Alexander Nylander's Spark Has Helped Ignite the Columbus Blue Jackets

Since trading underperforming forward Emil Bemstrom to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Columbus Blue Jackets are 3-2-0.
Vegas Golden Knights v Columbus Blue Jackets
Vegas Golden Knights v Columbus Blue Jackets / Jason Mowry/GettyImages

The Blue Jackets are 3-2-0 in their last 5 games. It's only a slight turn-around (they've been playing close to .500 hockey since November), but their play has been noticeably better.

What changed over the last two weeks? The club traded struggling long-time winger Emil Bemstrom to the Pittsburgh Penguins, returning another struggling winger: Alexander Nylander.

So far, it seems that Nylander and the Blue Jackets are a match made in heaven. Just as we all expected, right?

One could say that Nylander, like Bemstrom, maybe just needed a change of scenery. That wasn't as apparent at first for Alex, who was already joining his fourth NHL franchise in four years.

He hadn't scored an NHL goal since April 8, 2023. In fact, through six seasons in the NHL, he'd managed only 14 goals and 34 points in 98 career games. That's not ideal for a guy who was the 8th overall pick in his draft.

The Blue Jackets, meanwhile, were probably just looking for a body to replace the spot vacated by Bemstrom. I can't imagine their hopes were too high in acquiring Nylander.

In fact, I'm sure part of acquiring this specific player, was the comfort in knowing that they could bounce him between the NHL and AHL as needed. Nobody would likely claim Nylander off of waivers.

All of that has changed in two weeks. Slotted onto a makeshift third line with Cole Sillinger and Kent Johnson (since injured and replaced by Alexandre Texier); Nylander's addition has been eye opening.

Head coach Pascal Vincent has rolled this line out confidently, against any opposition, with wild success. In those 5 games, Nylander has 4 goals and 6 points - including his first career hat-trick last night. Sillinger has added 3 goals and 1 assist in that time as well.

They're red hot, both with points streaks (Sillinger, 4; Nylander, 3) coming into tonight's game. Their new linemate (Texier) has points in two straight as well (1g, 2a).

I'm not entirely sure why it's worked so well for Nylander and the Blue Jackets. I'm not even close to convinced it's sustainable. But, it's worth pointing out that the team has looked immensely more confident since this trade.

Maybe it's the case of a guy who knows he has to play for his next contract. Or, maybe he's just hot. Whatever the reason, it's obvious that there's been immediate chemistry between Nylander and Sillinger.

Whatever is going on, it sure has been fun to watch. Hopefully we're seeing the emergence of a late bloomer.