Welcome back to Columbus Blue Jackets News and Rumors. We have a lot to get to this week so let’s dive right in. The Blue Jackets have a decision to make this week about one of their young players. We’ll also talk injuries and then about a player who’s playing in an unusual spot for him but making the most of it. Then we’ll end with lots of side dishes to consider.
Cole Sillinger’s Immediate Future
Sillinger impressed in Traverse City. He impressed in training camp and the preseason. He’s shown well in eight regular season games. But now it’s decision time for the Blue Jackets.
The team must decide if they are going to keep Sillinger in the NHL for a potential 10th game. Doing so would burn off a season on his entry-level deal. Game 9 is Wednesday in Denver and Game 10 is Saturday night back in Columbus should he play those games.
Sillinger has done everything asked of him to this point. Head coach Brad Larsen has liked everything he’s seen so far even admitting to there being some built up trust already in Sillinger. With that said, Larsen says that there is more to learn.
The options in play here it seems are staying in the NHL or going to AHL Cleveland. I do not see a scenario where Sillinger goes back to the WHL especially when he can make plays like this one.
The decision comes down to one thing: what is best for Sillinger’s development? Let’s look at the state of the Blue Jackets to give you an idea of how this could play out.
If Sillinger stays with the Blue Jackets, he’s likely their third-line center. This is subject to change as we go. But for now, both Boone Jenner and Jack Roslovic are holding down the top-two spots. Jenner in particular has been outstanding this season with five goals and developing into one of their most important players overall.
Should Sillinger go to Cleveland, he would get an opportunity to play top minutes in all situations. That’s not a bad option at all considering he’s still just 18 years old.
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So which will it be? Bottom-six NHL center or top-line AHL center? That’s what the Blue Jackets will be deciding in the coming days.
My personal opinion, I think Sillinger stays in the NHL. He’s done everything asked of him and deserves the chance to stay with his play. Even if it burns a year off the contract, him getting a chance to develop in the NHL could prove beneficial down the road.
We’ll see if the Blue Jackets agree this week.
Adam Boqvist’s Status
Adam Boqvist has now missed the Blue Jackets’ last three games with a lower-body injury. Larsen has not provided any specifics as to what the nature of the injury is.
The fact that Boqvist is listed as day-to-day and hasn’t been put on injured reserve does suggest the injury doesn’t appear to be serious. With a break in the schedule, just two games this week and then five days off, that should give Boqvist ample time to recover unless the injury doesn’t heal expected.
Boqvist’s absence has forced the Blue Jackets to move their defensemen around. Only Andrew Peeke is a right-shot with Boqvist out. The question was how would this group manage?
So far, they’ve been ok. There’s certainly plenty of room for improvement but they’ve played well enough to keep the team in games. At 5-3-0 after eight games, that’s a respectable place to be.
We won’t get a new update on Boqvist until possibly Tuesday after practice. So tune in then for the latest.
Sean Kuraly’s Unusual Fourth-Line Role
Do you notice something different about the Blue Jackets’ fourth line? If you’re paying close attention, you should. The Blue Jackets’ “fourth line” is not your everyday typical fourth line.
Kuraly is the center on that line. That’s no surprise. But look who his wingers are. On one side, you have speedster Eric Robinson. On the other, you have a speed and skilled guy in Alex Texier. That’s not a line who’s going to grind you to death.
Prior to coming to the Blue Jackets, Kuraly played the same role of bottom-six center. But he played with players who were more physical and not as known for speed or skill. This is an adjustment for Kuraly. I spoke to him on Sunday about this. This is a new experience for him but one that he’s excited to be a part of.
“I’ve played with more traditional bottom-six players for the most part, so it’s new but it’s exciting,” Kuraly said. “It’s fresh for me and something I want to capitalize on and really take advantage of is playing with great players like that. It’s definitely been a change (for me) but it is fun and feels like an opportunity where we can all grow together. We can adapt to each other’s games a little bit.”
The other thing Kuraly is excited about is the way Larsen is handling lines. Larsen is showing more of a willingness to be patient with the lines allowing them to develop chemistry even if things aren’t going well in a particular game. Kuraly said that he was not used to this but is excited about the consistency and the way Larsen is handling it. He’s used to being moved around the lineup playing with different players. For now though, he’s locked in with one line and consistent linemates.
“I haven’t always been given that luxury,” Kuraly said. “So this is definitely exciting for me.”
If this trio is allowed to stay together for a long time and grow together, it will be interesting to see where it goes. Not many fourth lines can attack with the speed and skill this one has. If they’re able to play a consistent game, that will allow Larsen to play all four lines which could help reduce wear and tear on the top guys later in the season.
It’s a new and different experience for Kuraly, but he is ready and willing to embrace the opportunity and make the best of it.
- Joonas Korpisalo won his first game of the season Sunday in New Jersey. He was particularly outstanding in the third period and overtime to allow the Blue Jackets the chance to win it in the shootout. Think Montreal could use a goalie like him about now?
- Zach Werenski played over 33 minutes on Sunday. I think he’s embracing the role of number-one defenseman well in the early going.
- It’s easy to see why Jenner was named the captain of this team. Look at the impact he’s having all over the ice. Every big faceoff he’s usually a part of. He has impact on both special team’s units. And after scoring the 3-3 goal Sunday, he leads the Blue Jackets in goals. He has taken his game to another level.
- Jake Voracek had two assists and the game-winning shootout goal on Sunday. Postgame, Voracek said he thought Scott Wedgewood was thinking he’d go five-hole. That’s why he switched it up and went backhand roof. The scouting report on shootouts is always interesting to hear when players talk about them.
- Asked Larsen on Sunday about the schedule and all the off time the team has with just three games in the next 12 days. He appreciates the practice time. “I don’t mind some practice time early in the season. We have more of that coming in the next two weeks. It gives us a chance to really assess after 10 games some of our weaknesses and what we really need to dial in on. I think we have four or five days after that Colorado game. So we’re going to use that time.”
I am a fully credentialed writer who covers the Columbus Blue Jackets, Cleveland Monsters and Erie Otters as well as the Ontario Hockey League and NHL Draft. The 2021-22 season will mark eight seasons with the Hockey Writers. I am also the site’s Credentials Manager.