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NHL - Columbus Blue Jackets 2018-19 season preview, rankings, projections, bold predictions, playoff chances

ESPN.com | Updated: 2018-09-28 00:02:38

With the 2018-19 season fast approaching, we're running snapshots of all 31 NHL teams, including point total projections, positional previews, best- and worst-case scenarios, and more.

With Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky entering contract years, how far can the Columbus Blue Jackets go?


How they finished in 2017-18: 45-30-7 (97 points), finished 14th in NHL, 4th in Metropolitan Division

Another early playoff exit. The Blue Jackets had dominant stretches during the season, but despite a star turn from Artemi Panarin, they struggled with scoring too often.

Over/under projected point total (per the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook): 97.5

Best-case scenario: The Blue Jackets make the deepest playoff run in franchise history -- which is, granted, the second round -- and Artemi Panarin gets the "unfinished business" fever, so he decides to re-sign.

Worst-case scenario: GM Jarmo Kekalainen trades Panarin in an early-season surprise, and the team doesn't respond well. The season is considered a wash and management declares a reset for 2019-20.

Forward overview: Non-Panarin production remains an issue. Riley Nash helps with center depth. Success is contingent on Cam Atkinson, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Boone Jenner and Alexander Wennberg finding consistency. NHL rank: 16th

Defense overview: The Blue Jackets parted with two veterans, Ian Cole and Jack Johnson, to make way for youngsters, and there's a bunch fighting for roles. Of course, putting the stud duo of Seth Jones and Zach Werenski on the top pairing can mask depth issues. NHL rank: 10th

Goalie overview: The status of Sergei Bobrovsky, a UFA after this season, might take a contentious turn (he also has a new goaltending coach). This could be the last season of Bob in Columbus. NHL rank: 3rd

Special teams: Columbus' power play was atrocious at times last season (it finished 25th in the league, at 17.2 percent). The penalty kill was equally rough (27th, at 76.2 percent). They didn't add personnel to help in either department, so improvement is dependent on execution.

Pipeline overview: The Jackets are a legit playoff contender at the NHL level, and while their prospect system lacks a bona-fide A-level prospect, they have a lot of B-level guys trending in the right direction, including 2018 picks Foudy and Kirill Marchenko, along with especially skilled forwards Vitaly Abramov and Alexandre Texier. Read more -- Chris Peters

Fantasy nugget: When adding third-line center Riley Nash is the highlight of the changes from last season, it's a sign that the Blue Jackets are happy with what they have for now. That's not necessarily a bad thing, as the team boasts top defensive assets in Jones and Werenski, Bobrovsky in goal, and a top line anchored by Dubois, Panarin and Atkinson. What has changed since this time last year? Jones is the preferred fantasy asset on the blue line and could easily be D1 material, while the second line with Nick Foligno and Wennberg can now be treated with more of a wait-and-see approach. Read more -- Sean Allen

Coach on the hot seat? John Tortorella signed a two-year extension this summer. With all the contract uncertainty among players, at least Torts is a constant.

Bold prediction: Anthony Duclair, an unrealized talent whom the Blue Jackets took a flier on, settles into a top-six role and finally breaks through with 30 goals. The twice-traded 23-year-old always had the speed and skill, but never the finish. Smartest $650,000 ever spent!

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