At this time last year, the Columbus Blue Jackets were a trendy pick to make a jump into the playoffs. Let’s just say that almost any chance of that was shot down in the first two weeks of the season. The Blue Jackets starting 0-8 and lost the first 7 by at least 2 goals. The team was a complete mess leading them to fire their coach and hire John Tortorella, who let’s just say belongs nowhere near an NHL bench. They also altered the core of their franchise with the Seth Jones – Ryan Johansen blockbuster and look for the team to breakout post-hype. The Jackets have a lot of interesting young forwards along with some older guys who still carry plenty of value so let’s take a look!
Sergei Bobrovsky‘s season started out horribly and just got worse and worse. He had his worst season in all categories over his four seasons in Columbus and couldn’t get over a nagging groin injury that cost him half of the season. He’s won a Vezina trophy and was a clear #1 goalie just two years ago but finds his value at an all-time low. Can he bounceback? This is a difficult question to answer. On one hand, the Blue Jackets are going to play horrible, defensive hockey because Torts is living in the past and willing to cede possession. This will boost Bob’s value because he will face plenty of low quality shots from the outside to boost his save percentage. On the other hand, a lot of shots will naturally raise his GAA and as we saw last season, it’s hard to trust the Blue Jackets defensively even in a defensive system. Bobrovsky should be the workhorse and has #1 potential if the young blueline takes their game to the next level but it’s more likely he has a season like 2 years ago where Bob posted a solid save percentage but below average goals against average. If you wait on goalie and he ends up as your #2, there’s a chance it pays off but it could also blow up in your face. He’s arguably the biggest wild card goaltender in the league this year.
Curtis McElhinney is signed to be the backup to Bobrovsky which is simply inexcusable from the Blue Jackets front office. To be blunt, McElhinney is horrible and is easily the worst goaltender in the league. Do not draft him in any league. When Bob was injured last season, Joonas Korpisalo stepped in and did well. The 22 year old Finn put up a strong .920 sv% winning over half of his starts. Since he can still go down to the AHL, I expect Korpisalo to start there to get more playing time. However, if Bob was to get injured again, he’ll certainly see the majority of the action in Columbus. Keep him on your radar for the future.
I have little doubt that Seth Jones is going to be a stud for years for the Blue Jackets. Will that translate to fantasy hockey? There is some concern here. On one hand, Jones tallied 20 points in 41 games with Columbus and took a solid two shots per game. To score only 2 goals on 83 shots is absurdly unlucky. On the other hand, he’s never had more than 24 PIM in a season and he played over 24 minutes a game in Columbus. In other words, his improvement in fantasy has to come from his own play, not just a minutes boost. If the shot rate takes another step up, Jones does have 10+40 potential. I’m not banking on it though. He’ll be a D4 for me which will probably keep him off my teams this year.
The only other defenseman on the Jackets that I could see being relevant in 12’ers is actually David Savard. His shot rate took a big jump to almost two per game, the PIM are strong and his special teams points should see an increase. There’s a decent chance that Savard could get to 40 points, 60 PIM and solid shots. That’ll be enough to make him a bottom end hold in 12’ers as a D5. At the least, if he goes undrafted in your league, I’d look to pick Savard up early if one of your players gets hurt or Savard gets off to a hot start.
Ryan Murray will be on the first pair but hasn’t shown the upside to be a fantasy hold. In deep leagues, there’s a little value with 11 PPP last year and 40 PIM but with barely a shot per game and already 23 minutes played per game, there’s not enough here for even 16’ers.
Jack Johnson is horrible, plain and simple. He doesn’t have the role anymore to even get points but his shots have disappeared and he’s always a massive minus. I wouldn’t touch him.
For dynasties, Zach Werenski is a name to keep in mind. I don’t think he’ll have a big enough role this season to be relevant in 12’ers but the former top 10 pick was a monster at Michigan and has a ton of offensive potential. If he makes the team, Werenski could surprise, especially if Jones was to get injured.
Brandon Saad‘s first season in Columbus was a success. The 23 year old set a career high in goals and points scoring 31+22. His shot rate took a very nice step forward and the special teams points were poor which gives him additional upside. Saad rarely takes penalties which hurts his fantasy value and he’s never reached 30 assists which hurts his potential. That said, he’s already a top 100 player without improvement. I had him barely in my top 50 going into last season and he won’t be far off that this year.
Three players last season had 30+ goals and 75+ PIM: Brad Marchand, Wayne Simmonds and Boone Jenner. Despite the team’s struggles, Jenner broke out in a big way with 30 goals, 19 assists, 77 PIM and 225 shots. He was almost a top 100 player on the player rater despite being -15. He’s going to crack my top 100 rankings this season since he just turned 23 years old and Jenner should be getting first line minutes all year.
Cam Atkinson is similar to his linemate Jenner except for one distinction; drop the penalty minutes. Atkinson adds some assists (26) to his 27 goals but he just set a career high with 22 PIM. Since he doesn’t have the penalty minutes, he’s outside of the top 100 but Atkinson will certainly be in the top 200 and be a hold in all leagues.
The one big beneficiary of Torts arriving was Brandon Dubinsky. Dubi received massive minutes and certainly will again. 50 points with 70+ PIM and 2 shots per game is well within reach. He’ll be a nice fit in the middle rounds for teams that need penalty minutes with assists.
Speaking of penalty minutes, the Blue Jackets are loaded with players who spend a ton of time in the sin bin, and nobody spends more time there than Scott Hartnell. Hartnell has been a virtual lock for 20+ goals and 100+ PIM for years. The big concern to me is that his shot total dropped by 54 this past season. There’s a chance that Hartnell doesn’t get to 20 goals this year at 34 years old. However, he still needs to be drafted in all leagues for the penalty minutes alone.
After a breakout in 2014-15, Nick Foligno took a massive stepback last season. Foligno went from 31+42 to only 12+25. There are two quick reasons to explain the dropoff; Foligno’s shooting percentage was cut in half and he scored 0 power play goals. Foligno should settle somewhere in the middle which would make him barely a hold in 12’ers. The 50ish PIM and points would be enough to make him relevant.
Alexander Wennberg is an excellent playmaker as evidenced by his big jump in his sophomore season. Wennberg dished 32 assists in 69 games to give him 40 total points. The issue from a fantasy perspective is his shot rate was poor and he only took one penalty all season. He has 40+ assist potential but I’d rather stream him to start the season in standard leagues because of the lack of help in other categories. Anything 14 team or deeper and Wennberg should definitely be drafted.
As far as late round fliers go, Oliver Bjorkstrand has my attention. The 21 year old played great at the end of the season with 4 goals and 4 assists in 12 games. It looks like he has a good chance to play on the second line which bodes well for his value. The issue is that Bjorkstand didn’t play on the power play last season and he may not again. In 14’ers or deeper, I’d look to draft him late. Unless we find out he’s getting power play time before the season starts, I’d leave Bjorkstand to stream in 12’ers and see how things develop once the season begins.
TOP 5 PROSPECTS
1) Pierre-Luc Dubois. Dubois was a late riser that shockingly went 3rd overall. He has elite potential in all facets of the game but I doubt he’s on the roster this season.
2) Zach Werenski
3) Sonny Milano
4) Daniel Zaar
5) Josh Anderson
That’s all for now guys. I’ll be back tomorrow with a recap of the New Jersey Devils. As always, feel free to ask any questions or leave any comments below. Take care!