Defenseman Jake Christiansen gave the Blue Jackets an extended audition this season, more than tripling his career high in games played in the NHL. He’s been fantastic at the AHL level, but so far has yet to really grab our attention with the big club.
Christiansen was signed to an ELC with the Blue Jackets on March 4th, 2020. As an undrafted free agent, he was coming off of a terrific season with the Everett Silvertips (WHL); where he scored 22 goals and 50 points in 38 games as an overage player. The Jackets took the chance on Christiansen and it did pay off – he’s played 140 AHL games since joining the organization, scoring 27 goals and 94 points in the process.
At the NHL level, he has yet to really establish his presence. Last year, he skated in 8 games with the club and even scored his first NHL goal. But he doesn’t seem to have developed much in the process – this year, even with the injuries to nearly every defenseman on the CBJ roster, he was only able to get into 24 games with the Jackets.
Jake is a really good skater who likes to move the puck in transition. He does a nice job finding the open man, and can make a really good first pass. Recently, we’ve seen him stepping his game up and using his body more, trying to make the big hit and bring some energy. This is encouraging to see – but with all of that said, he still struggles in the defensive zone, particularly along the walls and in front of the net. This is what has held him back so far.
He projects on a similar arc to the other Jake on the blueline – Jake Bean – and it really feels like, at some point, the team will have to choose one or the other to keep around. Neither guy has shown capable top-four play over any long stretches of time, but you can keep a guy like this around for third pairing work, or depth power-play time.
This situation may be resolved soon, rather than later: Jake Christiansen’s entry level deal is expiring this summer. The team could choose to re-sign him, but he’ll almost certainly have to take a two-way deal and try to work his way onto the roster from there. I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility that he could become a Gavin Bayreuther or Scott Harrington type of utility defenseman in this league, over time.
Final season stats: 24 games played, 0 goals, 4 assists, 4 points, 4 PIMs, -7, 25 shots on goal. Overall grade: C
It’s not that Jake was bad this season, it’s just that he hasn’t yet separated himself from the pack, so he gets a “C” grade from me. He’s only 23 years old, and we know that defensemen do take longer to develop. But, with the youth infusion and the team openly looking for veteran help on the back end, it’s possible that we have seen the last of him in a CBJ jersey. Either way, I think he can still work into an NHL job with his skating and puck skills. It just might not be here.