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CBJ Top 25 Under 25: Nick Blankenburg made the most of his opportunity

The diminutive defenseman dominated

Ottawa Senators v Columbus Blue Jackets Photo by Ben Jackson/NHLI via Getty Images

Thanks to everyone who voted for this year’s Top 25 Under 25 ranking. We had almost 100 submissions from Columbus Blue Jackets fans. Stay tuned as we count down the 25 highest voted players for the next month. Now, Nick Blankenburg.

#12 Nick Blankenburg

Voting

12th out of 40 eligible players
Writer Rank: 11
Reader Rank: 14
Highest placement: 5 (1 vote)
Most common placement: 12 (12 votes)
2021 Rank: N/A

Biography

Birthdate: May 12, 1998
Birthplace: Washington, Michigan
Height: 5’9”
Weight: 175 lbs
Position: Defenseman
Shoots: Right
Acquired: Signed as an undrafted free agent on April 8, 2022

2021-22 Season

After the University of Michigan’s 2022 season ended in an OT heartbreaker in the national semifinals, Blue Jackets fans eagerly awaited the imminent signing of first round draft pick Kent Johnson. What we did not expect was the team to also sign Johnson’s teammate, Wolverines captain Nick Blankenburg.

Blankenburg wasn’t anywhere close to being drafted as an 18 year old, and played two years of minor juniors after graduating high school. It was during that first junior season that he volunteered to switch from forward to defenseman. Despite his small stature, he took to the position and eventually earned the attention of Michigan’s coaching staff. By his senior year, despite being surrounded by first round draft picks, it was Blankenburg that stood out as the leader of the team.

While Johnson adjusted slowly to the NHL, Blankenburg made a more immediate impact. He recorded his first NHL point, an assist, in his first game. By his third game, he was passing the 20 minute mark in a game. In his sixth game he had his first multi-point effort, and his first NHL goal. Unfortunately he suffered an upper body injury in the next game and missed the last two games of the season.

The whirlwind season continued when Blankenburg was named to Team USA for the World Championships. He played four games in the preliminary round before suffering a knee injury. That injury also kept him from participating in on-ice activities at the Blue Jackets development camp in July.

2022-23 Outlook

The ELC that Blankenburg signed was a one year contract due to his age, so this summer he was an exclusive rights free agent. He signed a two year contract worth an average annual value of $825,000. Most notably, the contract is one-way, meaning he makes the same salary at the NHL and AHL levels. He is still waivers exempt, but the high AHL salary indicates that management expects him to spend most of the season in the NHL. He will have to battle for playing time in a crowded right side that includes Andrew Peeke, Adam Boqvist, and Erik Gudbranson.

Highlights