Central Ohio native Sean Kuraly has locked down the role of checking line center for the Blue Jackets. While he’ll never produce huge numbers offensively, his role as a play driving, physical force cannot be overlooked.
When team signed Kuraly as a free agent two summers ago, folks were … skeptical … about the dollar amount and term. I don’t think a lot of people are skeptical any longer. With two years under his belt, Kuraly has been everything advertised, and more, for a young rebuilding team.
Drafted in the fifth round all the way back in 2011 by the San Jose Sharks, Kuraly took the NCAA route and did not debut at the professional level until 2016. He spent five years in the Boston Bruins organization before signing a four year, $10 million dollar contract with his hometown Blue Jackets.
Last season, he set career highs with 14 goals and 30 points in his first year with the Jackets. He followed that up with another solid season this year, though at slightly less production; scoring 11 goals and 20 points in 71 games. But, Sean isn’t on the team for his scoring prowess – he’s here because he’s an established role player, who brings a lot to the table.
At 6’2″ and over 210 pounds, Kuraly is an energetic player who competes hard on both sides of the puck. He’s great in the faceoff circle, kills penalties, blocks shots, and is an absolute monster on the forecheck. For a young team that is sorely thin down the middle, Kuraly has been nothing but rock solid, giving the team reliable shifts at both ends of the ice.
You certainly won’t find me complaining about his contract. Through the rebuild, his dollar amount has been very palatable, and hasn’t affected the team’s other decisions in any major way. They needed a veteran presence for the lineup, and a legitimate two-way center. They got that in Kuraly, and probably more than they expected to get out of him when they signed him. He simply brings it every single shift, every single night.
Final season stats: 71 games played, 11 goals, 9 assists, 20 points, 68 PIMs, -28, 100 shots on goal. Overall grade: C+
He’s paid like a bottom six center, and that’s what he does. I’ll argue that he’s one of the best in the league at his role, and in fact, I hope this team can string together a playoff run while he’s still here. This is the kind of guy that you want to go into battle with when the games get tough, and he deserves the opportunity to show that value with his hometown team.