Columbus Blue Jackets 2023-2024 Season Preview: Sean Kuraly

Jan 21, 2023; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets center Sean Kuraly (7) celebrates his goal against the San Jose Sharks during the third period at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 21, 2023; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets center Sean Kuraly (7) celebrates his goal against the San Jose Sharks during the third period at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports /
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Sean Kuraly was one of the few CBJ players who avoided major injury during the 2022-2023 season. With all the injuries, Kuraly was leaned upon heavily in many situations last season. While he gave a great effort each night, it may have been too much to ask. Will new Coach Mike Babcock continue to lean on the grizzled veteran?

C Sean Kuraly

6’2”, 213 lbs

2022-2023 stats: 71 GP, 11 G, 9 A, 20 PTS, -28, 68 PIMs

Acquired: Signed as a Free Agent, July 2021

(Originally drafted 5th round, #133 overall, 2011 NHL Draft)

Contract: $2.5m AAV through 2024-2025

Role: Fourth line Center

CBJ Season in Review: Sean Kuraly. light. Related Story

Sean Kuraly played in a majority of the CBJ games in 2022-2023 (71 of the 82 games). He centered the 4th line, which has been the most comfortable position for him in his career. He was tasked with more responsibilities due to all the injuries. While he gave a full effort and brought energy, it was a little too much to ask of him. There were times where he seemed a little overwhelmed. He did develop good chemistry with Eric Robinson and Mathieu Olivier. The line was effective on most nights and brought a lot of energy. That line was good on the forecheck and annoyed top lines of the opponent.

Kuraly will center the 4th line again in 2023-2024. His leadership, defensive play, and approach to the game will make it too difficult for new coach Mike Babcock to keep him out of the lineup. And, he’s a natural center; Babcock loves centers and would ideally employ more than 4 centers for each game. So, expect Kuraly to be a mainstay in the lineup. He will be asked to play 15 minutes a night and bring energy. He will see time playing against the opponent’s top line and will be tasked with making it difficult to play against the CBJ each night.

One bold prediction: Kuraly will set a career high in goals with 15 or more. Over the past two seasons, Kuraly scored his two highest goal totals of his career (14 in 2021-2022, 11 in 2022-2023). If he can play a full season and the forward group as a whole can stay healthy, then I think it is not out of the question for Kuraly to reach the 15 goal mark. It’s possible he plays with some linemates that have higher offensive potential too (Danforth, Voronkov, etc.) than in prior years. This could help inflate his offensive numbers.

COLUMBUS, OHIO – APRIL 13: Sean Kuraly #7 of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins battle for puck during the first period at Nationwide Arena on April 13, 2023 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Mowry/Getty Images)
COLUMBUS, OHIO – APRIL 13: Sean Kuraly #7 of the Columbus Blue Jackets and Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins battle for puck during the first period at Nationwide Arena on April 13, 2023 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Mowry/Getty Images) /

Three keys to success:

  1. Leadership the way. Kuraly has proven to be one of the better leaders on the CBJ. He is vocal and you can see the leadership he brings on and off the ice. He needs to continue to be a leader, especially with so many younger players who will be joining the CBJ this season.
  2. Chemistry with new linemates. One of the more effective lines in 2022-2023 was the 4th line, which consisted of Kuraly, Eric Robinson, and Mathieu Olivier. There are a lot of forwards (17) pushing for ice time, which may mean that one or both of Robinson and Olivier may not make the team this season. Whomever makes the team and plays with Kuraly will need to develop chemistry. That will be good for the CBJ as a whole and for Kuraly personally.
  3. Own the PK. Kuraly is very good defensively and I’m sure new coach Mike Babcock will rely on Kuraly in defensive situations, especially the penalty kill. He needs to continue his good play on the penalty kill to stay in good graces with the new coach.

Sean Kuraly is a veteran and will be a mainstay on the 2023-2024 CBJ roster. He will be center the 4th line will likely be playing around 15 minutes a night. He needs to continue being a leader and mentor to the younger players on the team. His leadership will be important to the growth of the team. While he does not always show up on the scorecard each night, he brings a lot to the CBJ. If he can find success this season, then it is likely that the CBJ will find success.

Next. CBJ 2023-24 Season Preview: Ivan Provorov. dark