Wereknski a key to Blue Jackets and not just the blue line

September 27, 2017
FILE - In this April 20, 2017, file photo, Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella has words for a referee during the third period in Game 5 of an NHL first-round hockey playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Pittsburgh. Tortorella, who picked up the Jack Adams Trophy as the league’s best coach, said moving the team forward includes an expectation that it will win and advance to the playoffs every season from now on. .(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)


LAST SEASON: 50-24-8, third in Metropolitan Division. Eliminated by Pittsburgh in first round of playoffs.

COACH: John Tortorella, third year, 84-57-16.

ADDED: LW Artemi Panarin.

LOST: C William Karlsson, C Sam Gagner, LW Scott Hartnell, LW Brandon Saad.

PLAYER TO WATCH: D Zach Werenski. The 20-year-old rewrote the team’s record book last year, setting rookie marks for points, assists, power-play points and shots. He and 22-year-old Seth Jones make up one of the best defensive first lines in the NHL. Werenski, who finished last season with 11 goals and 36 points, the second-most points in a season by a Blue Jackets defenseman, also runs the power play.

OUTLOOK: The young Blue Jackets tasted playoff success last year and are determined to get back there. They have the talent to do it, too. Another 16-game winning streak might not be in the cards, but Columbus has the juice to compete in the rugged Metropolitan Division with heavyweights Pittsburgh and Washington. The acquisition of Panarin from the Chicago Blackhawks gives them another much-needed sniper. And it all starts with Vezina-winning goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, who is itching to get back to work after his miscues led to the Blue Jackets being eliminated from the playoffs by Pittsburgh in the opening round.

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