Dobber's offseason fantasy hockey grades – Columbus Blue Jackets
For the last 15 years (12 with The Hockey News, last year’s via pinch-hitter Cam Robinson) Dobber has reviewed each team from a fantasy-hockey standpoint and graded them.
The 16th annual review will appear here on DobberHockey throughout the summer. This is not a review of the likely performance on the ice or in the standings, but in the realm of fantasy hockey.
Impact of changes – Not much was done this summer beyond replacing Calvert with a healthier Nash, and making this year’s project player (i.e. Sam Gagner, Vanek of years past) – Duclair. The main buzz surrounding the Jackets right now is about Artemi Panarin and how he doesn’t want to negotiate an extension at this time. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent next year and Columbus doesn’t want to lose their second-best asset for nothing. They want to keep him because he’s a potential 90-point player about to enter his prime. But they need him to say that he wants to stay or they’re almost forced to trade him and get some assets back. You almost have to look at this team as two fantasy teams – the one with Panarin on it where his linemates Cam Atkinson and Pierre-Luc Dubois get 60 points and stud defensemen Seth Jones and Zach Werenski flirt with 55… and the one without Panarin where you can pretty much knock 10 points off of each of those players, and then bump a skilled winger like Oliver Bjorkstrand upwards the same amount. The worst scenario for poolies is that Panarin gets traded in mid-October. Because by that point all the drafts will be done, my Fantasy Guide will have stopped getting updates, and pretty much every projection you went by will be wrong. Embarrassingly wrong.
Lost in the mix and almost completely under the radar is the fact that this team’s best player – two-time Vezina winner Sergei Bobrovsky – is also set to become an unrestricted free agent next summer.
Ready for full-time – The team may not have done much this offseason, but this is mainly because the roster is mostly set. The 12 forwards are locked in and the 13th, 14th, and 15th forwards are likely Sonny Milano, Lukas Sedlak and Markus Hannikainen, who will each see more ice time and responsibility this time around. That being said, there is a tiny crack in the doorway that will allow a youngster like Vitaly Abramov to kick it open if he can impress in the two camps the way he did in last summer’s prospect camp. But he would have to be lights-out unbelievable. (Read Abramov's scouting profile here)
The defense is similarly set, except their No. 6 and 7 guys don’t exactly have an iron grip. Dean Kukan is a serviceable depth defenseman with some offensive upside that could get him onto the second PP unit. He has to clear waivers in order to be sent down. Gabriel Carlsson was Columbus’ first-round pick in 2015 (29th overall) and they would love the 21-year-old to make the jump. He had two points in 14 games with the big club last year, but can be sent down without going through waivers.(Read Kukan's scouting profile here)
It would have been nice to get prospect and recent Olympian Vladislav Gavrikov to cross the pond, but he remains signed in the KHL for another year. But he’s a defenseman to watch for next summer. (Read Gavrikov's scouting profile here)
Columbus Blue Jackets prospect depth chart and fantasy upsides can be found here (not yet ready for mobile viewing, desktop only right now)
Fantasy Outlook – That top line is amazing and as already noted above it is easily one of the best lines in hockey. The Jackets also boast two top defensemen and an elite goaltender. But if Panarin goes, it all falls apart. This is a B or even a B+ fantasy team with Panarin boosting the offense, but without him this is barely a C. The prospect pipeline is below average for forwards, and possibly the worst in the entire league when it comes to fantasy-worthy defensemen. So you can see the importance of keeping Panarin or hitting a home run on what they get in return. Arguably as important to Columbus as Erik Karlsson is to Ottawa.
Fantasy Grade: B (last year was B)
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