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Meet the Team: What to know about the 23 on the Blue Jackets roster

Columbus has its team to take on Toronto in Friday's season opener

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

From an original group of 59 players who were invited to Blue Jackets training camp, 23 have made the season-opening roster that is slated to take on Toronto in the season lid-lifter Friday night at Nationwide Arena.

It wasn't difficult to project such names as Cam Atkinson and Seth Jones would make the team, and there wasn't too much in the way of huge surprises among the final roster. Some spots at the end were won by such names as Jakob Lilja and Sonny Milano, but two-thirds of the roster is the same from last year's team that won a playoff series for the first time in franchise history.

The season-opening roster boasts players born in nine different countries, tied for tops in the NHL with Colorado. In addition, it's a largely home-grown team, as 16 were drafted, while four were signed as free agents and three more were acquired via trade. 

Get ready to meet the 2019-20 Columbus Blue Jackets.

FORWARDS

10 Alexander Wennberg • 6-2, 197 • 25 years old • Stockholm, Sweden 

Last year: Wennberg had a frustrating campaign all the way around, as he never got going on the score sheet, finishing with two goals and 25 points in 75 games while also serving as a key penalty killer. Wennberg started as the team's No. 2 center but ended up scratched for the start of the postseason, though he did play in four playoff games.  

Current Role: Wennberg should enter the season on a line with talented wingers Gustav Nyquist and Oliver Bjorkstrand and also a key part of the team's penalty kill and power-play units.  

CBJ history: A first-round pick in 2013, Wennberg made his debut in the 2014-15 season and has a 35-144-179 line in 358 career games. He had a career year with a 13-46-59 line in 2016-17 and now goes into his sixth NHL season.  

You might not know: According to the Blue Jackets media guide, Wennberg began playing the guitar eight years ago and his favorite musical artist is Queen. 

13 Cam Atkinson • 5-8, 175 • 30 years old • Riverside, Connecticut 

Last year: Atkinson helped rewrite the Blue Jackets record book, posting 41 goals to tie the franchise's single-season record while adding 28 assists. He also had two hat tricks and scored four shorthanded goals as part of one of the most impressive campaigns in team history.  

Current Role: A team leader and one of the alternate captains, Atkinson returns to anchor the team's top line along with Pierre-Luc Dubois. He'll also again be key parts of the power play and penalty kill, as he's earned the trust of the head coach to play in any and all situations.  

CBJ history: A sixth-round pick in 2008, Atkinson debuted as a bit of a curiosity in 2011-12, as many wondered how his prodigious amateur goal-scoring prowess would translate at the NHL level because of his size. All he's done is make two All-Star appearances and move into second place in CBJ annals in goals and points. 

You might not know: Notable outside the rink pursuits include The Battery Hockey Academy, a training facility in nearby Plain City, and The Force Network Fund, which supports military and first responder charity efforts. 

14 Gustav Nyquist • 5-11, 179 • 30 years old • Halmstad, Sweden 

Last year: Nyquist set a career high last year with 60 points, including 49 with Detroit and 11 more after being sent to San Jose at the trade deadline. Those numbers bumped his 82-game averages over his eight-year career to 21 goals and 50 points per campaign.  

Current Role: Nyquist looks to be paired with Alexander Wennberg and Oliver Bjorkstrand on a line that will be depended on for scoring this season. A veteran playmaker with good vision and finishing skills, he's also a dependable player who will occupy a bumper role on one of the power-play units. 

CBJ history: Acquired as the team's biggest free agent prize when he signed a four-year contract on July 1.  

You might not know: Like head coach John Tortorella, he attended the University of Maine. 

15 Jakob Lilja • 6-1, 196 • 26 years old • Malmo, Sweden 

Last year: While playing with CBJ draft pick Emil Bemstrom, Lilja was one of the top scorers in Sweden a season ago when he posted a 12-25-37 line with Djurgårdens IF, placing eighth in the SHL in assists and 10th in scoring.  

Current Role: A solid two-way forward with good skating skills, Lilja is expected to open the season on the team's fourth line, where he can add some scoring punch. He could also kill penalties if called upon. 

CBJ history: Lilja signed a one-year, entry-level contract this June after his breakout season a year ago in his home country. He helped cement his spot on the roster with two goals in the preseason.

