The Blue Jackets surprised many by being one of the best teams in the NHL last season. They have the talent and incoming prospects to keep them there by 2019-20.
Welcome to 2020 Vision, our new feature taking a look at how the roster of each NHL team may look three seasons from now when the 2019-2020 season begins.
Over the next month we’ll profile one team, in alphabetical order, each day and project what their roster (12 forwards, six defensemen, two goalies) will look like.
There were some ground rules for this exercise. We didn’t allow any blockbuster trades or free agent signings, but we did make assumptions about teams re-signing their own UFAs and RFAs.
Therefore, this isn’t intended to be a fantasy-like look at the league in 2019-20. Instead, since this is part of the THN Future Watch family, it’s meant to be a realistic, best-case-scenario projection for each team based on players already under contract, and prospects in their system.
Just for fun, let’s play a little game. It’s called Life in Central Ohio After Sergei Bobrovsky. It’s a game the Columbus Blue Jackets may be playing by the 2019-20 season and it could potentially be a dangerous one.
With the two-time Vezina Trophy winner due to become an unrestricted free agent in two summers, it’s impossible to know whether Bobrovsky, who will be 31 when the 2019-20 season begins, will still be in Columbus and playing at the level he has displayed the past couple of seasons. For purposes of this exercise, we left him off the roster for that season.
But there is still a lot, an awful lot, to like about the future of the Blue Jackets. They had one of the youngest defense corps in the league this past season and were sixth in goals scored. Coach John Tortorella, who will likely sign a big, fat, long extension at some point soon, seems to have regained his touch as an elite NHL coach and has a team that melds well with his ‘Safe is Death’ philosophy.
Much of what the Blue Jackets accomplish will be dependent upon the development of Pierre-Luc Dubois, the player the Blue Jackets picked third overall in 2016 ahead of the likes of Matthew Tkachuk, Clayton Keller, Mikhail Sergachev and Charlie McAvoy. Dubois had a difficult season punctuated by a mediocre World Junior Championship, but excelled in the QMJHL playoffs. With the exception of Rick Nash and Jakub Voracek, the Blue Jackets have had a checkered history with top-10 picks and it would help the cause if Dubois helped turn that tide.
They also have coming along players such as Oliver Bjorkstrand and Sonny Milano, players for whom the luster has worn off a little in their pro careers, but who also still have potential to be quality NHL players. And any defense corps with Zach Werenski and Seth Jones on it is always going to be a force.
The question, as we said off the top, is in goal. Can the Blue Jackets retain Bobrovsky and if so, can he continue to play at this level in his early 30s? If the answer to either of those questions is no, the Blue Jackets will need to shore up that area.
GOT IT: A top-flight defense corps and young, dynamic forwards who will likely keep one of the league’s highest-scoring teams in that spot.
NEED IT: The Blue Jackets may be so good on the blueline and up front that they won’t need a Bobrovsky-type of goalie in order to be a top team. But they will need someone who can give them consistently good play.
CAP WATCH: The Blue Jackets have $24.6 million devoted to just five players in 2019-20, but that number will grow as some of their young restricted free agents sign long-terms deals in the next two seasons.
BOTTOM LINE: The Blue Jackets rocketed to near the top of the NHL in 2016-17 and they have the talent there, and on the way, to keep them in that spot three seasons from now.
Up next: Dallas Stars