By the time the puck drops on the 2025-26 season, the Columbus Blue Jacket roster will look a lot different.
At that time, the rebuild should be pretty well over. They will be looking to pass the leadership torch from the previous group; on to what should be a competitive, upstart team.
Forward Line 1: Johnny Gaudreau-Adam Fantilli-Kirill Marchenko. Gaudreau should still be able to produce big numbers in the NHL. Hopefully, by this point, Fantilli will have emerged as a true #1 center. Marchenko is arguably the most consistent all-around winger on the team already, and he's only getting better.
Forward Line 2: Kent Johnson-Dmitri Voronkov-Yegor Chinakhov. You get size and a quality two-way presence down the middle, a (hopefully) elite playmaker and an elite shooter. These guys are already pretty close to playing at this level, this season.
Forward Line 3: Boone Jenner-Cole Sillinger-Jordan Dumais. One might be inclined to have Sillinger on the second line - especially based on recency bias. The good news is, you can swap him and Voronkov up and down the lineup as needed, because they're both showing that they can be solid at both ends of the ice. Jenner is the wily veteran, who will free up space for newly incoming rookie Jordan Dumais; who could turn into a superstar.
Forward Line 4: Alexandre Texier-Luca del bel Belluz-Gavin Brindley. Texier remains the steady two-way presence in the bottom-six; while del bel Belluz and Brindley bring some two-way acumen and scoring upside to the lineup. This would be an exciting line to watch, and perhaps with sheltered minutes, highly productive.
Extras: James Malatesta, Hunter McKown
Defense Pair 1: Zach Werenski-David Jiricek. Hopefully by this time, Jiricek will be on the NHL roster and in his rightful place; alongside Werenski on the top defense pair. This is what Jiricek was drafted to develop into, and there's no reason he shouldn't be ready for big minutes in 2025.
Defense Pair 2: Adam Boqvist-Damon Severson. I think the Jackets will keep Boqvist around for at least a couple more years - or, at least until he gets passed up on the depth chart. His experience by this time will be very important, because there is going to be a lot of youth infused into this lineup. Especially on the back-end.
Defense Pair 3: Denton Mateychuk-Erik Gudbranson. Gudbranson will be in the final year of his contract at this point, and he'll be expected to mentor Mateychuk. I don't expect Denton to be relegated to the bottom-four for long. He's going to be a major building block.
Extras: Corson Ceulemans, Stanislav Svozil
Goaltenders: Elvis Merzlikins, Jet Greaves. Barring any massive trades or rapidly developing prospects, I think it's somewhat clear that this will be the goaltending tandem by the time the puck drops on the 2025 season. With a good team in front of them, these guys should be fine.