Columbus Blue Jackets: Young Guns Lead the Way in Opener

COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 6: Sonny Milano #22 and Pierre-Luc Dubois #18 of the Columbus Blue Jackets hold the pucks from their first career NHL goals scored during a game against the New York Islanders on October 6, 2017 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. Columbus shutout New York 5-0. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)
COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 6: Sonny Milano #22 and Pierre-Luc Dubois #18 of the Columbus Blue Jackets hold the pucks from their first career NHL goals scored during a game against the New York Islanders on October 6, 2017 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. Columbus shutout New York 5-0. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images) /
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The Columbus Blue Jackets opened the 2017-18 season Friday night with a hellacious beating of the New York Islanders, winning 5-0 over their Metropolitan Division rival.

The Columbus Blue Jackets scored often, and the goals started very early. But it wasn’t from a usual suspect such as Cam Atkinson or Nick Foligno. It was a rather new guy. A guy that can barely legally drink in the United States. A hometown kid. It was Sonny Milano.

Sonny, born and raised in Massapequa, New York (about 10 miles from the famous Nassau Coliseum) scored the opening goal against his hometown New York Islanders on Friday to kick off what would become an absolute stomping. At just 1:07 into the game, Milano fired the puck past Isles netminder Thomas Greiss after receiving a needle-threading Oliver Bjorkstrand pass.

The goal was Milano’s first in the NHL and only his second point in his career. But the Jackets were not done with making firsts on Friday night. Another youngster ended up with a milestone of his own.

Pierre-Luc Dubois scored the fifth and final goal of the evening just over halfway in the second period when Seth Jones poked the puck away from the Islanders and back into the CBJ offensive zone. Dubois recovered the puck and wasted no time putting up a shot, a wrister that Greiss whiffed on. The goal was PLD’s first, a remarkable accomplishment in his first NHL game–one that his parents were in attendance for. The 19-year-old did admit, however, that he wouldn’t be giving that puck to his parents; he’ll be keeping it for himself.

Other Millennials Helping Out

Although Sonny and PLD’s goals were the most emotional and notable due to the individual career milestones, there were some other 20-somethings that got in on the action on Friday.

That shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone considering the Blue Jackets are the youngest team in the NHL (according to The Globe and Mail). With such a young core, the best CBJ players are almost all under 30–and most are even 25 or under.

Cam Atkinson and Zach Werenski picked up right where they left off last season as both of them notched goals. Ryan Murray, a young and bright prospect that has injury troubles, also got into the goal-scoring column.

In the assists, everybody was in their 20s. Although captain Nick Foligno turns 30 on Halloween, he’s in the 20-somethings group for just a little bit longer. Seth Jones, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Alexander Wennberg (twice) and Artemi Panarin (thrice) joined him with assists of their own.

What To Expect

When Columbus Blue Jackets fans talk about young guys on the team, they’re usually referring to Wennberg, PLD, Milano, Bjorkstrand, Werenski, Jones, etc. These incredible players are all 23 years old or younger. They are the new generation of Blue Jackets.

But we shouldn’t expect them to carry the load the entire way. Many of those players are still developing and some, like Dubois and Sonny, will need time to fully adjust to the NHL. And we still have Cam Atkinson and Nick Foligno, the leading goal scorers for the team last season. Both are years above that 23 mark, but they’re still capable of scoring at a high level.

Read Next: Former CBJ Players to Watch in 2017-18

With Atkinson in a contract year, Foligno always trying to lead his team through example and a 25-year-old Artemi Panarin out to prove he can be successful without Patrick Kane, I think the CBJ will be just fine with the “old” guys keeping most of the scoring responsibility with them.