with a player like Nyquist, and that is invaluable to a youthful group like the Blue Jackets. I don’t really see it happening, but he is another name to watch at the deadline with just one year remaining after this season. He could be an important piece for a team looking to make a deep playoff run.

Grade: B

Max Domi
Stats: 33 GP, 8-11-19, -3, 47.7% CF

Max Domi defied the odds just by being in the lineup to start the season after coming off surgery and a lengthy rehab. He was another player who started the season hot and everyone wondered if he could keep it up. By no fault of his own, Max’s season was derailed for a while as he dealt with a broken rib, and then a bout with Covid that kept him out for about a month or so. He’s since struggled and his ice time has dwindled to the lowest of his career. It seems as if Jackets fans can do nothing but count down the days until he is dealt at the deadline. Max is one of the few guys on this team that plays a fiery game (sometimes to a fault) and is willing to stick up for his teammates. That is an aspect that will be sorely missed once he is inevitably sent to a contender come the deadline. Only question now is if he can boost his trade value to possibly get the Jackets their third 1st round pick in the upcoming draft.

Grade: C

Cole Sillinger
Stats: 40GP, 7-8-15, -9, 48.9% CF

Cole Sillinger is the youngest player in the NHL and is playing important minutes as a center. That alone makes this season a success for the 18-year-old. By all accounts Cole is already carrying himself like a seasoned vet, and impressing his older teammates. In a changing league, led by flashy young superstars, Cole Sillinger brings some of that old school game that you can only imagine John Tortorella would drool over. He had a stretch of games there where he wasn’t very noticeable (as expected) but has since worked his way out of it and has found the scoresheet a few times recently.

I loved the pick at the draft, and like it even more after half a season. Cole is the real deal.

Grade: B+

Jack Roslovic
Stats: 42 GP, 7-11-18, -7, 49.3% CF

Jack was going to be given the keys to a Lambo at the start of the season, getting to play on the top line with Patrik Laine and Jakub Voracek. Unfortunately, that never happened as Roslovic was passed on the depth chart, and Alexandre Texier got to start in the middle of the top line. It has even gotten to the point where Roslovic has had the one of the largest decreases in TOI in the league. Jack may be one of, if not the best player on the team at controlled zone entries. This year however, it seems that is where his success ends. If you would have told a Jackets fan last season, that Jack Roslovic would likely be on his way out of town by next trade deadline, most would have laughed in your face. Here we are though. It’s a tough pill to swallow. His homecoming seemed almost too good to be true, and sadly it just may have been.

Grade: D

Sean Kuraly
Stats: 43 GP, 8-8-16, +7, 47.2% CF

Sean Kuraly is doing just what he was brought in to do, and is occasionally being asked to do a little more (although he probably shouldn’t be matched up against Sidney Crosby again). He’s providing energy and grit as the team’s 4th line center while contributing occasional offense. He is on his way to a career-high in points, only needing eight more to best his previous high of 24. His faceoff numbers have dipped this year, winning just under 50% of his draws. It was doubtful he’d match last years’ winning percentage of almost 58%, but for someone who is used as a faceoff specialist on this team, he definitely needs to be winning over half of his draws.

No complaints with Columbus’ own Kuraly.

Grade: B

Eric Robinson
Stats: 42 GP, 6-11-17, 46.8% CF

Robinson is just one point shy of matching his career total in points, which is great, but that is to be expected in his third season as a full-time NHL’er. A blazing fast skater with a big body, it is a little bit disappointing to see him continue to fail to use his talents more efficiently. Robinson could and should be harder to play against, but he does not seem willing to play much of a physical game. When your CF% drops over 5% as it has this year, it may be time to think about adding to the skillset.

Grade: C-

Yegor Chinakhov
Stats: 34 GP, 5-3-8, -17, 47.5% CF

I don’t have much to complain about with Chinny. We all knew this was a development year for a young kid learning not just the North American game, but the culture and lifestyle in general. It’s taken a while, but the young Russian is getting more and more comfortable and has been able to flash some skill along the way. He has been on the losing end of a few coach’s challenges, taking a few goals off the board, but there will be many, many more to come. The future is bright for Yegor.

Good work. Good goal. Next.

Grade: C+

Emil Bemstrom
Stats: 13 GP, 2-2-4, -1, 53.3% CF

Bemmer is finally getting his chance this season due to Covid and injuries. He’s struggled to find the scoresheet consistently but has been looking more and more comfortable as he plays. Neither of his goals have been his “trademark” shot, as both were greasy goals in front of the net. In his limited playing time, he is the team leader in CF%, which doesn’t mean a ton if the production isn’t there. Producing much of anything is tough to do when averaging just under 10 minutes of playing time without regular linemates. Thats the situation Emil Bemstrom finds himself in and needs to make the most of his chances when play resumes.

Grade: C+


Obviously these grades are very subjective, so I’d love to know who would you have graded differently?