The air is significantly cooler than last week. Posters are up on both sides of Nationwide Arena. The preseason is wrapped up, and we have our opening night roster.
This means only one thing...
Hockey is back.
COLUMBUS, OHIO — The Blue Jackets are preparing for their season opener on Thursday, October 12th, at home. Before we dive into specifics, let's reflect on just how we got here after a whirlwind of an offseason.
April 15th: The Blue Jackets and HC Brad Larsen part ways after a difficult season. The Jackets finished second-to-last in the league behind the Anaheim Ducks. That being said, the 5th line strung together consecutive sellouts to end the season.
May 8th: The Jackets get awarded the third overall pick in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. Jackets fans across the board are devastated, feeling like they deserve young phenom Connor Bedard. Instead, they drop a spot.
June 6th: Blue Jackets acquire defenseman Ivan Provorov from PHI in a three-team trade, giving up a first-round pick and a conditional second-round pick in 2024/25.
June 9th: Blue Jackets acquire Damon Severson from NJD, giving up a third-round pick in exchange for the young D-man. Severson signs a 6.25 million AAV contract on an eight-year term before getting traded.
June 28: The Blue Jackets select Adam Fantilli at third overall. Fantilli was projected to go second, so Jackets fans are pretty thrilled.
July 1st: The Blue Jackets hire controversial head coach Mike Babcock.
July 2nd-5th: Development camp begins and fans from all over show up and show out to support the young prospects.
September 12th: Social media personality and former NHL'er Paul Bissonnette claims on the podcast Spittin' Chicklets that Mike Babcock went through the phones and camera rolls of various players. The Blue Jackets are quick to deny those claims. The NHLPA starts an investigation.
September 17th: With training camp just three days away, the Blue Jackets prospects are in Traverse City. It is announced that Mike Babcock has resigned from the head coaching position in Columbus amid the NHLPA investigation's conclusion. Assistant coach Pascal Vincent has been named the new head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
OPENING NIGHT ROSTER
The Jackets opening night choices did not offer any unexpected twists.
All the players set to kick off the season on Thursday have prior NHL experience, with the sole exception being Adam Fantilli.
Promising players David Jiricek, Nick Blankenburg, and Dmitri Voronkov are bound to make a mark with the big club at some point this season. For now, they will get big minutes with the Monsters to start the year.
No season preview would be complete without some daring predictions.
- Jiricek and Voronkov will be full-time NHL players by the end of November.
- Elvis will have a bounce-back season. (Knock on wood!)
- There will be a blockbuster deal before the midway mark.
- The Jackets will push for a playoff spot.
THE GOALIE SITUATION
With Daniil Tarasov battling an injury to start the year, Elvis will be joined by newcomer Spencer Martin for the time being. Martin posted 11-15-1 last season, good for an .871 save percentage.
Elvis had an extremely rough go last season, posting a 7-18-2 record in 30 appearances with Columbus. His save percentage was among the worst in the NHL (including only goalies who played 25 games or more), falling in front of only Spencer Martin.
There is currently no timetable for Tarasov's return.
-Obviously, Fantilli Looked good. We will get a full rundown on him momentarily.
-Elvis looked decent, which is better than how he looked last year.
-The Jackets had a revolving theme of getting a good-sized lead and giving it up midway through the game. Hopefully, that is something we don't see in the regular season.
-There are plenty of NHL caliber players that are only improving in Cleveland. Hopefully, we won't encounter another injury crisis like last year. It seems like the Jackets are better equipped to manage such situations this season.
-Mateychuk and Jiricek are poised to transform the Jackets' defense into an elite force within the NHL.
-Emil Bemstrom earned a spot, but I expect Voronkov to come up and take it rather quickly.
FANTILLI'S STANDOUT PRESEASON
On Thursday, Adam Fantilli will be celebrating his 19th birthday during the much-anticipated home opener. While the spotlight this summer has been on phenom Connor Bedard, it's worth noting that Fantilli had an impressive camp, contributing with two goals and two assists in four games.
His first goal came at home against St. Louis, with a one-timer bouncing off the defense into the net.
Fantilli also tacked on another goal in Washington, this one being a quick release from the slot that squeaked through goalie Darcy Kuemper.
All in all, Fantilli had an impressive point per game.
THE LAINE PROJECT
Patrik Laine has seamlessly transitioned to the center position, and he's kept his confidence intact.
When asked about competing with the league's top stars, he stated, "I’m not going to start kissing everybody’s ass or pumping everybody’s tires. I know I can compete with those guys, and that’s why I want to do this in the first place."
Laine's preseason stats speak to his confidence, as he notched four goals and four assists, totaling eight points in five games (Tied for second in the league in preseason points).
HOME SCHEDULE HIGHLIGHTS
Obviously, 10/12- Opening night
10/14- Panarin and the Rangers come in for "Hockey for Her" night.
11/16- Hockey Fights Cancer Night vs. Arizona
11/22- Bedard comes to Nationwide Arena for the first time.
12/8- First Responder Night vs. St. Louis
1/2- Boston comes to town for the first game of 24'
2/10- There is nothing special about this game vs. Tampa, but it is my birthday that day!
2/29- Military Appreciation Night vs. Carolina
3/9- Kids takeover vs Nashville
4/6- 5th Line Celebration vs. Philadelphia
4/16- Final regular season game vs. Carolina
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-Ian Phillips (@ianphillips9) for Yamo Media