The Columbus Blue Jackets are closing out the first real season of their rebuild, and although there were some major hardships, some of their forwards exceeded expectations. The team is in the top half of the league in goals per game, and overall, the team’s offensive production has been a key part of their ability to widen the gap from the bottom of the league. The following are just three Blue Jackets who have exceeded expectations offensively this season and have contributed heavily to the team’s success.
While Eric Robinson may not be the first name that comes to mind when it comes to offensive production, he has had a very solid season; he set career-highs in goals, assists, and points and still has a few games to further improve those numbers. On top of that, he has continued to bring energy every time he steps on the ice.
Robinson’s line is always among the most notable, and although they don’t necessarily get on the scoreboard as often as others, they are game-changers in the bottom six. Robinson is also producing at a higher level with similar ice time and roughly the same shooting percentage, meaning he should be able to duplicate this level of production in the future. There are no signs of this season being an outlier, and if he can play like this next season, he’ll be a solid third-line option and an exceptional fourth-line player if they don’t need to play him higher up.
Gustav Nyquist had to sit out the entire 2020-21 season following major shoulder surgery, and there was concern about how he’d perform once he was fully healthy. Those concerns were squashed fairly quickly, and it became abundantly clear that he is a key player for the team who is enjoying the third-best season of his career points-wise. He has been playing heavy minutes on special teams as a regular on both the power play and penalty kill, and he leads the team with four shorthanded goals and is tied for fifth in power-play goals.
At 32 years old, he’s one of the most experienced players on the roster, and as a result, he’s had to take on a major leadership role this season. Following the departure of leaders like Nick Foligno and Cam Atkinson, there were a lot of questions as to who would fill their shoes. Nyquist has done an admirable job alongside new captain Boone Jenner and would make the previous leadership proud.
Jenner has had a phenomenal 2021-22 season when he has been healthy. He’s missed quite a bit of time nearing the end of the season; it’s been a month and a half since he last suited up for the Blue Jackets. Statistically, his best season is still 2015-16, when he first sported a letter in the NHL. Realistically though, this season has been the best of his career, and it’s not close. Had he played a full 82-game campaign, he almost certainly would have set a career-high in goals, assists, and points, and possibly even power-play goals and points as well.
As one of the faces of the franchise, alongside Patrik Laine and Zach Werenski, Jenner has performed very well with increased responsibilities. The key going forward will be his ability to perform at such a high level consistently. After his 30-goal season in 2015-16, he fell back to third-line offensive production for the next few seasons. As the captain, he must do everything in his power to ensure that history doesn’t repeat itself.
Overall, the offense has been a major bright spot in a difficult season for the Blue Jackets. Had their defensive play been at the same level, they would almost certainly be in a playoff spot today. As the “reset”, so-called by general manager Jarmo Kekalainen, continues into next season, there are promising signs on the roster for the future. While Robinson, Nyquist, and Jenner were the three highlighted today, many players could’ve made this list, and that number will easily continue to grow as the team improves.
William Espy is a graduate of California State University, Stanislaus. He has been writing about hockey since 2016 on various platforms. He currently covers the Columbus Blue Jackets but had a previous stint covering the Calgary Flames.