The Blue Jackets have been playing much better hockey over the last month or so; in fact, over their last 10 games they have a respectable 4-4-2 record. Suddenly they’re hanging around in games against some of the best teams in the league, and part of that is because of the growth in the younger players on the roster. One player that is standing out: rookie Kent Johnson.
Johnson went through a stretch of four games in mid-January where he averaged around 10:30 per game, registering six shots on goal and just one assist in that time. But he stuck with things, and since an embarrassing 5-3 loss at home to the Anaheim Ducks on January 19 where he played fewer than 12 minutes, he’s earned a lot more ice time – and he’s taken advantage of it.
In those 10 games, Kent has 4 goals and 4 assists while averaging nearly 16:00 per game. With what amounts to second line minutes, he’s scoring at nearly a point per game pace – giving the team some much needed run support outside of the top line.
He and sophomore center Cole Sillinger have developed a fine chemistry, feeding off of each other and having some great shifts in the offensive zone. While Sillinger has just one assist in that span, he’s been real close on several occasions and the two seem like they’re on the verge of breaking out. It’s really simple: they are moving their feet and working, which is freeing up space for them to use their skill.
Suddenly, Johnson finds himself catching the NHL leaders in rookie scoring. His 27 points on the season currently sits tied for fourth in the league with Calen Addison (MIN); behind Cole Perfetti (WPG, 29pts), Mason McTavish (ANA, 30pts), and former teammate Matty Beniers (SEA, 38pts). If he can keep up this rapid pace for any stretch of time, he has a chance to work his way up this list.
Head Coach Brad Larsen has preached patience with the young players on this team all season, and now that the team is starting to have positive results most nights, it seems like he knows what he’s doing. All season long we’ve been able to count on Johnny Gaudreau and Boone Jenner (when healthy) to produce offense. Patrik Laine is quietly having a fine year. But secondary scoring is starting to show up, and it’s coming from the players that should be the core of this team for years to come.
In a down season like this, we have to dig for the positives and hope that they can pull this team back onto the right track. Seeing improvement and confidence in players like Johnson, Sillinger, and Kirill Marchenko, is exactly what we should be hoping for. After all, this could be the future first or second line in Columbus.