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BATTALION BREAKDOWN: Alexander Wennberg

Talented center proved his worth despite scoring slump, multiple injuries.

by Anthony Allocco / 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 Alexander Wennberg's season in 2017-18 and how it impacted the season.

Alexander Wennberg

Number: 10

Age: 23

Birthdate: September 22, 1994

Height/Weight: 6-2, 196

Position: Center

Nickname: "Wenny"

Entering this past season, expectations were high for Alexander Wennberg.

After posting a stat line of 13 goals, 46 assists and 59 points in 80 games the year before (2016-17), Columbus hoped Wennberg would provide the same or better in his fourth NHL season.

Early on, he did, posting six points on a goal and five assists - not to mention a plus-6 plus/minus rating - over the first six games in a solid month of October. Things changed quickly in November, though, with a production drop exacerbated by an upper-body injury that was the first of two injuries to slow Wennberg in 2017-18.

The second one happened just before the Christmas, when Wennberg injured his back in a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG Paints Arena. He missed about a month, eight games, and returned in mid-January - just as rookie center Pierre-Luc Dubois emerged as the first-line center.

Wennberg's role was altered for the remainder of the season.

After floating between the second and third lines with various pairings during a tough stretch for the Blue Jackets, the trade deadline brought veteran winger Thomas Vanek to Columbus. Paired with Vanek and Boone Jenner, Wennberg began to look like himself again.

He had nine points (one goal, eight assists) in the first 10 games following the trade for Vanek, including a three assist, four-point game Mar. 12 against Montreal, and he also got a new role on the top power-play unit.

Wennberg was stationed about five feet from the net, directly in front of goaltenders, and his presence led to better productivity for the Jackets' power play.

Tweet from @BlueJacketsNHL: jones blastwenny hopjackets goal pic.twitter.com/S1RN5fm4Rz

Tweet from @BlueJacketsNHL: YES. HE. CAM.h/t to Wenny's screen pic.twitter.com/xd9kE6LNUN

Wennberg reclaimed his status as a key player, which was proven in the first-round series against the Washington Capitals - when he missed Games 2, 3 and 4 with an upper-body injury and the Jackets struggled to replace him.

Columbus is counting on a rebound from Wennberg next season, but here's one more look back at his 2017-18 rollercoaster ride, by the numbers:

THE BREAKDOWN

22

Despite some struggles, Wennberg set a career-high with an impressive plus-22 plus/minus rating. Thirteen points better than his previous high (plus-9 in 2016-17), Wennberg has improved his rating each season since a minus-19 rating as a rookie. The jump in this category could be attributed to great play in net, a bolstered defensive core or his steady decrease in defensive zone shifts - but the most likely indicator was his ability protect the puck. Wennberg only coughed it up 15 times, for a rate of about one giveaway per 80 minutes of ice time.

74

One of the main storylines pertaining to Wennberg last season was a constant encouragement from coach John Tortorella to shoot the puck more often. He only put 74 shots on net, which was less than any other season in his four-year NHL career. The good news is that he was more efficient with the shots he did take, scoring at a 10.8 percent clip with eight goals.

24

His own shots decreased, but Wennberg's rate of setting teammates up bumped up, on average. Of his 27 assists, 24 were at even strength, which is just one less even-strength assist than his 25 in 2016-17 - in 14 less games.

Video: CBJ@ARI: Wennberg, Atkinson combine for go-ahead goal

6

Wennberg missed a total of 16 games with injuries, which hurt his ability to get in a rhythm offensively. This led to some "streaky" tendencies. Wennberg went without a point in at least three straight games seven different times, with the longest dry spell lasting from Nov. 2-11, a span of six games. Wennberg also had six stretches of consecutive games with at least a point, including two season-high, four-game point streaks.

61.8

After Wennberg's return from his back injury in mid-January, Tortorella and the coaching staff made the decision to put Wennberg in front of the net. He screened goalies effectively and his passing from that spot on the ice also created scoring chances. The Blue Jackets' power play took off as a result. For the season, Columbus got shots through to the net on the man-advantage 61.8 percent of the time Wennberg was on the ice, which was an improvement of more than 14 percent in that category.

83

In Wennberg's 66 games, he was on the ice for 83 of the Blue Jackets' goals. Columbus averaged 4.2 goals per 60 minutes with Wennberg on the ice, which was a 17-percent increase from 2016-17 and a career high. His ability to protect the puck and screen goaltenders were two big reasons for that success, particularly in March - when Columbus scored 63 goals in 16 games. Wennberg had 11 points in March on two goals and nine assists to help the Jackets' push to make the playoffs.

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