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Strong relationships a staple among Blue Jackets rookies

The last two seasons have allowed new Blue Jackets players to create lasting bonds

by Alison Lukan @AlisonL / BlueJackets.com

The Jackets were one of the youngest teams in the NHL this season thanks to the addition of four players who were playing their first full season in the League. To make it through the year, the newest Jackets didn't just rely on their on-ice skill, they also had their relationships with one another.

Josh Anderson and Zach Werenski were roommates this season. Theirs is a friendship that started when Werenski joined the Cleveland Monsters at the end of the 2015-16 campaign. Werenski had finished his sophomore season at the University of Michigan and joined the Jackets' AHL club as the team was just about to begin their Calder Cup Championship run.

"I had my own place in Cleveland," Anderson said. "When he came in, I invited him to live with me because I had a two-bedroom apartment."

Werenski elected to stay on his own that year, but as the two started to look towards a future that they hoped would include the NHL for both of them, they struck a deal.

"We talked and said if both made the (Jackets team) we'd live together," Werenski said. "Even though we thought it might be a long shot, we thought we both might make it."

Anderson jokes that it took a bit longer for him than it did for Werenski to hear from Jackets management that it was time to get a place, but the two players settled into their shared living quarters, and selected a couch together "to use to watch TV and hockey."

Werenski self-admittedly will keep more to himself at home. He likes to spend his time away from the rink playing XBox with friends. Something Anderson laughingly confirms saying he can hear his roommate screaming on the video game's mic from his room.

And that's just the beginning of the good-natured chirping between the two. Ask Werenski what makes Anderson a good roommate and he responds with a teasing "nothing" and a grin. While Anderson is quick to joke that the 19-year-old defenseman "doesn't bring a lot to the table."

"I clean up around the kitchen, things like that," Anderson jokes. "I picked up the couch, I usually drive everywhere."

But for all the ribbing, the two spent most meals together, and each could be a sounding board for the other as the Jackets' season progressed.

"(Anderson) had been in the NHL for a little bit so he was familiar with things," Werenski said. "It was nice for a guy like me who was brand new coming in. We're all going through the same thing together. It's all our first full years so we are all experiencing the same stuff - the long road trips, getting home late, travel, the schedule."

While Anderson and Werenski were the only two young players to live together, many of the other newest Jackets had places in the same building. Lukas Sedlak and Markus Nutivaara lived next door to each another and spent many an afternoon playing Playstation together.

The proximity for all the newest Jackets made it easier for them to provide a level of comfort to their young teammates, even at times when one felt his game was not where it should be.

"When you get to a struggle you can talk to the younger guys about what they did to get out of it," Sedlak said. "It's special bond. We went through the AHL playoffs together and all the stuff that happened after, It's something incredible. It got us together, and I think we will be friends forever."

The success the group of young Jackets had this year certainly bodes well for what comes next for this team. Werenski was fourth in total points and is a finalist for the Calder Trophy. Nutivaara helped build an aggressive blue line corps and added two goals and five assists.

On the other side of the ice, Anderson had 17 goals and 12 assists, and Sedlak shored up a fourth line that completed the balanced lineup the Jackets wanted to have this season. When Oliver Bjorkstrand rejoined the team in February, he put up 13 points in 26 games, and was considered by management as the best move the Jackets made around the trade deadline. 

"Coming to Columbus with Sedlak and Zach and Oliver, and having won an AHL championship, it helps," Anderson said. "It gets us really excited about what's about to begin and we hope we're going to have a long run here. We have a great group."

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