Blue Jackets 2021-22 Post-Season Awards as Picked By THW

The Columbus Blue Jackets’ 2021-22 season has come and gone, and it was a wild ride. Before we shift all of our focus over to the 2022 NHL Draft and free agency, it’s time for a look back at the season that was.

Related: Blue Jackets May Be Facing Most Important Draft in Franchise History

The Blue Jackets writers at THW have chipped in for a collaborative wrap-up piece going over the big awards for the Blue Jackets team this year. These are the same awards that we predicted at the beginning of the year, and if you don’t remember who we picked, it’s okay. We didn’t either. I added a recap of our picks under each award category for our recollection. Big thanks to Mark Scheig and Will Espy for their contributions. Will joined us mid-season, so he doesn’t have any predictions.

Metro Standings Finish – 6th place, 81 points

Considering how many pundits thought the Blue Jackets would finish in the bottom five of the league, ending the season so close to .500 is pretty significant. The trajectory of the Jackets’ season was like a sine curve, shifting from very good to very bad. Averaging out in the middle isn’t a bad place to be at this point in their retool.

As far as predictions go, we were actually pretty close on this one. I’ll give the edge to Mark for being closer instead of giving it to myself by the “Price Is Right” rules. Nothing egregiously wrong with our picks here.

Preseason Picks:

  • Mark’s Pick: 7th in Metro, 82 points
  • Nicholas’ Pick: 7th in Metro, 79 points

Geoff Sanderson Award for Most Goals — Oliver Bjorkstrand, 28

Oliver Bjorkstrand quietly had the most prolific season of his career. He set a career-high in goals with 28, points with 57, and tied his career-best for assists with 29. As a member of the Jackets’ official leadership as an assistant captain, he took another step forward in the locker room.

While his offense was at a career-high, it came at the expense of defensive responsibility on a few occasions. Whether or not you still put any weight in the plus-minus statistic, it’s hard to ignore Bjorkstrand’s atrocious minus-35 rating. It was the third-worst in the NHL this year, only ahead of Keith Yandle (minus-47) and Seth Jones (minus-37).

Oliver Bjorkstrand Columbus Blue Jackets
Oliver Bjorkstrand, Columbus Blue Jackets (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

It’s worth noting that this could’ve been a lot different if the injury bug hadn’t bitten the way it did this season. Patrik Laine scored 26 goals but would have been on pace for 38 through 82 games, and Boone Jenner scored 23 through 59 games, which would have put him at 31 goals over a full season.

Preseason Picks:

  • Mark and Nicholas’ Pick: Patrik Laine

Ray Whitney Award for Most Points — Jakub Voracek, 62

In his first year back with the team that drafted him, Jakub Voracek led the way offensively for the Jackets with what I’m sure is one of the largest assist-to-goal differentials in NHL history. Voracek scored a career low six goals while putting up his third most assists with 56.

Let’s stop right there for a second. Voracek led an NHL team in point scoring during a full 82-game season and only put up SIX goals. Ridiculous. It’s another example of how he is still one of the premier pure playmakers in the NHL over the last decade. He had a marquee season hitting 1,000 games played and became indispensable as a glue guy in the locker room.

The same injury bug situation as in the goal-scoring race could be mentioned for points scoring as well as Laine was on pace for 82 points had he played a full season. Voracek managed to squeak ahead when Laine missed the last few games of the regular season.

Preseason Picks:

  • Mark and Nicholas’ Pick: Jakub Voracek

Rick Nash Award for Most Valuable Player — Patrik Laine

1st place2nd place3rd place
NicholasElvis MerzlikinsPatrik LaineBoone Jenner
MarkPatrik LaineJake VoracekBoone Jenner
WilliamJakub VoracekPatrik LaineZach Werenski
Ballot for Most Valuable Player

What more can be said about the season Patrik Laine had this year? After a lackluster performance in his opening season, he got into the full swing of things for his sophomore year with the Blue Jackets.

One of the biggest things on display was that he became more of a two-headed beast, putting equal emphasis on playmaking along with his trademark goal scoring. Being able to pass as well as he shoots added another level to his game that made him indispensable on the attack. It’s what allowed him to hit a point-per-game rate for the first time in his career.

