There is a sense of normalcy returning to Columbus. The Ohio State games are packed with fans and soon a similar scene will return to fall nights at Nationwide Arena.
With training camp getting underway, and the NHL preseason right around the corner, it’s time to take a look at this year’s edition of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Many of the faces and names you may recognize from this club are gone now. Not many remain from the Jackets’ last postseason run that saw them defeat Toronto before falling to the eventual champion, the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Among those gone are longtime captain Nick Foligno, who was traded last season and ultimately signed in Boston, and Columbus fan-favorite Cam Atkinson, who was traded to Philadelphia over the summer.
Star defenseman, Seth Jones, was traded to Chicago in a blockbuster deal right before the draft, and former head coach John Tortorella was let go at the end of his contract last season.
In their place remains a bright future, however, there may be some growing pains this season.
All of those departures isn’t to say the Jackets have not been making moves this summer, because that is far from the case. The team swung the Seth Jones trade into an excellent first round, nabbing three high-quality prospects.
The team re-signed longtime forward Boone Jenner to a new four-year deal, goaltender Elvis Merzlikens to a new five-year deal, and the team also signed Dublin native Sean Kuraly in free agency.
Also new this season is the man behind the bench. Following the departure of John Tortorella, the keys were given to his former assistant Brad Larsen. Larsen played in the NHL from 1997-2010 and has been a coach with the Blue Jackets on the NHL level since 2014. This, though, marks his first stop as the man in charge.
Looking forward to this season there are definitely some bright spots on this roster. The CBJ still have one of the better goalie duos in the league with both Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzļikins back for another year.
Columbus native Jack Roslovic is coming off of a strong year and figures to be in the running to be the team’s number one center.
Following the departure of Seth Jones, Zach Werekenski is now the no-doubt number one on defense, and this makes room for new acquisitions Jake Bean and Adam Boqvist to see the ice.
Winger Oliver Bjorkstrand looks to build upon his success last year where he led the team in many goals, and Patrik Laine is looking to get back into form and once again become that 30+ goal scorer that this team believes he can be.
One of the key differences between this team and the CBJ teams of the past is their age. In training camp this year there are two former first-round picks trying to make the roster as rookies. 2021 first-round pick Cole Sillinger and 2020 first-round pick Yeagor Chinakov are both searching for ice time in the big league during their first years.
Both rookies stated their cases in a nice way at the prospect tournament in Traverse City where the Blue Jackets team finished with a perfect 4-0 record, with both Chinakov and Sillinger playing particularly well.
The Jackets opened training camp on Sept. 22 and held an open practice for fans on Sept. 25.
The practice featured the three groups playing in live scrimmages and had plenty of excitement to get fans ready for the upcoming season. One fan, in particular, left with a souvenir, as during the second scrimmage a high shot made it through the netting, and clocked him in the head — that fan was myself.
This season seems to be a building year for Columbus. With a lot of new faces both on the ice and behind the bench, the Jackets will have some growing to do. However, the right pieces seem to be in place for a bright future of NHL hockey.