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Season Preview 2019-20: Columbus Blue Jackets

Free agency wasn't kind to Columbus. After their first playoff round victory, however, the Blue Jackets are hungry for more.

Who is going to score?
If you haven’t heard, the Blue Jackets lost just a wee bit of offense over the summer, with Artemi Panarin signing in New York and Matt Duchene moving on to Nashville. That’s a lot of high-end skill to subtract from a team, and it will be interesting to see how Columbus responds. Cam Atkinson may be the biggest X-factor since he does have a 40-goal campaign under his belt – but, again, that was with Panarin in the lineup. Can Atkinson still make magic with Pierre-Luc Dubois? Boone Jenner and Alexander Wennberg have scored in the past but need to recover their touch. Wennberg in particular had it rough last season, tallying just twice in 75 games.

Who is going to stop the puck?
With Sergei Bobrovsky off to Florida, goaltending becomes a question mark in Columbus for the first time in years. Joonas Korpisalo has been groomed for the starting role, and now he’s getting his chance. Due to injuries to Bobrovsky, Korpisalo has seen a decent amount of NHL action – including 31 games in 2015-16 – but his past two campaigns have featured a disappointing .897 save percentage. That’s not going to cut it anymore, especially since his backup will be rookie Elvis Merzlikins. While Merzlikins has been very good in Europe, the NHL is a new entity. That could work for or against him, as teams won’t have a book on him.

How good can Seth Jones be?
While his 2018-19 campaign got off to a slow start due to a knee injury, Jones remained a workhorse for the Blue Jackets upon his return, averaging 25:49 of ice time per game. That was a new career high for the tall, athletic blueliner and, given Jones only turns 25 in October, it’s not hard to see him eclipsing that mark this season. Make no mistake, Jones has Norris Trophy potential. Though his point total dipped a bit last year, he could easily surpass his personal best of 57, assuming he gets the opportunity. Columbus will need its defense corps to step up as its offense takes a step back. With Jones and Zach Werenski patrolling the back end, the Blue Jackets have the stars to do that.

Stanley Cup Odds: 65/1

Rookie Watch
Plenty of opportunity in Columbus, where confident Elvis Merzlikins will take his shot at the crease, while Vladislav Gavrikov will bolster the defense. Alexandre Texier, who played well for the Jackets in the playoffs, will see his first full season while Emil Bemstrom is coming off a breakout year in Sweden.

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