As training camp kicks off in Columbus, the Blue Jackets look to weed through nearly 70 camp invitees in search of filling out a roster of 23. Nearly all of the roster is easily predictable, except for maybe some depth spots – or who might start the season off as a healthy scratch. We released our roster preview on Tuesday, with the only real surprise being Yegor Chinakhov starting the season in the AHL. Today, let’s take a look at how the team’s special teams units might shake out.
Laine – Voracek – Gaudreau
This unit is pretty cut and dry, in my opinion. Patrik Laine is the team’s one-timer option on the left side, and he is one of the best in the world. If he can get 30 clean looks from that left circle, he’s capable of scoring 25+ times. Zach Werenski returns as the team’s top defenseman – and best power-play quarterback. He’s a very good shooter as well, but is most effective with a quick wrist shot through traffic. That traffic will likely be created by captain and net-front presence Boone Jenner, who scored 8 times on the man advantage last year – more than any other returning player.
This power-play unit likely lives and dies on the shoulders of newcomer Johnny Gaudreau. The Blue Jackets hope that Gaudreau will be the cog that finally makes this team’s power-play wheel turn. He’s more than capable, with 171 points on the man advantage for his career. His arrival means that Jakub Voracek might be passing from somewhere other than the half wall – perhaps along the goal line, or acting as the bumper from the high slot. Voracek had 23 power-play assists last year – a full 13 ahead of any other Blue Jacket. If the two can switch off and move around, it could confuse opposing PK units … which is something this team has lacked for years.
Roslovic – Nyquist – Johnson
Defenseman Adam Boqvist quarterbacks the second unit, though on a lot of teams I feel like he could be a #1 unit guy. He’s great off the rush, oftentimes playing the game like an extra forward; and is equally capable of throwing a dangerous pass or a hard shot on goal. 19 year old Cole Sillinger becomes the net-front presence for this group. He has the size and quick hands, as well as a nasty shot if he drops out and finds space. Putting Jack Roslovic on this unit ensures that the Blue Jackets have a faceoff option for either side of the ice – and he also adds some smooth hands and a quick shot to this group.
Rookie Kent Johnson plays on the half wall for the second unit. With his skill and ability to hang onto the puck for that extra second, it’s easy to see play generally running through him. One thing I don’t think teams are expecting is his shot, which could make him an immediate, lethal threat with the extra man. Veteran Gustav Nyquist has the very enviable task of playing as a leader on this talented young unit. Like Roslovic and Johnson, he can both pass and shoot the puck well, which should give this group plenty of options and different looks.
The only issue I have with these units, is that I can’t find a place to put Kirill Marchenko right away … could he be on one of them by season’s end? Does Yegor Chinakhov earn PP time if he gets called up, due to his shooting ability?