Blue Jackets Have Shown Massive Improvements at Center This Season

There is no secret that last season (2020-21), the Columbus Blue Jackets lacked depth and skill at the center position. Heading into the 2021-22 season, there were significant questions at center ice, and it was a common belief that it would be a major weakness of the team heading into the season.

In response to those questions, the Blue Jackets added experience and depth by signing former Bruin and Columbus native Sean Kuraly and drafting promising centers Kent Johnson and Cole Sillinger in the first round of the 2021 NHL Draft.

In this piece, we will be taking a deep dive into the center ice spot this season compared to last season to see if these moves have helped what was a massive weakness of the team in 2020-21.

Blue Jackets Centers Are Scoring at a Higher Rate This Season

Even though Kent Johnson is still a Michigan Wolverine and has yet to make his NHL and Blue Jacket debut, the signing of Kuraly and the addition of Sillinger have still made plenty of difference when it comes to production from the center position.

In the shortened 56-game season in 2020-21, the centers for Columbus had 40 goals and 69 assists for a total of 109 points. That was a pace of 59 goals, 101 assists, and 160 points in a regular 82-game season.

Just 27 games into the 2021-22 season, the Blue Jacket centers have almost matched the number of goals scored in 56 games last season. So far, they have scored 37 goals, recorded 36 assists, and have a total of 73 points (19 of which have been from Kuraly and Sillinger). That’s on pace for an 82 game total of 112 goals, 109 assists, and 221 points.

Sean Kuraly Columbus Blue Jackets
Columbus’ signing of hometown native Sean Kuraly has helped bring a spark to the center ice position’s offense. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

With the addition of Kuraly and Sillinger and the improvement of young centers the team already had, the team is on pace to see a significant 38 percent uptick in the amount of scoring from their centermen.

The Blue Jackets’ Faceoff Percentage Has Improved Dramatically

In the 2020-21 season, the Blue Jackets were abysmal in the faceoff circle. They won just 45.3 percent of their faceoffs, which was the second-worst percentage in the NHL. Columbus was at 30th in the league, ahead of just the New York Rangers, who were at 44.5 percent.

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Boone Jenner was the only center who played more than 10 games that had a faceoff percentage (FO%) above 50 percent in 2020-21 (55.1 percent).

In comparison, in the 2021-22 season, the Blue Jackets are at 12th in the NHL with a FO% of 50.7 percent, over a five percent increase from a season ago. Columbus also has two centers with 10+ games with a FO% above 50 percent, Jenner (55.7 percent) and Kuraly (52.3 percent).

The addition of Kuraly has brought a boost to Columbus’ faceoff success. On top of the acquisition of Kuraly, who has a career FO% of 51 percent, Jack Roslovic, who had a FO% in the 30s, has lifted that percentage by nearly 10 points to the upper-40s. With additions and improvements in the circle amongst players who have been on the roster, the faceoff circle is no longer a weakness for the Blue Jackets.

The Blue Jackets Top Scoring Center This Season Is on Pace for Better Production Than Last Season’s

Last season, Columbus’ top-scoring center was Roslovic. He scored 12 goals, recorded 22 assists, and had a total of 34 points. That was a pace of 50 points in 82 games.

This season, the top-scoring center is Jenner, who looks to be on his way to a career season. Jenner currently has 18 points and has the team lead in goals with 11. He is on pace for 33 goals, 22 assists, and 55 points for the season.

Boone Jenner Columbus Blue Jackets
Boone Jenner is on pace for a career season with 55 points. (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Jenner is on his way to scoring more than the Roslovic did a season ago. With his team-high in goals and FO%, he is leading the charge of improvement amongst the center ice position.

Blue Jackets’ Future Is Bright at Center

With the addition of Kuraly, an experienced center, and Jenner looking to have a career year, the centerman position looks stronger in Columbus.

Add that with the fact that Kent Johnson has yet to take the ice for Columbus, Sillinger having a great rookie season, and Texier more than doubling his goal total from a season ago in 27 games, center ice is in good hands. With players improving and playing to their best ability, young players improving and that aren’t finished developing, and significant increases in scoring and FO%, the future is bright for the center position for the Blue Jackets.

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