Things are a little more tricky up front. The Blue Jackets are loaded with quality wingers; in fact I count no less than 12 who will realistically be competing for roster spots on opening night (assuming the RFAs are signed): Jakub Voracek, Gustav Nyquist, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Eric Robinson, Yegor Chinakhov, Kent Johnson, Emil Bemstrom (RFA), Patrik Laine (RFA), Alexandre Texier, Kirill Marchenko, Liam Foudy, and Trey Fix-Wolansky (RFA).
Now, it would be easy to write off guys like Foudy or Fix-Wolansky – both have had injury troubles and may need some game experience in the AHL, before a call-up later in the season. But, that still leaves you with 10 players battling it out for what will probably be, 9 roster spots. Who else do you exclude from that group? Bemstrom could use a change of scenery is probably the most obvious, and may be an easy player to trade based on his performance internationally. But even so, you’re healthy scratching one of Marchenko, Johnson, Chinakhov, or Robinson on a nightly basis. It’s a good problem to have, but that’s not ideal for the player that is sitting. All of these guys should be playing and developing as much as possible.
Looking at the centers, it’s a slightly different issue. There’s plenty of depth here, but no real top end talent: Boone Jenner, Jack Roslovic, Cole Sillinger, Sean Kuraly, and Justin Danforth. One could argue that Kent Johnson might be included in this group rather than the wings, but I’m not sure he’s ready to be a full-time NHL center.
Is there a top line center out of that group? I don’t see it. Jenner was strong in his role last year, but ideally I still think he’s best as a left wing. Which only adds to the depth and confusion on the wings. Roslovic recently signed a team-friendly two-year deal, and was fantastic in stretches where he produced like a middle-six center, but also disappeared for long periods of time, including a 15 game stretch to start the season with just four assists. Sillinger will be expected to take a step forward in his production, but even so I think he’s still just a third line player at this point, and at his peak, I think he’ll be a second liner. Kuraly and Danforth are fine in depth roles – though Danforth may also be better suited on the wing, giving the team a strong fourth line with Kuraly and Robinson.
In the end, you have 17 skaters vying for 14 roster spots. Which is fine if you subtract Bemstrom, Foudy, and Fix-Wolansky. But, you still have a glaring need for a top line center, and will have some pretty good players sitting in the press boxes when the lineup is healthy.