Cole Sillinger was really impressive last year, and my gut says by the end of this season he’ll be playing a more key role for this team. He looks every bit the part of a high end two-way center, and I really think he’s the answer to the #1 center question here. But out of camp, I think he winds up in the middle-six, alongside veteran utility winger Gustav Nyquist and rookie Kirill Marchenko.
Nyquist plays in all situations and has become a valuable veteran voice for the club; I think he’s the perfect leader to play on this young line. Marchenko started slowly at Traverse City, but came on strong and by the end of the tournament, he looked capable of dominating. He’ll still need time to put it all together, but he’s a natural scorer who can add to this line’s two-way capabilities because he plays hard on both sides of the puck. I think this line will mesh extremely well, they all compliment each other nicely.
Sean Kuraly leads the way on the team’s checking line this season, bringing plenty of size, speed, and physicality to his two-way game. He was a revelation for the Blue Jackets last year, and seems to be a vital part of the bottom-six group here. Eric Robinson doesn’t bring much in the way of offense, but is an important speedster and key penalty killer for the club. He and Kuraly were arguably the two most consistent forwards last season, both playing their roles consistently and giving the team a quality fourth line – regardless who played on the other wing.
Justin Danforth is my bet to win the final roster spot for this team. He will be a difficult cut for Brad Larsen because of the way his motor is always turning. He’s another guy that I thought played consistently last year, keeping his game simple with plenty of speed, up and down play; and chipping in some secondary offense. I think this trio could make for a very good identity line for the Blue Jackets, taking some of the tougher defensive matchups and giving the team a solid forechecking line.
Extras: LW Emil Bemstrom, RW Mathieu Olivier
Emil Bemstrom will have to work extremely hard to win a spot at camp, but I think he will fall just short. There’s too much depth on the wings, and he’s just been passed up by too many guys. If he makes the cut, I think it’s at the expense of Danforth – or as the result of an injury. Olivier is the perfect guy to keep around the team in an extra forward role. He was acquired to add toughness and physicality to the group, and can be inserted into the lineup as needed.
Missing the cut: W Yegor Chinakhov, LW Liam Foudy, LW Brendan Gaunce