You might not know: One of four Swedes on the Blue Jackets' opening day roster, he played last year with Bemstrom at Djurgårdens, grew up in the same area as Gustav Nyquist and played on junior national teams with Alexander Wennberg.  

18 Pierre-Luc Dubois • 6-3, 218 • 21 years old • Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, Quebec 

Last year: Dubois didn't show any signs of a sophomore slump, playing in 82 games for the second season in a row and turning in a 27-34-61 line that left him second among all NHL players under the age of 21 in scoring.  

Current Role: Dubois is one of the key building blocks of the team, a No. 1 center who still has plenty of growth inside of him. One of the strongest players in the league along the wall, he's also quite skilled and will again serve as the pivot on the team's top line. 

CBJ history: The Blue Jackets shocked the hockey world at the 2016 draft when they took Dubois third overall, and it turned out to be a smart pick as he's been one of the rocks of the team since debuted two seasons ago. With another 20-goal season, he'll become the first-ever Blue Jacket to begin his career with three straight. 

You might not know: Dubois got five new tattoos over the offseason. 

20 Riley Nash • 6-2, 185 • 30 years old • Consort, Alberta 

Last year: A free agent acquisition last summer, Nash had a rough start to the campaign a year ago and was demoted to a fourth line role. He rebounded in the second half and posted a 3-9-12 line for the whole season and was a key player in the postseason.  

Current Role: Nash will again be on the fourth line but is expected to center the line this season. Both he and head coach John Tortorella have said Nash appears more comfortable in his second go-round with the team, and he has flashed more offensive ability in team scrimmages and practices. 

CBJ history: He signed a three-year free agent deal in the summer of 2018 after posting career highs of 15 goals and 41 points with Boston the year prior. 

You might not know: Nash was married this offseason to his new wife, Clare.  

22 Sonny Milano • 6-0, 194 • 23 years old • Massapequa, N.Y. 

Last year: Milano spent the opening of the season with Columbus but was sent down to Cleveland early in the season. He averaged nearly a point per game (11-13-24 in 27 games) with the Monsters but also lived through an injury-plagued year that conspired against a recall.  

Current Role: It feels like a similar story as some past years, but there's no obvious spot for Milano to start the season. He has top-six talent but seems ticketed to begin the year battling for time on the fourth line, but Milano presents an intriguing option to move up as the season goes on. 

CBJ history: The team's first-round pick in the 2014 draft, Milano has been up and down over the past four seasons. He has a career high of 14 goals and 22 points in 55 games in 2017-18 but has played in just 70 career NHL contests.

You might not know: Milano played on the U.S. National Under-18 team with Jack Eichel, Auston Matthews, Alex Tuch and Dylan Larkin, among others.  

28 Oliver Bjorkstrand • 6-0, 177 • 24 years old • Herning, Denmark 

Last year: After just three goals in his first 30 games, Bjorkstrand caught fire down the stretch, finishing with 23 tallies including nine in the last 10 games. He is one of five players who spent the whole season in Columbus who scored at least 20 goals.  

Current Role: Bjorkstrand will form a European-flavored line with Gustav Nyquist and Alexander Wennberg to start the season, and his job is to score. He'll be a key part of the power play on the right side and is tasked with using his elite, deceptive shot to add to the CBJ offense.  

CBJ history: A third-round pick in the 2013 draft, Bjorkstrand lit up the WHL in juniors, but he did not become a full-time NHL player until 2017-18. Coming off a career season, he's expected to push toward the 30-goal mark.  

You might not know: Bjorkstrand's father, Todd, hails from Minnesota and played at the University of Maine with John Tortorella. 

38 Boone Jenner • 6-2, 208 • 26 years old • Dorchester, Ontario 

Last year: While moving to center full-time for the first time in his career, Jenner was part of a key heavy line with Nick Foligno and Boone Jenner and finished with 16 goals and 38 points.  

Current Role: An alternate captain, Jenner is expected to return in a similar role, but more will be expected considering the team's offseason losses.  

CBJ history: A second-round pick in 2011, Jenner feels like he's been a Blue Jacket forever, having spent the past six seasons with the team. A 30-goal scorer in 2015-16, Jenner has become a dependable player, having missed just 12 games the past four seasons.  

