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2014-15 Season Preview: The Forwards

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

As recently as three years ago, a strong argument could be made that the Blue Jackets’ biggest organizational weakness was depth at forward — and, in particular, top-end skill up front.

How times have changed in short order.

The arrival of John Davidson as president of hockey operations in 2012, and a few months later, Jarmo Kekalainen as GM, signaled a shift in the way the Blue Jackets were run from the top down. Kekalainen brought with him his own drafting philosophy, and armed with three first-round picks in a talented draft class, he and the scouting staff rolled up their sleeves and went to work.

Alexander Wennberg. Kerby Rychel. Marko Dano. Oliver Bjorkstrand. Sonny Milano. If the question about the Blue Jackets’ organizational pipeline was “where’s the offense?” it has since been emphatically answered.

While the team is positioned well for the future, the present is just as promising. The 2013-14 Blue Jackets finished 12th in total offense and Ryan Johansen’s 33 goals were the most by a Jacket in one season since Rick Nash’s days, but it was a scoring-by-committee approach — and that’s how it figures to continue.

Brandon Dubinsky set a new career-high with 50 points (16 goals, 34 assists) last season and cemented himself as one of the Blue Jackets’ top two centers. Artem Anisimov, like Dubinsky, part of the Nash trade, set a career-best mark of his own with 22 goals in the regular season and proved that he too can shoulder more offensive responsibility.

Once Boone Jenner got comfortable in the NHL, his confidence soared and he became a true impact player. He scored 16 goals in his rookie season and played a fearless style that suited him well in the Stanley Cup playoffs, where he made no friends with the Pittsburgh Penguins. A 45-goal scorer the year prior with the Oshawa Generals (OHL), Jenner contributed offense from left wing in 2013-14 but the Blue Jackets view him as a center - his natural position - in the long term.

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