The middle six forward group has to produce better this year…
Kent Johnson 79GP, 21G, 48A, 69Pts … I’m taking another educated guess here and saying that Kent Johnson will finish second on the team in points and assists this year. I don’t think that’s really a stretch – he finished fourth in assists and fifth in points last season, and he should be more prepared heading into his second NHL season. I don’t have him quite getting to 70 points, but I do not think that’s out of reach. He’ll be a star under Mike Babcock.
Jack Roslovic 68GP, 16G, 24A, 40Pts … If Adam Fantilli (more on him later) proves he’s ready for a big role on this team, no player will suffer more than Jack Roslovic, who will probably find himself out of a top-six job. Still, he’s been a consistent producer for this team and I think he’ll get a little bit of a productivity bump because he’ll be playing with Johnson and Laine to start the year – with an offensive system that should help him. And, he’s in a contract year. We all know how that goes with talented guys.
Patrik Laine 69GP, 40G, 28A, 68Pts … Yes, I think Patrik Laine will see a bump from his career-average of ~31 goals this year. He’s healthy, motivated, and I think few players will benefit more from Babcock’s system than Laine. He has a world class shot and should be easily capable of scoring 40 goals in this league – especially if he can stay healthy and improve upon that average of 69 games per season.
Alexandre Texier 65GP, 15G, 15A, 30Pts … Texier may be the hardest player to predict on the entire roster. When he first came over from Europe, he stepped up and looked like a future second line center. But he dropped off, then started to recover … then headed back to Europe. It’s not impossible to see him on one of the power-play units, but it will be tough. I think he’ll more likely be a key penalty killer and secondary producer on this team, playing in the bottom-six. He has the skill to post nearly a half point-per-game average against secondary competition.
Adam Fantilli 78GP, 30G, 27A, 57Pts … My guess for Fantilli may seem a little bit high, but I think he’ll be on the top line alongside Gaudreau before too long. And, I think he’ll become the new net-front guy on the first power-play unit, especially if Jenner should go down with injury again. If those things happen, he’s very capable of being a 30 goal rookie in the NHL, and I definitely think he’ll be a top-six contributor to this team.
Yegor Chinakhov 68GP, 21G, 16A, 37Pts … Another player that’s hard to project, Chinakhov feels like he’s entering a make or break year for the Jackets. He has everything a coach like Mike Babcock will love: he’s big, skates well, plays hard on both sides of the puck, and can score goals. I’m optimistic that he can be a productive goal scorer this year.