You might not know: Jenner grew up on a cattle farm owned by his family in Dorchester, which is near London between Windsor and Toronto. 

42 Alexandre Texier • 6-1, 192 • 20 years old • Grenoble, France 

Last year: Texier jumped from solid prospect to elite one, leading his KalPa team in Finland in scoring with a 14-27-41 line in 55 games, then came overseas to score five times in seven games in AHL Cleveland. That earned him a callup to Columbus at the end of the year, where he had three goals in 10 games (two in eight playoff games).  

Current Role: He's just 20 years old, but Texier seems ticketed to begin the season on the top line with Pierre-Luc Dubois and Cam Atkinson. The rookie seems to be mature beyond his years and has excellent hockey sense, and Texier also will likely see big power-play time. 

CBJ history: The Blue Jackets moved up to select the Frenchman in the second round of the 2017 draft out of his home country, then he spent two years with KalPa before coming to North America to join the Blue Jackets. 

You might not know: Per Hockey-Reference, Texier is one of just 12 French-born players to play in the NHL.  

52 Emil Bemstrom • 6-0, 190 • 20 years old • Nykoping, Sweden 

Last year: Bemstrom had a historic season with Djurgårdens IF, leading the Swedish Hockey League with 23 goals to go with 12 assists in 47 games. He finished with the third-most goals ever in a campaign in the SHL for a teenager. Bemstrom also competed in in the World Junior Championships. 

Current Role: Watching Bemstrom develop will be intriguing, as he looks to begin the season on the fourth line, but given his youth and excellent one-timer, he'll be viewed as a potential power-play weapon.  

CBJ history: Bemstrom was taken in the fourth round of the 2017 draft then spent the past two seasons moving up the Swedish hockey ladder, as last year was his first at the SHL level. 

You might not know: Bemstrom is missing his two front teeth, lost during a game at last year's World Juniors in which he scored two goals.  

71 Nick Foligno • 6-0, 208 • 31 years old • Buffalo, New York 

Last year: Foligno turned in a very Foligno-esque season, as the captain finished with 17 goals and 35 points. He also led the team in fighting majors and played in all situations while providing key leadership during a tough season off the ice.  

Current Role: To start the season, he'll be back on the power play and skate with Boone Jenner and Josh Anderson, but head coach John Tortorella has said he hopes for more offensive production out of Foligno.  

CBJ history: Acquired in a trade in the summer of 2012, Foligno has become one of the faces of the franchise. He's due to become the seventh Blue Jacket to play in 500 games early this year, and Foligno has 287 points in 490 career games with Columbus. 

You might not know: Per the Blue Jackets media guide, Foligno has never owned or had a pet. 

77 Josh Anderson • 6-3, 222 • 25 years old • Burlington, Ontario 

Last year: Anderson is a bit of a unicorn in today's NHL, as just two players last season finished in the top 25 in hits in the league and scored at least 25 goals: Anderson and Alexander Ovechkin. A power forward with excellent speed and great finishing ability, he posted a career-high 27 goals and 47 points last season. 

Current Role: Anderson will return to a line with Nick Foligno and Boone Jenner this year, and he'll be counted on to provide even more offense after last year's career year. Consistency could be key, as the big winger had some hot stretches but some cold ones last year as well.  

CBJ history: A fourth-round pick in the 2012 draft, Anderson will enter his fourth full season with the team and has seen his goal-scoring and points totals go up each campaign in his career. 

You might not know: Anderson played for the London Knights in the OHL, where was an assistant captain while suiting up with such notable names as Max Domi and Mitch Marner his final campaign.  

DEFENSEMEN 

3 Seth Jones • 6-4, 209 • 25 years old • Arlington, Texas 

Last year: Jones again was one of the NHL's top defensemen, finishing ninth in the Norris Trophy voting after posting a 9-37-46 line. It wasn't all roses, though, as he was dinged up to start the campaign and admittedly had a small dip in play in February and March. Still, he was one of the league's best, capable of standing out in all situations, and turned heads across the league with his excellent play in the postseason. 

Current Role: There's little doubt Jones is a No. 1 defenseman, and the Blue Jackets will turn to him at every chance, one reason he placed fourth in the NHL a year ago in average time on ice per game with nearly 26 minutes. Simply put, he's a machine. 

