In this 31 part series, I will be working my way back from 31st to 1st in my projected 2019-2020 standings. I will first note some ongoing trends that are happening in the league. Goals scored per game went up for the fourth consecutive season (at 3.01 goals per game last year), shots against finally dipped last season to 31.3 per game after increasing for four consecutive seasons previously. It’s clear the league’s push towards offense is yielding its intended effect.
Eighth up are the Columbus Blue Jackets who are in their 18th season as an NHL team. Last season they won a playoff series becoming the last active team in the NHL to do so. They then abruptly lost three key players to the playoff series win.
2018 – 2019 NHL Stats
- NHL Standings: 13th
- Goals for Rank: 12th
- Goals against Rank: 11th
- PP Rank: 28th
- PK Rank: 1st
Projected 2019-2020 NHL Stats
- NHL Standings: 23th
- Eastern Conference Standings: 13th
- Metropolitan Division Standings: 8th
- Coach: John Tortorella (5th season with Columbus 176-118-19; career 622-493-37-105)
On offense, losing Artemi Panarin strips Columbus of their top scorer. The top line of Pierre-Luc Dubois, Cam Atkinson and Gustav Nyquist is decent but this team is lacking a star. The team does have respectable depth, with four decent lines in lieu of one dominant line. Players like Nick Foligno, Boone Jenner, Josh Anderson, Oliver Bjorkstrand and Alexander Wennberg have shown flashes of skill, whether they can work together this season and put it together will be the key to success. This team certainly has a handful of grinders between Foligno, Jenner and Anderson who do not shy away from fighting for the puck in corners and creating turnovers.
Defensively, this team is one of the better units in the NHL. Last year they not only boasted the best PK unit but they allowed the 6th fewest shots against goal as well having two defensemen among the top 21 in scoring last year (Zach Werenski and Seth Jones). Beyond those two Ryan Murray, David Savard, Dean Kukan and Markus Nutivaara present a top five comprehensive defensive unit in the NHL. The big test for them will be, without two time Vezina winning goalie behind them, can they step up even more to ensure minimal pressure on Joonas and Elvis?
In net, Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins will battle out (or more likely platoon) the goaltender position. Joonas had a not so great 2.95 GAA and a .897 sv% last season both landing him outside the top 30 in the NHL. Elvis played in the Switzerland league last year with a 2.44 GAA and a .921 sv% and at the age of 25 still has some growth in his game to come. I anticipate the team using both early on to see what they have in each player.
Behind the bench, John Tortorella really revitalized himself in Columbus. He’s now made the playoffs three out of four seasons from a team who previously made the playoffs two of the previous 14 seasons. This will be a rough one after the players who left but John has shown he is capable behind the bench.
- Gustav Nyquist
- Sergei Bobrovsky
- Artemi Panarin
- Matt Duchene
Prospects and Picks
Liam Foudy — Selected 18th overall in the 2018 draft, I remember him not being in many experts lists only to have them immediately say “great selection by Columbus”. I like to think part of this is due to the fact that Pierre-Luc Dubois appears to be the correct pick at #3 in 2016, Markus Nutivaara was a 7th round gem in 2015 and Zach Werenski has proven to be a stud selection at #8 in 2015. Liam has spent the last three seasons in the OHL with the London Knights amassing 68 points and 36 goals last season across 62 games. Liam will see some time with the AHL affiliate Cleveland Monsters this year and might even see a brief stint in the pros late in the season.
Sleeper Fantasy Asset
Oliver Bjorkstrand — He came in strong in a short stint in 2015-2016 scoring eight points in 12 games in conjunction with an AHL win with the Monsters that season. The next season he came in for 13 points including six goals in 26 games. The last two seasons he has put up around 40 points in each season dropping to just an average of 12 minutes per game last season. I think he bumps up around 14 minutes and we see a 20-25 goal, 45-50 point season.
Cap Situation: (per CapFriendly)
$65MM Spent; $15M in Cap room; 21 players signed.