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Battalion Breakdown: Alexander Wennberg

Center had rough year offensively but was defensive standout

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

Battalion Breakdown is a closer look at the Blue Jackets' past season on a player-by-player basis. Today, BlueJackets.com continues the series by looking at Alexander Wennberg's season and how it impacted Columbus in the 2018-19 campaign. 

Alexander Wennberg 

Number: 10 

Age: 24 

Birth date: Sept. 22, 1994 

Height/Weight: 6-2, 196 

Position: Center 

Nickname: "Wenny"  

Stats (Games, G-A-P, point shares): 75 GP, 2-23-25, 0.8 PS 

Contract: Signed through 2022-23 

There was a time when Alexander Wennberg looked like a burgeoning superstar in the National Hockey League. 

Specifically, that was after he posted a 13-46-59 line in 80 games as a 22-year-old center in 2017-18. After that year, he inked a long-term deal with the Blue Jackets and appeared to be the true impact player the Jackets expected after choosing him in the first round of the 2013 draft.  

But the past two seasons, he's merely been a solid player, one whose play has been marked more by standout defensive play and penalty killing than offensive playmaking abilities. Indeed, the question around Wennberg, who has 10 goals in the past two seasons combined, is one the Blue Jackets seem determined to figure out this season. 

"We had some hard conversations with him today about (the lack of offense), and he has a lot of pride so I think that he's going to do that self-assessment as well and get to work in the offseason," general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said on the team's exit day in May. 

"I think in the NHL, in order to score and be an offensive player that he was, a good 60-point guy for us two years ago, you have to get more to the inside. I think he's probably played a little bit too much outside. He relies on his playmaking skill. He has good vision. But in order to score, you have to get more inside. He has a good shot. 

"I don't think he's lost his offensive ability. His confidence level is probably not where it has been before. So much of pro sports is up here with your confidence, and that's something he's going to have to figure out. We still believe he has that ability that he had two years ago, and even in all the struggles with his offensive game, he's a very good defensive player for us. But obviously we want both." 

Entering the season: After his 59-point showing two seasons ago, Wennberg was expected to be the team's No. 1 center last year and combine with the dynamic Artemi Panarin to even boost that scoring total, but instead he posted an 8-27-35 line in 66 games. 

He was plus-22, though, and figured to be a top-six forward and key centerman for the Blue Jackets this season. 

What happened: The offense never came through for Wennberg, as he finished with two goals and 25 points on the campaign.  

Though he was a key penalty killer throughout the season, Wennberg saw himself slide down the lineup as the year went on because of the lack of offensive production. He also was a healthy scratch at times late in the year after the trade deadline and then for the final two games of the season after the promotion of Alexandre Texier, and Wennberg played four playoff games with zero points. 

While Blue Jackets brass was complimentary of Wennberg's defensive efforts throughout the year, head coach John Tortorella said when Texier was inserted into the lineup that the team was out of time when it came to the wait for the Swedish center's offensive production to improve. 

There is hope, though, in the form of an excellent showing at the World Championships that included a 3-7-10 line in six games.

Highlight 

Wennberg had just the two goals on the season, but his second one was a huge one. With Columbus holding on to a 4-3 lead at Colorado in a February game that it needed to win to snap a five-game losing streak, Wennberg took a feed and ripped a shot home to essentially settle things. The power-play goal gave the CBJ a 5-3 lead and served as the catalyst for a three-game sweep of the Avs, Coyotes and Golden Knights that put the team's season back on track.  

Video: CBJ@COL: Wennberg buries PPG from the circle

By the Numbers 

0: Wennberg had zero even-strength goals on the year, as his other tally came shorthanded.  

64: Wennberg finished with 64 shots on goal in 75 games, less than one per game. He also had zero shots on goal in four playoff games. 

6: Wennberg was on the ice for just six goals against for the whole season on the penalty kill, a span of more than 95 minutes of ice time. He also was on the ice for four CBJ goals on the PK, including the one he scored.

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