CBJ history: Chosen fourth overall in the 2013 draft by Nashville, Jones was acquired in January 2016 by Columbus in exchange for center Ryan Johansen. He struggled to find top-pair minutes in a deep defensive core with the Preds but has become an unquestioned star with the Blue Jackets. 

You might not know: Jones was in the crowd in 2001 for Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals in Colorado in which Ray Bourque won his first and only Stanley Cup. 

4 Scott Harrington • 6-2, 204 • 26 years old • Kingston, Ontario 

Last year: 2018-19 was a bit of a breakout season for Harrington, who went from essentially serving as the team's No. 7 defenseman for two seasons to a career-best 73 games that included 17 points and a plus-6 rating.  

Current Role: Harrington enters the year in a dogfight with others for positioning when it comes to the team's third pair, but he's a dependable option and head coach John Tortorella loves his competitiveness.  

CBJ history: The Blue Jackets acquired Harrington from Toronto for Kerby Rychel in the summer of 2016, and he's been with the team for the past three campaigns, playing a total of 127 games. 

You might not know: According to the Blue Jackets media guide, Harrington would be a teacher if he wasn't a hockey player. 

8 Zach Werenski • 6-2, 212 • 22 years old • Grosse Pointe, Michigan 

Last year: Werenski had a tough start to the season, as offseason shoulder surgery had prevented him from strength training before the campaign, and he also was tasked with improving his defensive skills by John Tortorella. But by the end of the year, Werenski was playing his best hockey, and he finished with a 11-33-44 line. 

Current Role: An elite offensive defenseman who is ninth in the NHL the past three seasons in goals scored with 38, Werenski will be tasked with continuing his upward progress while serving as one of the standouts on the blue line. 

CBJ history: The eighth overall pick in the 2015 draft, Werenski has lived up to the billing, helped Cleveland win the Calder Cup in 2016 before posting double-digit goals in each of his first three seasons. With 12 goals this year, he'll become the 15th blueliner in NHL history with at least 50 goals before age 23.  

You might not know: Werenski is one of five University of Michigan products to play for the Blue Jackets all-time along with college teammate Tyler Motte, Jack Johnson, Chad Kolarik and Shawn Hunwick.  

27 Ryan Murray • 6-1, 206 • 26 years old • Regina, Sasketchewan 

Last year: Murray was in the midst of his best season when he suffered a season-ending injury in February. Before that, he had posted a 1-28-29 line in 56 games, making him one of the top-scoring NHL defensemen in the game despite a lack of power-play time. 

Current Role: John Tortorella has said nothing official yet, but it seems likely Murray could begin the season where he left off last year -- playing with Jones. He'll play big minutes at 5-on-5 and also suit up on the PK. 

CBJ history: The No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 draft, Murray has had a star-crossed career in Columbus, alternating flashes of brilliance along with frustrating bouts of injury. When healthy, he's a smart player who can get the puck out of his zone to kick-start attacks. 

You might not know: Murray can play the guitar, a skill he picked up while playing junior hockey. 

44 Vladislav Gavrikov • 6-3, 213 • 23 years old • Yaroslavl, Russia 

Last year: Gavrikov had another excellent campaign in his home country, racking up a plus-48 rating in 60 games with Russian power SKA St. Petersburg. He joined Columbus after his team was eliminated from Gagarin Cup play and suited up in the final two games of the Boston series. 

Current Role: An imposing presence on the blue line, Gavrikov has been encouraged by John Tortorella to be more aggressive in his decision-making, which is a battle he'll fight while trying to push his way into the bottom of the defensive lineup. 

CBJ history: Gavrikov was a sixth-round pick in the 2015 draft but chose to spend the past two seasons with SKA, in part because it would allow him to play in the 2018 Olympics, where he won a gold medal.  

You might not know: Gavrikov said he prefers smaller cities over places like New York, and he has learned English thanks to help from his wife Anastasia. 

46 Dean Kukan • 6-2, 192 • 26 years old • Volketswil, Switzerland 

Last year: After spending most of the season as the team's No. 7 defenseman, Kukan got his opportunity and didn't look back, earning big minutes in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and scoring the tying goal late in Game 5 of the Boston series. 

