After his lengthy contract holdout, Josh Anderson is now back in the States and working to get into game shape before suiting up for the Jackets. (Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports)
This isn’t a huge deal. He isn’t quite ready for NHL action and the Jackets will give him the opportunity to work himself into game shape down in the minors. He will miss Friday night’s game and most likely won’t suit up in Chicago on Saturday night. It’s possible that Anderson will make his season debut on Tuesday night against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Hopefully, any tension from contact negotiations or any physical rust will be worn off by the time his season starts. The Jackets are hoping to get a similar, if not better, Anderson from last season. The 23-year-old tallied 17 goals in his rookie season and will seek to prove that total was no fluke.
The 31-year-old veteran is coming off offseason wrist surgery that held him from most of the preseason. For a while, Dubinsky was questionable to be ready for opening night but he suited up in the final preaseason game in Pittsburgh last Saturday.
In that game, he was flying around, throwing the body all over the place like he usually does. Maybe that’s just because it was the Pittsburgh Penguins, a team he loves to play against but either way, it’s good news to see him ahead of schedule out on the ice in actual gameplay.
I’ll be giving him an extra look early on to see if he is truly fully recovered from surgery. He’s also coming off a down year as far as point totals go. He played in all but two of the Jackets’ 82 regular season games last season and only notched a line of 12-29-41.
Dubinsky isn’t a guy that should be expected to fill the net. As an assistant captain, he’s a phenomenal leader and will do anything to help the team win, whether that is being physical or blocking shots. However, 12 goals marks his lowest total as a Blue Jacket since the 2012-13 lockout shortened season.
Assistant captain Brandon Dubinsky is coming off of wrist surgery this summer. His early season play will determine if he has fully recovered. (Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports)
I don’t expect to see any major indications that Dubinsky isn’t fully healthy or ready to begin the season but he is slated to be the third center behind Foligno and Alexander Wennberg. Is this because the Jackets are lacking center depth and need Dubinsky for opening night even if he isn’t 100%? That’s just a theory I’m throwing out there.
I think Dubinsky as the third line center gives the Jackets great balance throughout the forward group. Hopefully, he can provide some scoring to that third line on top of the grit that pours out of him from game to game.
Ryan Murray and Gabriel Carlsson
Because the two are projected to be a defensive pairing, I’ll place them on my watch list as a package deal. Murray’s presence on the Blue Jackets has been discussed across the hockey world. Is he a key member of the team? Why is he not living up to the expectations of a former second overall pick? Is he going to be traded? All of these questions have swirled around him for some time now and even though I can’t speak for the player, it has to be difficult to avoid all that talk.
He now has a chance to swat all these discussions down with a solid performance to start the season. But how is it possible for him to live up to former second overall pick expectations when he’s playing on the bottom pairing? We’ll see what the future holds for Murray in Columbus. Perhaps his early play will have an impact on that future.
Ryan Murray is still in Columbus after trade rumors surrounded him for a while. How does he react on the ice to all these rumblings? Photo: Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers
As for Gabriel Carlsson, this will be his first season start with the Blue Jackets. He came in basically out of thin air at the very end of last season and played solid minutes in the playoffs. His performance might not have blown anybody away but it was impressive for a guy who had no NHL experience to compete like he did.
After a strong showing in training camp, he forced management to give him a spot on the 23-man roster. It’s pretty clear that his potential is very high and he has done well to squeeze himself into an already sturdy defensive group. He has a chance right away to showcase why it was a good move for the Jackets to trade up for a first round pick to select him in the 2016 Draft.
To clarify, I’m not putting on blinders to the rest of the team. I will follow all players as close as I possibly can. This is just a short list of players that, to me, deserve an extra spotlight because of where they’re positioned on the squad right now.
Jackets newcomer Artemi Panarin should be an honorable mention on this list. It will be interesting to see if all the hype is too big for him. I’m not at all worried about him. He has already shown that he is as dynamic as advertised and will provide the Jackets with the scoring help they need.
Like I said before, every player for the Jackets has his own level of importance. As a team, they can do some incredible things. Last year was the best year in franchise history. Can the team build on that historic season and make a push for the playoffs? That’s the big question that they’ll attempt to tackle later on. Right now, it’s all about winning game one.