Wereknski a key to Blue Jackets and not just the blue line
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS
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.