It’s the start of a new season and once again The Hockey Writers’ Columbus Blue Jackets staff have come together to make our preseason predictions. Just like last season, we will come back at the end of the season to vote on all of these awards and see how close our predictions were. From standings prediction to most valuable player, we’ll take you through our predictions for the 2022-23 season.
We had no champion on our first time running this, as Mark Scheig and I were equally accurate in our predictions. Joining us for predictions this year are William Espy – who joined us in time for voting last year – and fresh face Jack Murray – who is set to be with us through the season. Let’s jump into the predictions.
Nicholas – 84 points; 6th in Metro
They are better, but so is everyone else in the Metropolitan division. Their point totals will improve slightly, but as William Shakespeare famously said, “Adding Johnny Gaudreau does not a playoff team, make.”
William – 79 points; 6th in Metro
I expect the team to take a slight step back despite the additions. It’s a growing year and the division is very strong.
Jack – 90 Points; 5th in Metro
I believe that this team has improved from last year but is still behind the top teams in the division and will be outside of the top four.
Mark – 82 points; 7th Metro
Their defense is going to let them down unless they do something in-season to address it.
Ray Whitney Award for Most Points
Unanimous Pick – Johnny Gaudreau
Nicholas – 77 points – He’s got new systems to learn and a new city to live in. There will be a step back from his aberration of a 115-point season last year, but he will still be the most productive Blue Jacket through 82 games.
William – 88 points – He’ll certainly take a small step backwards from his incredible production in Calgary but still perform at a high level.
Jack – 88 Points – Gaudreau will be dynamic in his first season in the Metro and will still be over a point per game but it will be hard to match his 115-point campaign with a new team in a new division and conference.
Mark – 80 points – Gaudreau will still get his points, but with Laine’s injury, his upside becomes limited.
Geoff Sanderson Award for Most Goals
Unanimous Pick – Patrik Laine
Nicholas – 35 goals – I had him at over 40 before his injury, but if he keeps getting hurt no amount of crisp, Johnny Gaudreau passes will get him over the 40-goal mark.
William – 37 goals – Of course, health is an issue for Laine, but if he stays healthy for a majority of the season after recovering from his current injury; he can certainly come close to the 40 mark.
Jack – 30 goals – His early season injury complicates this prediction but playing with a star playmaker like Gaudreau should really increase his goal production. This number would be higher but his injury is why it is only a slight increase from last season.
Mark – 32 goals – Laine missing the first month of the season will cost him a shot at 40, but he’ll still finish.
David Vyborny Award for Best Forward
Unanimous pick – Johnny Gaudreau
Nicholas – The consistent all-around talent is undeniable. He is without a doubt the most skilled player on the roster.
Jack – I hate to keep hammering this point home but Gaudreau will be the engine for this team. He is one of the best players in the NHL and will need to be the face of the team.
Mark – His skill is always on display and will help elevate his teammates.
Fedor Tyutin Award for Best Defenseman
Unanimous Pick – Zach Werenski
Nicholas – Werenski will own this award throughout the duration of this contract. He is on another level compared to other Blue Jacket rearguards.
Jack – Staying mainstream again here but Werenski is a top-tier defenseman that makes others on the ice better just with his presence.
Mark – Werenski can do it all and will need to in order for the Blue Jackets to take the next step.
Pascal Leclaire Best Goalie
Unanimous Pick – Elvis Merzlikins
Nicholas – We’re a year or two away from Tarasov challenging for this title, and Elvis is the goalie of the present. He brings an “it factor” to the ice that no one else does.
Jack – With Korpisalo out to begin the year, this is Merzlikins’ opportunity to make this his team. He will be the unquestioned starter and his play will directly correlate to the team’s success.
Mark – His defense needs to help him, but he should have a better season.
Matt Calvert Award for Best Defensive Forward
Nicholas, Jack, and Mark – Boone Jenner
Nicholas – Great with faceoffs. Great with penalty killing. Simply an excellent two-way player. There is no weak area in his game.
Jack – Jenner has to be the best if he continues to play between Gaudreau and Laine. Both of the latter players have been called defensive liabilities so they need a sound defensive player to make up for this.
Mark – His health is of utmost importance as he will need to play in all situations.
William – Johnny Gaudreau
He’s a very underrated defensive forward and it’s already been a very noticeable part of his game.
Steve Mason Award for Best Rookie
Unanimous Pick – Kent Johnson
Nicholas – I don’t know if he’ll be a Calder candidate, but if he plays a majority of games 35-40 points aren’t out of reach. If he gets any time on the first power-play unit we’ll get a real taste of what is to come.
Jack – Johnson should get some opportunities with the Blue Jackets this season and has the potential to be a dynamic goal scorer when he develops. If he is placed in the right situation, he can excel right away.
Mark – Johnson will have his growing pains, but will show flashes of brilliance.
Vaclav Prospal Award for Most Underrated Player
Nicholas – Gustav Nyquist
Nobody sings his praises as they should. He scores in big moments, kills penalties like a boss, and is reliable when no one else is. He flies under the radar behind names like Gaudreau, Laine, Werenski, Voracek, and Jenner.
William – Justin Danforth
He’s getting some heavy usage at the moment, but he’s blossoming into a major piece of the organization very unexpectedly.
Jack – Sean Kuraly
The Dublin, OH native excels in a bottom-six role and can eat minutes to give the top scorers more rest.
Mark – Cole Sillinger
The big guys will get the attention, but 19-year-old Sillinger will impress again.
Most Likely to be Traded During the Season
Unanimous Pick – Gustav Nyquist
Nicholas – I hate to write this, but Nyquist is the clearest trade candidate for Columbus this year. One year left on his deal and you can bet that other NHL teams don’t underrate what he brings to a roster. What team wouldn’t want to add Nyquist to their playoff push – especially if the Jackets agreed to retain some of his salary.
William – As an aging forward in the last year of his contract, he’s a prime trade candidate though I’d rather see someone like Bemstrom moved.
Related: Blue Jackets’ Nyquist Is a Stealth Trade Chip
Jack – Nyquist is entering the final year of his contract for a team that is a cusp playoff contender. He could help another team if things look to be trending downward in Columbus.
Mark – Think he’s a trade deadline candidate given the young players that will be ready for a bigger role.
Rick Nash Award for Most Valuable Player
Nicholas – Patrik Laine
“Best” and “most valuable” are two very different things in my books. Laine brings a goal-scoring talent that no one else can to the Blue Jackets’ forward corps. We have already seen how neutered their offense becomes when Laine is missing from the lineup. Gaudreau, Voracek, and Johnson are all elite playmakers, but they are severely hampered if they don’t have someone to finish the job as Laine can.
Jack – Zach Werenski
While Gaudreau is the key to the team’s success, Werenski is the horse that makes the team function.
William and Mark – Johnny Gaudreau
Mark – He will do everything he can to help keep the Blue Jackets in the playoff race.
We Shall See
The Blue Jackets have a long season ahead of them, so we will store these picks away until the end of the season and name some winners. There will no doubt be some surprises, especially with the youth movement currently taking over the team moving forward. Player injuries, scoring streaks, and so many other factors will affect the outcome this season.