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2017-2018 NHL Preview: Columbus Blue Jackets

Artemi Panarin is the pure goal scorer they have needed for a long time. Cam finally has some help

Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

In this 31 part series, I will be working my way back from 31st to 1st in my projected 2017-2018 standings. Twenty-ninth up are the Columbus Blue Jackets who made the playoffs just once in their first 12 seasons. They have made it in 2 of the last 4 seasons and have yet to advance past the first round.

I will highlight this fact again because you will notice a trend among the teams I have in the 4th, 5th and 6th spots: The Blue Jackets are one of 5 teams who have never made it to the Stanley Cup Finals (Arizona Coyotes, Winnipeg Jets, Washington Capitals and Minnesota Wild are the 4 others.)

Basic Stats:

2016-2017 NHL Standings: 4th
Eastern Conference Standings: 3rd
Metropolitan Division Standings: 3rd
Goals for Rank: 6th
Goals against Rank: 2nd

: Columbus Blue Jackets. Boy was that a surprise last year, John Tortorella enters his second season, Sergei Bobrovsky reverted to Vezina form and the offense clicked like never before. I will start in net because while Bob was great, I think he regresses a bit this season and the team goes back to 5th-6th in goals allowed. He's still stellar but he has a history of ups and downs not to mention a lengthy history of injuries. Working my way up to defense I think they will also take a step back this year as Zach Werenski will hit a bit of a sophomore slump and he will become expose a few times on defense. Jack Johnson is getting older and Ryan Murray continues to fall short of expectations. Seth Jones and David Savard will be the core to keep things in place. On offense they took a very nice step forward with Artemi Panarin. Brandan Saad was good but the role he filled was already present with Josh Anderson, Brandon Dubinsky, Matt Calvert and Boone Jenner. The team needed a pure scorer which Cam Atkinson filled but he won't repeat his production from last season. He was shooting at 14.6%, he drops down to a 11-12% this season. Artemi Panarin coupled with infusion of young talent in Sonny Milano and Oliver Bjorkstrand will be a strong offensive push. I think this is a top 3 offense in the league and I highlight this as there are a number of potential fantasy sleepers on this team. This team had the 22nd best power play last year and just added the player with the 24th most power play goals last year, I think he helps vault their power play to an average range of 14th-16th.  The good news is that the success of this team is moving off Bobrovsky's shoulders and onto the offenses. The biggest fear here would be that the gears all clicked together perfectly for one year and they fall apart next year.

Major Additions
: Artemi Panarin
Major Subtractions: Brandon Saad, Scott Hartnell, Sam Gagner, Kyle Quincy and Anton Forsberg

Prospects and Picks:
- Pierre Luc-Dubois. The controversial 3rd overall pick in 2016 played a combined 48 games in the QMJHL for two teams (Cape Breton Screaming Eagles & Blainville-Boisbriand Armada) scoring 55 points with 21 goals. Then in the playoffs he scored an additional 22 points across 19 playoff games. He enters camp but appears still a bit out from NHL ready, he might spend a year in the AHL with the Cleveland Monsters this year. He has the strong work ethic and understanding the game, he will need some more speed to be NHL ready.

- Sonny Milano. Finally, 4 years after being drafted, it looks like Sonny is ready to crack the lineup. He is a stereotypical Boston College grad in that he has very smooth hands, bursts of speed but he is at least 6 foot (most NHL players out of Boston College are on the shorter end -€” Cam Atkinson, Johnny Gaudreau, Brian Gionta and Nathan Gerbe to name a few. He should be primed to make a good impact if he gets serious minutes.

Sleeper Fantasy Asset:
- Oliver Bjorkstrand. Scoring 13 points across 26 games last year the team sent him back to the Cleveland Monsters after he went bone dry during his first 13 games (he came back later in the season and was much more productive). He has 30+ point potential IF he comes in showing he's NHL ready AND he gets any form of respectable minutes. He has a quick shot and ability to find open ice and put away the puck.

- Sonny Milano. 47 points across 63 games in the AHL last year and what is more exciting is the potential third line of Sonny Milano, Boone  Jenner and Oliver Bjorkstrand, talk about a perfect Grinder, Playmaker, Scorer line. The line will be klunky and will assuredly be hit or miss but if it connects, it could be very very dangerous.

Cap Situation:
They currently have around $8MM with 22 players signed.

Projected finish:
2017-2018 NHL Standings: 3rd
Eastern Conference Standings: 2nd
Metropolitan Division: 2nd

NHL 4th: Minnesota Wild (Western Conference 2nd; Central Division 1st)

NHL 5th: Washington Capitals (Eastern Conference 3rd; Metropolitan Division 3rd)

NHL 6th: Nashville Predators (Western Conference 3rd; Central Division 2nd)

NHL 7th: Toronto Maple Leafs (Eastern Conference 4th; Atlantic Division 1st)

NHL 8th: Chicago Blackhawks (Western Conference 4th; Central Division 3rd)

NHL 9th: Tampa Bay Lightning (Eastern Conference 5th; Atlantic Division 2nd)

NHL 10th: Anaheim Ducks (Western Conference 5th; Pacific Division 2nd)

NHL 11th: Ottawa Senators (Eastern Conference 6th; Atlantic Division 3rd)

NHL 12th: Montreal Canadiens (Eastern Conference 7th; Atlantic Division 4th)

NHL 13th: New York Rangers (Eastern Conference 8th; Metropolitan Division 4th)

NHL 14th: Calgary Hurricanes (Western Conference 6th; Pacific Division 3rd)

NHL 15th: Carolina Hurricanes (Eastern Conference 9th; Metropolitan Division 5th)

NHL 16th: San Jose Sharks (Western Conference 7th; Pacific Division 4th)

NHL 17th: Dallas Stars (Western Conference 8th; Central Division 4th)

NHL 18th: Philadelphia Flyers (Eastern Conference 10th; Metropolitan Division 6th)

NHL 19th: Winnipeg Jets (Western Conference 9th; Central Division 5th)

NHL 20th: St. Louis Blues (Western Conference 10th; Central Division 6th)

NHL 21st: Boston Bruins (Eastern Conference 11th; Atlantic Division 5th)

NHL 22nd: Buffalo Sabres (Eastern Conference 12th; Atlantic Division 6th)

NHL 23rd: Arizona Coyotes (Western Conference 11th; Pacific Division 5th)

NHL 24th: Los Angeles Kings (Western Conference 12th; Pacific Division 6th)

NHL 25th: New Jersey Devils (Eastern Conference 13th; Metropolitan Division 7th)

NHL 26th: Detroit Red Wings (Eastern Conference 14th; Atlantic Division 7th)

NHL 27th: New York Islanders (Eastern Conference 15th; Metropolitan Division 8th)

NHL 28th: Vancouver Canucks (Western Conference 13th; Pacific Division 7th)

NHL 29th: Florida Panthers (Eastern Conference 16th; Atlantic Division 8th)

NHL 30th: Las Vegas Golden Knights (Western Conference 14th; Pacific Division 8th)

NHL 31st: Colorado Avalanche (Western Conference 15th; Central Division 7th)