Nick Blankenburg, 5-9, 175 pounds
May 12, 1998 (24 years old)
Signed as a free agent April 8, 2022
Cap hit: $825k through 2023-24
Role: Depth defenseman
Without a doubt, plenty of NHL teams with prospects playing for the Michigan Wolverines saw Nick Blankenburg play hockey over the last few seasons. But the Blue Jackets clearly saw something they liked in the undersized defenseman, signing him to an NHL contract on the same day they inked first round pick Kent Johnson to an entry level deal. Both immediately joined the club and made their debuts less than a week later; and while many expected Johnson to make an early impact, it was Blankenburg who shined right away.
In his senior NCAA season, Blankenburg captained the Wolverines and skated alongside one of the top defense prospects in all of hockey, Owen Power. He scored 14 goals and 29 points in 38 games, setting career highs across the board. When he joined the Blue Jackets late in the season, he made an immediate impact at both ends of the ice. In fact, it took less than 40 minutes for him to get promoted off of the third pairing, and by the time his season was cut short due to injury, he was seeing minutes on the top defense pairing.
Blankenburg plays a surprisingly physical style for his size, and carries a confident swagger on both sides of the puck. He’s a flashy defenseman who can chip in offensively, or throw a big hit in open ice. His confidence and maturity showed through quickly for the Blue Jackets, and makes him an intriguing player heading into this season. At the moment, it’s hard to pencil him into the team’s top-6; but he is the obvious first candidate to earn playing time when injuries occur – or should someone start the season slowly.
Three Keys to Success
- Take advantage. As an undrafted 24 year old, opportunities will be few and far between for Nick. He needs to stand out and make things happen every time he’s on the ice, if he wants to earn playing time.
- Swagger. He’s capable of standing out (key #1) because of the way he plays the game. Former head coach John Tortorella might eloquently call him “gutsy”, but that befits him. If he can show up to camp with that same confidence, he may very well earn a spot on opening night.
- Stay healthy. Even if he does all of the above, he can’t miss time due to injury like he did last year. He has to be ready to play every time he’s called upon.
2022-23 Expectation: Don’t miss a beat.
The best thing for Nick Blankenburg this season, would be to keep his chin up and play his absolute hardest whenever he gets a chance. It may seem like an easy task, but as the likely seventh defenseman, he has to keep a positive attitude and stand out in practice and game situations. I think he’s fully capable of passing up at least one or two players who are ahead of him on the depth chart, which could make for some interesting decisions with this team moving forward. For the Blue Jackets, there’s nothing wrong with having too much talent in one position – the only question is, where do they all play? Read: 2022 Season Preview: Erik Gudbranson