The Columbus Blue Jackets have cut their roster down to the mandated 31 players that will enter the bubble in Toronto in advance of their first-round series against the Maple Leafs.
They are no real surprises here. The group consists of 17 forwards, 11 defensemen and three goalies. The Blue Jackets opted to take just three goalies instead of cutting another skater.
Here is their roster.
- Forwards: Josh Anderson, Cam Atkinson, Emil Bemstrom, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Nick Foligno, Liam Foudy, Nathan Gerbe, Boone Jenner, Stefan Matteau, Riley Nash, Gustav Nyquist, Eric Robinson, Devin Shore, Kevin Stenlund, Alexandre Texier, Alexander Wennberg.
- Defense: Gabriel Carlsson, Adam Clendening, Vladislav Gavrikov, Scott Harrington, Seth Jones, Dean Kukan, Ryan Murray, Markus Nutivaara, Andrew Peeke, David Savard, Zach Werenski.
- Goalies: Matiss Kivlenieks, Joonas Koripsalo, Elvis Merzlikins.
A Real Youth Movement
Upon first look at the roster, you will see a real youth movement. These Blue Jackets will enter the bubble as one of the youngest teams in this tournament.
Of note, guys like Eric Robinson, Liam Foudy and Andrew Peeke all could have a role in their series against the Maple Leafs. Robinson was one of the stand outs during Training Camp 2.0 and has the speed to make a difference in a short series. If there’s a dark horse Blue Jacket to watch, it’s Robinson.
Foudy as expected will get a chance to play right away. And Peeke could get a shot if some of the other bottom-pair defensemen struggle. Peeke is the least likely to draw in at this point but the fact he got this far suggests he could be an option.
The Blue Jackets will also have a goaltending duo making their postseason debuts. Korpisalo and Merzlikins are each 26. Youth is being served and is a sign of what could be coming in Columbus in future seasons.
Anderson is still recovering from shoulder surgery and could draw in if the Blue Jackets advance in the playoffs. He has had a season to forget.
Anderson scored just one goal this season and has been out since December with the shoulder issue. He opted for surgery that had a 4-6 month recovery. He is in that timeframe now. Six months would put him in September.
His presence can change the dynamic of any series the Blue Jackets are in despite the season he had. His speed and physical play would be a handful for many teams to contain. The question is how close is he to ready? He has been getting some work in back in Columbus and is on the roster now.
My suspicion is that Anderson won’t play in the Toronto series but could be an option as early as the round-of-16 should the Blue Jackets get there. He hasn’t been cleared for contact so the timeframe is TBD. Still it will be important for him to skate in the bubble with the team in the hopes he could be ready. On a side note, who would have ever thought we’d see him again this season after surgery in March and a six-month recovery? Welcome to 2020.
Filling In The Gaps
Head coach John Tortorella was notably irritated at the last few practices his team had prior to coming to the bubble. There’s still lots to be settled from a lineup perspective.
Tortorella recently said that two of his lines two of his defensive pairs have been set. The rest is up for grabs. That’s why it’s noteworthy that some fringe skaters made the roster. They have a chance to crack the lineup before next Sunday night’s Game 1.
Nathan Gerbe, Kevin Stenlund and Devin Shore are three players worth watching this week. Should any of the other forwards struggle, they might get their chance. This also seems to imply that Robinson and Foudy will play in Game 1. Both have looked like they belong and deserve the chance.
On defense, it’s generally assumed five spots are accounted for. Those are Jones, Werenski, Gavrikov, Savard and Murray. But that sixth spot is up for grabs. Kukan, Nutivaara, Harrington and Peeke all could make a run for that spot. This week’s practices and their exhibition game against Boston could tell the tale. I’ll be curious to see who plays in the exhibition game.
And we still don’t know who the starting goalie will be. Overall, I’d say Merzlikins has looked better than Korpisalo in the small sample size of training camp but this seems wide open still. We might not know until gameday who will get the net. No matter who it is, each deserve a shot. Whoever impresses this week likely wins the battle. But there will be an extremely short lease should the starter struggle.
The exhibition game is Thursday night against the Bruins at 7 P.M. Then Game 1 against the Maple Leafs is Sunday night at 8 P.M. The game will be seen on Fox Sports Ohio, NHL Network and Sportsnet.