Related: Blue Jackets Award Predictions for the 2021-22 Season

The other big thing is that it seemed the team played differently when he was on the ice. Even if he wasn’t scoring, the team looked a little more confident when he was on the ice, which is probably why he was a part of most of the team’s big moments throughout the season. He came in clutch on a multitude of occasions leading the team with seven game-winning goals, three of which were in overtime.

Patrik Laine Columbus Blue Jackets
Patrik Laine, Columbus Blue Jackets (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

All of this success came on top of dealing with never-ending off-ice challenges, including a close personal loss and several bouts with injury. He was dynamic and how he handled himself on and off the ice endeared himself to the fanbase. Now we wait to see just how many digits there will be on his next paycheck.

Mark’s Thoughts: Despite having to overcome both personal and physical challenges, Laine’s resurgence makes him the runaway winner of Blue Jackets MVP. Had Jenner’s season not been cut short, he would have a strong case to win.

Preseason Picks:

  • Mark and Nicholas’ Pick: Elvis Merzlikins

David Vyborny Award for Best Forward – Patrik Laine

1st place2nd place3rd place
NicholasPatrik LaineBoone JennerGustav Nyquist
MarkPatrik LaineJakub VoracekBoone Jenner
WilliamJakub VoracekPatrik LaineBoone Jenner
Ballot for Best Forward

I’ll keep this one short and simple. Laine was the pick as the most valuable player, so it would be hard not to give him the Best Forward Award too. If you need a laugh, have a look at who I picked for this award at the beginning of the year. That’s one mulligan I’d love to have back.

Mark’s Thoughts: While Laine’s goal scoring gets all the attention, his playmaking is just as good, and he’s made strides defensively as well.

Preseason Picks:

  • Mark’s Pick: Boone Jenner
  • Nicholas’ Pick: Max Domi

Fedor Tyutin Award for Best Defenseman – Zach Werenski

1st place2nd place3rd place
NicholasZach WerenskiVladislav GavrikovAndrew Peeke
MarkZach WerenskiVladislav GavrikovAndrew Peeke
WilliamZach WerenskiVladislav GavrikovAndrew Peeke
Ballot for Best Defenseman

A unanimous ballot from the Blue Jackets writers on this one, seemingly building a bit of a hierarchy on the back end, Zach Werenski being the best in his “transition year” to the number one defenseman role after the departure of Seth Jones. Vladislav Gavrikov is the always reliable muscle of the blue line, and Andrew Peeke emerged as a legitimate top-four option. Peeke is the surprise of the three; I’m not sure many saw his rise being this significant so soon.

Zach Werenski Columbus Blue Jackets
Zach Werenski, Columbus Blue Jackets (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Through his first year as “the guy,” Werenski has shown that he has what it takes to lead a blue line. The next steps are a little more consistency, but he was already the most reliable player on the back end. His talent is undeniable, and now he has the contract and responsibility to match. The sky’s the limit for Werenski as he continues to blossom into one of the better two-way defensemen in the league.

Mark’s Thoughts: Werenski did nothing to disappoint in his first full season as the Blue Jackets’ true number-one defenseman. He’s still dangerous on offense, but now we see major strides on the other side too. He’s had to adjust to some things, but the progression is there.

Preseason Picks:

  • Mark and Nicholas’ Pick: Zach Werenski

Matt Calvert Award for Best Defensive Forward – Boone Jenner

1st place2nd place3rd place
NicholasBoone JennerSean KuralyGustav Nyquist
MarkBoone JennerGustav NyquistSean Kuraly
WilliamBoone JennerSean KuralyJack Roslovic
Ballot for Best Defensive Forward

One of the harder-hitting injuries of the year was the loss of Blue Jackets captain and first-line centre Boone Jenner. Jenner went seamlessly from playing a mostly defensive role in the team’s bottom-six forward corps to exemplifying two-way play while holding down the top-line centre role.