Current Role: Kukan's game has developed over the past few years in large part because of his poise on the puck, and that's the skill he'll have to exploit as he battles for bottom-pair minutes to start the season with the team. 

CBJ history: Kukan is one of Jarmo Kekalainen's solid European acquisitions as he was inked out of Sweden in the summer of 2015. He has just 44 career NHL regular-season games under his belt along with 142 with AHL Cleveland. 

You might not know: Kukan has more Stanley Cup Playoffs goals (one) than NHL regular-season goals (zero).  

58 David Savard • 6-2, 229 • 28 years old • St. Hyacinthe, Quebec 

Last year: The bearded one turned in perhaps his best season in union blue, posting an 8-16-24 line to go with a plus-19 rating. He was at his best near the end of the season, scoring some key goals down the stretch and then potting perhaps the series-turning tally in Game 1 vs. Tampa Bay. 

Current Role: Savard is one of two right-handed defensemen on the CBJ opening roster along with Seth Jones and has been a strong second pair D-man for most of his career. He seems to be ticketed for that spot again and will also be a key penalty killer. 

CBJ history: A fourth-round pick of the Blue Jackets in the 2009 draft, Savard was an offensive defenseman growing up but has become a standout in his own zone over an eight-year CBJ career that includes 489 games played. 

You might not know: Savard grew up a huge fan of Patrick Roy but never played the goaltending position growing up. 

65 Markus Nutivaara • 6-1, 187 • 25 years old • Oulu, Finland 

Last year: It was an up-and-down campaign for Nutivaara, who struggled with his game at times but still finished with a 5-16-21 line. The offensive output was down a smidge from past seasons but he still showed excellent vision and playmaking skills at times, including with a breakout pass that is among the best on the team. 

Current Role: Nutivaara has carved out a role as a regular and seems tabbed to earn second or third pair minutes this season. 

CBJ history: Another credit to the European scouting of Jarmo Kekalainen, Nutivaara was chosen in the seventh round of the 2015 draft out of their native Finland. Since debuting with the Blue Jackets as a surprise piece of the 2016-17 team, he's played 207 games over three seasons with a 14-37-51 line. 

You might not know: Nutivaara owns a horse in his native Finland that is training to become a racehorse. 

GOALTENDERS 

70 Joonas Korpisalo • 6-3, 191 • 25 years old • Pori, Finland 

Last year: Korpisalo was given more starts early last season with the knowledge he'd likely have a chance to become the team's No. 1 this year, but he didn't exactly take the ball and run with it. Still, he was excellent at times in the second half of the season, and Korpisalo finished 10-7-3 with a 2.95 goals-against average. 

Current Role: Korpisalo begins the season as the team's starter, John Tortorella has acknowledged, and he has looked the part in camp. With the job open, the Finnish netminder reported to camp with the confidence of a top goalie, and now he'll get his chance to run with the spot. 

CBJ history: Taken in the third round of the 2012 draft, Korpisalo continued to ply his trade in his home country until coming to North America four seasons ago. Since then, he's essentially been the team's top backup option, playing in 90 games and starting 81 of those over four years. He has a 2.89 GAA and .907 save percentage in that time. 

You might not know: Korpisalo's father, Jari, was the longtime captain of the Finnish team Ässät, amassing 444 points in 575 Liiga games.  

90 Elvis Merzlikins • 6-3, 181 • 25 years old • Riga, Latvia 

Last year: Merzlikins completed his sixth season with HC Lugano with a 2.44 GAA and .921 save percentage, leading the team back to the NLA playoffs, though he did not win the league's top goaltender award after having done so twice previously. 

Current Role: The colorful and talented Latvian will battle Korpisalo for playing time. His adjustment to the North American game will determine whether he's a backup who starts 20 games or someone who can split the job or even win it outright at some point in the campaign. 

CBJ history: A third-round pick in the 2014 draft, Merzlikins has opted to develop in Switzerland, inking a three-year deal the last time his contract was up. With Sergei Bobrovksy entrenched in Columbus, there wasn't necessarily room for him anyway, but now he'll get the chance he's wanted for years. 

You might not know: Merzlikins hopes to build a wall of his goalie masks in his home upon the conclusion of his career. 

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