Columbus Blue Jackets 2023-24 player review: Sean Kuraly

An important role player for the Blue Jackets, Sean Kuraly holds down the fourth line center job for the team. He has one year remaining on his contract with the club.
Columbus Blue Jackets v Carolina Hurricanes
Columbus Blue Jackets v Carolina Hurricanes / Jaylynn Nash/GettyImages

One of the toughest things about having a really young NHL team: figuring out where guys fit. The Jackets are fortunate to have a smattering of good veterans around, however.

Near the top of that list of good veterans is Sean Kuraly. While they may have to shift players around throughout the rest of the lineup, Kuraly is firmly entrenched as this team's checking line center.

Signed to a four year contract worth $10 million dollars by the Blue Jackets back in /July of 2021, Kuraly has been the team's bottom-six anchor for his entire tenure here.

Plenty of players have come and gone from his flanks. Most prevalent was speedster Eric Robinson, recently lost via trade to Buffalo. Currently, he's often surrounded by guys such as Mathieu Olivier, Justin Danforth, and Alexandre Texier.

These players all share a common theme: they're reliable, straight lines players. Which is exactly what we have in Kuraly himself.

He's dependable because he competes in any situation. Beginning with faceoffs, where he hovers right around 50% for a team that sorely lacks experience in that department.

Kuraly is usually one of the first players over the boards in a penalty kill situation, or any defensive zone scenario. That's where he's made his living in the NHL - his compete level, size and speed make him reliable on the defensive side of the puck.

Offensively, there is a lot left to be desired here. Kuraly is good on the forecheck for all of the same reasons he's good defensively (compete level, speed, size...), but, he doesn't have high end scoring abilities.

This year, he posted a modest 9 goals and 18 points in 62 games. Essentially, right on pace with his career average.

If you look at it just from a productivity perspective, you're likely underwhelmed. But from a character and leadership standpoint - as well as eating up hard minutes against better competition - Kuraly is second to few in the entire league.

This year, he even improved upon his overall plus/minus rating, finishing with a -5. That's a full 23 point improvement over last year. Part of that is due to him playing fewer minutes against top opposition (almost two fewer minutes per game overall).

But, it's a significant enough improvement to point out. Overall, he had the kind of year we've grown to expect from him.

. Sean Kuraly 2023-24 season grade:. Kuraly 23-24. C+. Final season stats: 62gp, 9g, 9a, 18pts, -5, 40PiMs, 92SOG

A passing grade with a bit of a bump due to his unwillingness to quit, even when the games were out of reach. I expect Kuraly to return next season in the same role, providing depth and leadership down the middle. He could be trade bait at the deadline though, with an expiring contract.