Boone Jenner Columbus Blue Jackets
Boone Jenner, Columbus Blue Jackets (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

It was an interesting transition because normally when defensive players add offense, it comes at the expense of that defense. Jenner found a way to be more offensive and maintain his defensive prowess. Jenner was the only full-time centre on the roster to win more than 50 percent of his draws (53.6 percent), was a mainstay on the penalty kill, and took a majority of his faceoffs in the defensive zone. He was another player on pace for a career year had his season not been shut down so early by injury.

Mark’s Thoughts: In every major situation, Jenner was on the ice doing his part to shut things down. His ability to win key faceoffs and then play against the opposition’s best make this no contest.

Preseason Picks:

  • Mark and Nicholas’ Pick: Boone Jenner

Steve Mason Award for Best Rookie – Cole Sillinger

1st place2nd place3rd place
NicholasCole SillingerNick BlankenburgYegor Chinakhov
MarkCole SillingerYegor ChinakhovDaniil Tarasov
WilliamCole SillingerNick BlankenburgYegor Chinakhov
Ballot for Best Rookie

Where do we start on the season that Cole Sillinger had? Going from being drafted 12th overall to being the only player from the 2021 NHL Draft to play a full season is impressive. He was also the first 18-year-old to play on opening night on a Jarmo Kekalainen-managed team, which says a lot about how the Jackets’ management views him.

He managed to play in most games, suiting up for 79 and was more than just a warm body when he was on the ice, potting 16 goals and 31 points. He will continue to make strides as he continues to get used to the rigors of a full 82-game NHL season. Remember, as a first-year pro who played junior hockey in the COVID-era, the most games he has ever played in a season is 48, which was with the Medicine Hat Tigers of the Western Hockey League in 2019-20.

Cole Sillinger, Columbus Blue Jackets
Cole Sillinger, Columbus Blue Jackets (Photo by Jason Mowry/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

With continued progression, Sillinger will be a big part of the core of this team as they continue to build their core of the future. Next season will be telling in which direction his career takes, as he now has an idea of what to expect with the compete level of the league and the busy schedule involved.

Mark’s Thoughts: What Sillinger did as an 18-year-old is nothing short of impressive. Even on his off nights, he found a way to make an impact in the game. And then when you score as many goals as Patrice Bergeron at 18, that’s something special.

Preseason Picks:

  • Mark’s Pick: Gregory Hofmann
  • Nicholas’ Pick: Cole Sillinger

Vaclav Prospal Award for Best New Addition Not Named Jakub Voracek – Sean Kuraly

1st place2nd place3rd place
NicholasSean KuralyAdam BoqvistJustin Danforth
MarkAdam BoqvistSean KuralyJake Bean
WilliamCole SillingerSean KuralyNick Blankenburg
Ballot for Best New Addition

Lots of diversity at the top of this ballot, but Ohio boy Sean Kuraly takes this one. The story of him wanting to play for his hometown team is great. He played incredibly well with increased defensive responsibilities in the second half of the season — particularly after Jenner was ruled out with injury.

Sean Kuraly Columbus Blue Jackets
Sean Kuraly, Columbus Blue Jackets (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Although it was a toss-up between Kuraly and Adam Boqvist, as the two were equally as advertised. For my money, Kuraly’s consistency on a team in desperate need of some steady hands, won him the top slot. Moving forwards, I would expect Boqvist to take more strides towards his ceiling while Kuraly plateaus where he is.

Mark’s Thoughts: Boqvist came as advertised. His offensive skills are a huge asset to the blue line, and he’s only scratching the surface of how impactful he can be.

Preseason Picks:

  • Mark and Nicholas’ Pick: Adam Boqvist

Whose Predictions Were More Accurate – Tie

Who got it right?MSFGSRWRNDVFTMCSMVPResult
NicholasXXXX4 Correct
MarkXXXX4 Correct
“X” denotes correct prediction – letters above are the initials of the player the award was named after

That’s a wrap on this season. Now we start to look forward to the 2022-23 season and the key event that unofficially kicks off the next season — the NHL Draft. We’ll be running the awards again as we head into the next season, so be on the lookout for that. In a twist of fate, we tied for the title of most accurate predictor this year, we’ll see if one person can pull ahead next season.

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