While it may have seemed a risky proposition at first, it didn't take long for Boone Jenner to prove he belonged on the Blue Jackets' top line.
Sure, he's 20-year-old rookie and a young man who has never before skated in a regular-season National Hockey League game. But his performance last season (a 45-goal campaign in junior hockey) coupled with a strong playoff in the American Hockey League with Springfield really gave him a boost as he prepared for a real push this fall.
When training camp opened two weeks ago, many thought Jenner had a good chance of making the Blue Jackets' final roster but no one surmised he would end up alongside Marian Gaborik and Brandon Dubinsky on opening night.
That line seemed to gel right away, and turned in dominating preseason performances against the Carolina Hurricanes and Pittsburgh Penguins (eight combined points in each game). As a result, Todd Richards has no other choice but to keep them intact when the 2013-14 season begins in less than a week.
"I'm prepared to start Friday with (Jenner) on the left side with Dubinsky and Gaborik," Richards said, "unless something changes or we have to change because something happens in practice."
The line has three complementary parts: Dubinsky is a strong presence in the middle of the ice who wins a lot of face-offs and can control the possession aspect of the game. He's also a good forechecker who can hunt down pucks and be the first player on the backcheck if the puck is turned over.
Gaborik, one of the game's elite goal-scorers, figures to see his line start with the puck more often that not and he and Dubinsky love to work the give-and-go. They have played together before when they were with the New York Rangers and both players have said they have good chemistry and know how the other likes to play the game.
Where does that leave Jenner? He's the guy who isn't making any friends on the opposition; finishing checks, relentlessly hunting down loose pucks and making life miserable for defensemen.
Richards has said he likes Jenner's strength along the walls and ability to dig pucks out of the corner, which is a key for the Blue Jackets to keep plays alive in the offensive zone and hopefully create more chances.
"Based on what they were able to do and how they were able to play as a group, I would be foolish to try and experiment with (Jenner) now somewhere else," Richards said. "I think they've worked so well together."