Features

30 in 30: Blue Jackets add Horton to lineup

Saturday, 08.24.2013 / 11:30 AM / Features
NHL.com

The Columbus Blue Jackets became the NHL's lovable underdog last season, and their mad dash for a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs after a slow start to the shortened season came up just short.

What looked like a long-term rebuilding project for new general manager Jarmo Kekalainen might not be now with a Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender, a potentially deep defense corps and a couple of new frontline talents at forward. Marian Gaborik arrived before the trade deadline, and Nathan Horton joined him as one of the marquee free agent signings.

Beyond signing Horton to a seven-year, $37.1 million contract, it has been a remarkably quiet offseason in Columbus. The Blue Jackets didn't add any players on one-way contracts or lose anyone to a one-way deal to another team. They had three first-round picks at the 2013 NHL Draft and ended up staying put and making each of the selections.

Horton isn't likely to be ready for the start of the season after shoulder surgery, and there is some regression expected. A productive year for Gaborik, or breakthrough seasons from Ryan Johansen or Cam Atkinson could divert some of that regression.

The Blue Jackets are moving to the new Metropolitan Division, where the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers look like the class of the group on paper, but the other six teams all seem like plausible candidates to finish anywhere from third to out of the playoffs.

Here is the projected 2013-14 lineup for the Blue Jackets:

Forwards

Cam Atkinson - Artem Anisimov - Marian Gaborik

RJ Umberger- Ryan Johansen - Nathan Horton

Matt Calvert - Brandon Dubinsky - Nick Foligno

Blake Comeau - Mark Letestu - Jared Boll

Derek MacKenzie

Defensemen

Jack Johnson - Fedor Tyutin

Nikita Nikitin - James Wisniewski

Ryan Murray - Tim Erixon

Dalton Prout

Goaltenders

Sergei Bobrovsky

Curtis McElhinney

NOTES: The three forwards expected to be the team's top goal-scorers (Gaborik, Horton, Atkinson) are natural right wings, and a shift to the other side didn't work so well for Gaborik in New York. When everyone is healthy, expect Atkinson to be the one who makes the move.

Until Horton is healthy, it is certainly possible Atkinson stays on the right side and Dubinsky is the likely candidate to move into the top six with Letestu sliding up to No. 3 center. Boone Jenner could force his way into the lineup during training camp.

Murray, the No. 2 pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, missed a huge chunk of last season with a shoulder injury. Whether or not he is ready for the NHL after missing the development time will be a story to watch during camp. There are some options if Murray isn't ready; David Savard, Cody Goloubef and Ilari Melart could compete with Prout for that opening in the top six.

There will be plenty of focus on Bobrovsky trying to repeat his amazing 2012-13 season. McElhinney could see some competition for the backup spot from free agent signing Mike McKenna.

Follow Corey Masisak on Twitter at: @cmasisak22

For all 30 in 30 stories go to NHL.com/30in30stories and for the full 30 in 30 schedule visit NHL.com/30in30.

2013-14 FANTASY PREVIEW: JACKETS

Under-valued: Marian Gaborik -- Since 2005-06, Gaborik has been extremely productive every other year: 38 games, 66 points in '05-06; 42 goals, 83 points in '07-08; 42 goals, 86 points in '09-10; and 41 goals, 76 points in '11-12. The in-between years haven't been quite the same, but 2013-14 falls on the good year -- expect 35-plus goals and 70-plus points while Gaborik finds comfort playing for a new coach in Columbus.

Over-valued: Sergei Bobrovsky -- Bobrovsky's breakout campaign last season was no fluke, but it's still questionable whether he'll be a top-five goalie this year. Columbus as a team has certainly improved, but to replicate -- or even come close to -- the 2.00 goals-against average and .932 save percentage he had last season is unrealistic. Think more like a 2.35 GAA and .920 save percentage, which is still impressive.

Sleeper: Artem Anisimov -- At 25 years old, could this finally be his breakthrough year? After dealing with concussion issues last season and finishing with 11 goals and 18 points in 35 games, Anisimov should be on the top line alongside Gaborik, and he might just put it all together in 2013-14.

Author: Corey Masisak | NHL.com Staff Writer

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - BOS 82 54 19 9 261 177 117
2 y - PIT 82 51 24 7 249 207 109
3 x - TBL 82 46 27 9 240 215 101
4 x - MTL 82 46 28 8 215 204 100
5 x - NYR 82 45 31 6 218 193 96
6 x - PHI 82 42 30 10 236 235 94
7 x - CBJ 82 43 32 7 231 216 93
8 x - DET 82 39 28 15 222 230 93
9 WSH 82 38 30 14 235 240 90
10 NJD 82 35 29 18 197 208 88
11 OTT 82 37 31 14 236 265 88
12 TOR 82 38 36 8 231 256 84
13 CAR 82 36 35 11 207 230 83
14 NYI 82 34 37 11 225 267 79
15 FLA 82 29 45 8 196 268 66
16 BUF 82 21 51 10 157 248 52

STATS

2013-2014 PLAYOFFS
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Johnson 2 2 1 0 3
M. Calvert 2 2 0 3 2
R. Johansen 2 1 1 -1 2
B. Dubinsky 2 0 2 0 2
D. Savard 2 0 2 1 2
B. Jenner 2 0 2 -1 2
D. MacKenzie 2 1 0 0 1
M. Letestu 2 1 0 1 1
A. Anisimov 2 0 1 -1 1
C. Atkinson 2 0 1 1 1
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
S. Bobrovsky 1 1 0 .905 3.00
 
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