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A pair of 23-and-unders make Blue Jackets franchise history

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

The Blue Jackets have a small handful of players that have recorded 30-goal seasons.

Former captain Rick Nash, now a New York Ranger, did it seven times. Ryan Johansen and Nick Foligno did so for the first time in their careers in the last two seasons, and recently, Boone Jenner joined the club at just 22 years of age.

Columbus has never had two players score 30 in the same season – until 2015-16, that is.

In a season that’s been marred by more disappointment than joy and more dark days than bright, Jenner and Brandon Saad have provided the franchise with hope for the immediate future. Saad scored the Blue Jackets’ fourth goal on Friday night in Buffalo, giving him a career-best 30 goals in his first season with Columbus after coming over from the Chicago Blackhawks.

Not only is the 30-goal mark significant (fewer than 25 players in the 700-plus player league have 30 goals this season), but Jenner is 22 and Saad is 23.

23. Think about that: what were you up to at 23?

“(Saad) is a big part of our future,” Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said. “He’s a dangerous guy. I watched him and Eichel go stride for stride. He’s a huge part of our team and I’m glad. Although we’re done after (Saturday), it’s nice for those guys to have those types of milestones.

“We’ll expect more of it when we get going next year. Saader’s going to be a big piece to the puzzle for us.”

If you recall, Jenner scored his 30th goal of the season last weekend in Raleigh – tallying on the power play in the final second of the second period. The 30 goals are far and away a new career high mark for Jenner, and Saad has passed his previous best by seven, having scored 23 goals in his last season with Chicago.

But make no mistake about it: both players would gladly trade their 30 goals in for a spot in the Stanley Cup playoffs. They’re upset and frustrated that their season ends Saturday night, but for all they’ve endured this season, a dash of personal success for two well-respected players is hardly a bad thing.

Tortorella summed it up earlier this week: regardless of where you’re going or not going, in the playoffs or not, your obligation is to finish out the season like a pro. Saad and Jenner are two of the players leading the way.

“No one wants to be in this situation,” Tortorella said. “I hope everybody remembers the feeling of being in this situation when other teams are getting ramped up to play the real stuff. I’m happy for them (to score 30 goals) in a pretty crappy situation.”

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