One of the most confusing and frustrating NHL teams in the minds of fantasy owners is the Columbus Blue Jackets. Confusing, because they have a pile of talent in the system and you aren’t exactly certain how things will shake out for them. Frustrating because a defensive system, as well as historically questionable treatment of the young guns.
Not to say the treatment is right or wrong. But from a fantasy standpoint, it is frustrating and confusing.
The biggest reason fantasy owners temper their expectations on some of the promising youngsters is what happened to Gilbert Brule. Here is a sixth overall pick in an NHL draft, coming off impressive junior numbers and an equally impressive cup of coffee in the NHL as an 18 year old (four points in seven games). He made the team as a 19 year old, but saw such few minutes that he posted just 19 points. The following year, it was less ice time and even few points (nine).
Then there is Rick Nash. He is an NHL star by many standards and a superstar by some. He is the heart and soul of this Columbus team and after seeing him on the world stage, you can only come away believing that he has that rare ability to top 95 points some day.
So why is his career high 69?
By the end of this season, Nash should sit at around 77 points. So after six NHL seasons, he will still be searching for that first 80-point campaign. Would he have already reached that plateau on the Kings? The Coyotes? The Senators? You could name all of the other 29 NHL teams and wonder how many more (or fewer) points he could be tallying in a single campaign.
Fantasy owners are hopeful, but they are not 100 percent secure in the young Blue Jackets. Nikita Filatov, Derick Brassard and Jakub Voracek are the Big 3 prospects. All three have the potential to at least flirt with 90 points. Filatov could probably give 100 a healthy run. But on this team? Within the next five years?
The good news for Voracek owners is that he has nearly twice the points that Brule had as a 19 year old and although he is seeing just 12:39 ice time per game, it is actually closer to 14 minutes per game as the season wears on. The good news for Filatov owners is that the team is trying to take things slow with him. Perhaps if they did this with Brule, he would be 65-point player by now.
All we can say for sure is that things are very promising, especially with the way Antoine Vermette is playing since joining the team, as well as Kristian Huselius’ potential whenever his team (be it Columbus or Calgary) ices two solid scoring lines and the focus is shifted off of him. Potentially, Vermette, Nash, Huselius, Brassard, Filatov and Voracek could lead a potent offense, with R.J. Umberger as a nice supplement to that. But just temper your expectations a little – particularly on the timeline…
The Toronto line of Mikhail Grabovski, Alexei Ponikarovsky and Nikolai Kulemin has been on fire lately, combining for 21 points in the last four games. The three hail from Belarus (but born in Germany), Ukraine and Russia respectively, and there is some potential that this line could remain together (as much as line combos remain together in today’s NHL) for this year and next. Either way, all three will see improved numbers next campaign…
Colorado’s Paul Stastny is having a miserable time of things. After making a huge splash as a rookie, he has really faltered. Prior to his appendectomy in January of 2008, Stastny had 127 points in 128 career games. Since then, he has 61 points in 74 regular season and playoff games and has missed time with a knee injury, a foot injury and a broken arm. He’ll bounce back, but one wonders by how much, given the declining offense around him in Colorado.