3 Blue Jackets Who Can Contend for an Award in 2022-23

After their performance during the 2021-22 season, it seems odd to be discussing players on the Columbus Blue Jackets who could be in the running for awards at the end of the campaign. With that being said, there are a few options expected to be on this season’s roster who could be legitimate contenders to take home some hardware.

Kent Johnson – Calder Memorial Trophy

Kent Johnson made his NHL debut towards the end of the 2021-22 season following his run with the Michigan Wolverines in the NCAA. While he showed a few glimpses of his talent during his first run with the Blue Jackets, he hadn’t yet adapted to the professional game. Having a full training camp behind him should certainly help him start the upcoming season at the highest possible level. During the team’s first preseason game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, he played on the first line alongside Patrik Laine and Johnny Gaudreau. During that game, his playmaking abilities and true level of talent were certainly on display. If he were to play alongside those two stars in the regular season, Johnson could have a tremendous rookie season statistically.

Kent Johnson Columbus Blue Jackets
Kent Johnson, Columbus Blue Jackets (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)

When you factor in Johnson’s flashy play style, there’s a high chance he will make waves across the NHL. Last season Anaheim Ducks forward Trevor Zegras took the league by storm, and this season Johnson could certainly do the same. If he brings the same highlight-reel plays that were showcased for Michigan last season, he will be recognized around the NHL very quickly. The Calder Memorial Trophy isn’t a popularity contest by any means, but that popularity doesn’t hurt either. If he can perform at a high level offensively and make an impression around the league, then there’s definitely a chance he’ll be a finalist for the award next summer.

Kirill Marchenko – Calder Memorial Trophy

As a former second-round pick, Kirill Marchenko doesn’t have the recognition around the NHL that the aforementioned Johnson does. The hype around his arrival in Columbus has grown consistently over the last few years, and now he’s finally ready to make his debut for the Blue Jackets. However, that hasn’t spread outside the State of Ohio, as he isn’t viewed as one of the league’s top prospects despite his importance to the organization’s prospect pool. That can quickly change this upcoming season though, as the 22-year-old Russian looks to make an impact right out of the gate.

Marchenko has spent the last few seasons splitting time between SKA St. Petersburg in the Kontinental Hockey League and their farm team SKA-Neva St. Petersburg. During the 2021-22 season, he made the most out of limited ice time and put up impressive numbers considering the circumstances. It’s possible he starts the season in the American Hockey League, however, if that is the case; it’s very likely he becomes a regular in the NHL by the end of the season. He’s certainly a dark horse for the Calder, but he’s a player that may surprise quite a few people around the league if he’s given the opportunity to do so.

Johnny Gaudreau – Hart Memorial Trophy

Johnny Gaudreau is one of the newest Blue Jackets, and while he’ll need an incredible season to be in contention for the Hart Trophy, it’s certainly a possibility. Last season with the Calgary Flames, he finished fourth in voting while putting up the best numbers of his career. It’s unlikely he’ll win the award in his first season with the team, however, it wouldn’t be unthinkable for him to be in the top-10 once again. If the aforementioned line of Gaudreau, Laine, and Johnson becomes a reality, then it’s reasonable to assume that all three of them will put up quite a few points.

Related: 3 Blue Jackets Who Need to Prove Themselves in 2022-23

It will take a phenomenal season for Gaudreau to duplicate his performance from the 2021-22 campaign. Since he’s already done it once though, it’s definitely possible he can make it happen again. Dethroning players like Auston Matthews and Connor McDavid from the top of the race will be a nearly impossible feat. With that being said, Gaudreau has continually overcome the odds throughout his career.

The Blue Jackets may not be the most obvious choice in the NHL to have players competing for individual hardware next summer. There are a few options who could do just that though. It could be a rookie making an impactful debut in the NHL or a newly acquired veteran proving his talent isn’t confined to a single city. Either way, there’s a good chance a Blue Jacket finds a way into an award race at the end of the season.

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