While this season will ultimately be written off as lost – is it really a lost season if the young players on the roster gain experience and improve?
Let’s start with Kirill Marchenko’s development this year. Up front, I felt like he should have been on this team to start the season, but a stint in the AHL helped him get his feet wet. By the time he came up, he looked like an NHL-ready top-six winger … so that development plan might have been the correct way to go.
Suddenly, he’s one off the league lead for goals by rookies with 20, despite playing in 24 fewer games than the only player ahead of him. This ties him for the franchise record, held by Pierre-Luc Dubois. Next up on that list are as follows: Rick Nash (17), Boone Jenner (16) Cole Sillinger (16) and Kent Johnson (15 and counting). What can we learn from the history of the top rookies this franchise has ever had?
Well, for starters, we can put Nash, Jenner and Dubois into one sub-category because we know what they all became; they’re the veterans on this list. But the other common theme with these guys is: they were basically the only impactful rookies on each of those Blue Jacket teams.
In 2002-03, Nash led the way amongst rookies with 17 goals and 39 points. The next two on the team were 28 year old Lasse Pirjeta (11g, 21p) and 24 year old Derrick Walser (4g, 17p). In Jenner’s rookie year of 2013-14; he scored 16g and 29p – the only other rookie to produce anything notable was Ryan Murray (4g, 17p). In Dubois’ rookie year (2017-18), it was himself (20g, 48p); followed up by Sonny Milano (14g, 22p) and 24 year old Markus Hannikainen (3g, 3a).
The other three players we noted on the top of the goals list by rookies, are all in their first or second year with the Blue Jacket organization. Both Johnson and Marchenko are eyeing franchise bests as rookies … at the same time. This in a year where we just signed Johnny Gaudreau; adding him to a roster including Patrik Laine and Zach Werenski, with some seriously good young talent already on and around the team.
The problem this year is, they’ve all been forced into more significant roles because of the situation this team is in. But this instance isn’t comparable to the other times this team has had high draft picks – these guys aren’t going at it mostly alone. This is a young core that is learning together, and will hopefully grow together, and become the core of this franchise for years to come. And there’s more coming…