That dreadful off-season wait is here once again, as Blue Jackets fans eagerly anticipate the return of their gritty, hard-working hockey club. The 2013-14 season brought a number of new faces to the CBJ roster, in addition to an exciting playoff appearance. Yet, there is a good chance fans will be seeing even more new faces in the Fall, as the extensive review of young prospects begins for organization leaders.
Arguably the most exciting of these individuals is center Alexander Wennberg, the Jackets’ 14th Overall Pick in the 2013 NHL Draft. Recently signed to an entry-level contract, Wennberg had a breakout season playing for Frolunda in Sweden’s elite men’s league, scoring 16 goals and 5 assists for 21 points. Additionally, the forward earned 7 points in 7 games as an assistant captain for Team Sweden at the 2014 World Junior Championships, one of the top tournaments for young players around the world. Initially reported as being 6’1, 180 pounds when drafted, Wennberg has developed substantially, now checking in at 6’2, 205 pounds with the potential to grow even more. His size and vision seem ideal for the heavy hitting, possession-based system of head coach Todd Richards, and would be another much-needed playmaking threat.
If selected for the roster, some adjustments in positioning may be needed, with the Jackets already having extensive depth at center. Both centers Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov are capable of playing winger and have previous career experience doing so, which provides some flexibility in the depth chart. However, natural center Boone Jenner might still be awaiting his opportunity to return to his pre-NHL position, with Richards and Davidson looking to provide opportunities for the young power forward to reach his full potential. This fact, further emphasized by the trade request of veteran RJ Umberger, leads many to believe we’ll find Wennberg transitioned onto the wing.
Regardless of where he’s placed in the lineup, one thing is clear: Wennberg has a strong desire to be a part of the team’s future, making it very evident to GM Jarmo Kekalainen that he is looking to compete for a roster spot at training camp. Having spent some time in Columbus during a visit for the playoff series, Wennberg was present for the first playoff home victory in Game 4, and was a witness to the booming “5th line” that resonated throughout nationwide. Who knows, maybe the energy of the building added to Wennberg’s motivation to put in even more work during the off-season.