You’ve made it. Welcome to the first Blue Jackets’ gameday of the 2021-22 season. This week, they have four preseason games including three straight on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Their game against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday is a 7 P.M. puck drop.
Training camp is well underway as these games come fast and furious. While we can never set anything in stone, we can report on some early trends we’re seeing. That’s what we’ll do this week. Three players of interest are getting a shot in important roles early in camp. Let’s look at them now.
First Pairing Adam Boqvist?
One of the biggest questions coming into camp was who would get the first crack at playing on the right side along with Zach Werenski. At least to start, that appears to be newcomer Adam Boqvist. It’s easy to see why the team is exploring this option.
Boqvist is a righty who has good offensive upside. The question now of course is how will he handle himself defensively? If he can hold his own, he could stick there. But if he can’t, one has to wonder if he would be better suited to play with a defensive partner who can cover for him. Vladislav Gavrikov certainly becomes an option in that scenario.
But for now the Blue Jackets want to see Werenski/Boqvist in action and if it can be viable over time. They’re the team’s two best puck-moving and offensive defensemen. Each should play on the power play as the quarterback on different units. It will just be a matter of if they can develop chemistry together.
Boqvist has very intriguing upside and is still very young. Success for him this season will be measured on both how much offense he can bring to this team but also how much his defensive game has developed. Watch him and Werenski early to see if they can play effectively together.
Just Who Is Gregory Hofmann?
This is a question we need to start digging into more especially now that he’s being given a chance in a prime spot. This actually started back in the 2020-21 season when the Blue Jackets made what looked like a minor trade.
On Feb 13, 2021, the Blue Jackets acquired the rights to Gregory Hofmann from the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for a seventh-round pick. Hofmann was overseas so not much thought was given to him or the trade in the moment. Who knew if he’d even report to the team? After all he was 28 and had never played in the NHL after spending time in Switzerland.
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On Jun 14, Hofmann agreed to a one-year deal with the Blue Jackets. Now he’s skating on a line with Jack Roslovic and Oliver Bjorkstrand early on. A lot has to play out, but this could be one of the more shrewd moves GM Jarmo Kekalainen has made.
One thing does pop about Hofmann’s game on tape. He can shoot the puck. He’s already scored a couple times in camp while showing an ability to snipe. He is certainly one to watch as these preseason games get going. Hofmann finding early success could give the rest of the lineup a boost. Let’s see if it can translate now.
First-Line Center Cole Sillinger?
Cole Sillinger dominated in Traverse City. It now seems his next task is to not only make the Blue Jackets, but make it in the most important offensive position. The one thing no one can deny is that he is getting every opportunity to show what he’s got early. His linemates for now are Patrik Laine and Jakub Voracek.
Related: Sillinger/Chinakhov Shine in Traverse City
They haven’t looked out of place. In fact, they’ve looked really good together in camp.
The issues at center for the Blue Jackets are well documented. Their depth is thin down the middle. This is a big reason why many think the Blue Jackets will finish as a lottery team this season. From the Blue Jackets’ perspective, why not try Sillinger there to see what he can do?
If he’s ready now, he can gain valuable experience as he will be depended upon as one of the centers of the future. If he doesn’t happen to be ready now, that’s ok too. He can go back to the AHL or the WHL and continue developing while trying to dominate.
Sillinger doesn’t turn 19 until next May. He will have to show a lot in order to make this crowded roster. But the fact he is playing with Laine and Voracek to start should tell you everything you need to know about how exciting this player is now and will be later. Expect to see him suit up often this preseason trying to make his case.
Way Too Early Lines
I know you want to see lines. These will likely change numerous times between now and the middle of October. But at least you get some insight into what the team might be thinking. Here’s how the top-five lines and pairs lined up to start camp.
I’ll share a couple of quick observations based on the above that will be worth monitoring as camp and the preseason go on.
- If Sillinger and Chinakhov make this roster, where does Alex Texier fit? Max Domi is reportedly ahead of schedule in his rehab from shoulder surgery. Many think Texier will play center. Is there even room for him if Sillinger stays?
- Of those 15 forwards, three of them would not play on opening night assuming these players are the ones under the most consideration. Who wouldn’t make your cut?
- I didn’t list Josh Dunne and Kevin Stenlund on the forward list. They’re at camp but on other lines that seem to indicate AHL bound. Don’t lose track of them though. Their work is cut out for them but they prove they belong higher on the list.
- Mikko Lehtonen is on the fifth pair and Eric Robinson is listed where he is. It just proves the Blue Jackets’ way. Nothing’s guaranteed and everything is earned. Competition for spots is very high.
Game Roster vs. Pittsburgh 9-27-21
- Forwards: Stenlund, Hofmann, Danforth, Foudy, Dunne, Gaunce, Sillinger, Helewka, Texier, Bemstrom, Chinakhov, Mutter.
- Defense: Peeke, Harrington, Boqvist, Lehtonen, Bjorgvik-Holm, Svozil.
- Goalies: Berube, Greaves.
We’ll see you next Monday at this time where we’ll have games to discuss and much more. Have a great week!