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BATTALION BREAKDOWN: Markus Hannikainen

Young forward took strides, playing the most NHL games of his career.

by Brian Hedger @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

Battalion Breakdown is a closer look at the Blue Jackets' past season from a numerical standpoint, starting with the highest jersey number and counting down to the lowest. Today, BlueJackets.com examines Markus Hannikainen's season and how it impacted Columbus in the 2017-18 campaign.

Markus Hannikainen

Number: 37

Age: 25

Birthdate: March 26, 1993

Height/Weight: 6-1, 200

Position: Forward

Nickname: "Hanni"

Two years ago, Markus Hannikainen made the drive between Cleveland and Columbus so often he knew the exits by heart.

This past season, those trips diminished and he spent most of the year with the Blue Jackets. That was good news, along with playing the most games of his brief NHL career. The flip side was all the time Hannikainen spent watching hockey as a healthy scratch.

After starting out playing the first three games to begin the season, he was scratched the next four and then made the first of three trips North up I-71 to play with the Cleveland Monsters of the American Hockey League.

There were definitely bright spots for the speedy Finnish forward.

He had goals in back-to-back games Nov. 2-4 against the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning, along with the first multi-point game of his NHL career in that game against the Lightning (one goal, one assist).

There were also frustrating stretches, such as playing 13 straight games without contributing a point Dec. 18 to Jan. 12 - which was also his longest string of consecutive games played.

Overall, though, it was a solid growth year for Hannikainen. He didn't seize the opportunity to earn a regular role in the lineup but played a lot more in Columbus than his first two seasons and will head into training camp looking to take the next step.

Here's a closer look at Hannikainen's 2017-18 season by the numbers:

3

Hannikainen is a winger, so coming into this season he'd never taken a face-off in 14 career NHL games. In 2017-18, he was sent to the dot four times as the result of his center being kicked out before the puck was dropped. Hannikainen handled the new assignments well, winning three times for a 75 percent success rate.

4

In the three seasons that Hannikainen has gotten time in the NHL, all with Columbus, he's averaged 8:26 of ice time per game (47 games). In 2017-18, his average ice time of 8:22 was just four seconds off his career average.

31

Playing on the fourth line, Hannikainen increased his level of physicality from the first two seasons he saw NHL action. He was credited with seven hits in four games in 2015-16, 10 hits in 2016-17 and 31 in 33 games this past season, nearly one per game.

33

Hannikainen signed with the Blue Jackets on April 20, 2015, coming over from the Finnish League (Liigue) and has steadily earned more ice time each season he's been in North America. He helped the Lake Erie Monsters win the Calder Cup championship in the American Hockey League (AHL) in 2015-16 and logged four games with the Blue Jackets. He made multiple trips between Cleveland (AHL) and Columbus in 2016-17, playing 10 more NHL games, and then spent the bulk of this season in the NHL - playing a career-high 33 games.

37

Hannikainen wore No. 33 on his Blue Jackets jersey during his first two seasons with the organization, which made him the seventh player in franchise history to wear that number. Prior to this past season, he switched to No. 37, which only five other Blue Jackets players have worn: Mattias Timander (2000-02), Darrel Scoville (2002-04), Joe Motzko (2005-07) and Darcy Campbell (2006-07).

45

Despite his percentage of offensive-zone starts (OZ%) increasing from 39.5 percent in 2016-17 to 45.5 percent in 2017-18, Hannikainen's shot-attempts percentage (SAT%), or Corsi, fell significantly. The Blue Jackets took 53.7 percent of all even-strength shot attempts while he was on the ice in 2016-17, but that number dipped to 45 percent last season.

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