It's been quite a season so far for the Columbus Blue Jackets. The team currently sits in playoff contention with 14 games to play, and several individual players have already reached career milestones and achieved career-high single-season numbers.
Considering the average age of the team is 26.9, a lot of the Blue Jackets players are still at the early stages of their careers. However, individual success has led to team success, and the opposite has proven true as well. With such a young team and with numerous injuries this year, several individuals have had to mature quickly, figure out their roles and step up in high-pressure situations. A majority of the time, those guys have stepped up and stepped in with proven results.
Let's take a look at some of the key milestones achieved by Blue Jackets players this year, and which members of the team are playing the best hockey of their careers.
It's no secret that in his third NHL season, Ryan Johansen is playing the best hockey of his young career, and is only expected to improve from here. He smashed nearly every personal single-season and career high number this season--and managed to do that back in December. Right now, Johansen has 26 goals and 25 assists for a point total of 51. His previous highs? Nine goals, 12 assists and 21 total points. His nine-game point streak this year tied the second longest in franchise history and was a personal best by five games. His 184 shots on goal are nearly double his total from his rookie season and is expected to surpass 200 by the end of this year.
Artem Anisimov is another Blue Jacket who is having a strong season. He set a new personal best for goals in a single season when he scored his 19th on March 8 against the Nashville Predators. He also set a career-high for game-winning goals when he recorded four in just five games.
Cam Atkinson has already surpassed every previous career-season-high this year, with career-high numbers in points with 34--nearly double the 18 he posted last season. His four points in a single game this year was another personal best, and is the highest single-game point total for a Blue Jackets player this season. His four game-winning goals this year have been a big help for the Jackets this year.
Other players who have reached personal best numbers include Mark Letestu, who had a career-high five-game point streak in January (two goals, four assists), Corey Tropp, who registered nine hits in a single game (9) against the Hurricanes on March 18, Dalton Prout, who had a career-high three-game point streak earlier this month and Matt Calvert, who has 66 shots on goal this year--three more than his previous career-high for a single season. Calvert has surpassed last season's time on ice in all but six games he's played in this year. Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky is within reach of his career-best 28 wins in a single season and has similar numbers to his Vezina-winning performance from last year.
This year also saw the introduction of three Blue Jackets rookies who played their first NHL game-- Ryan Murray, Boone Jenner and Michael Chaput. Murray and Jenner both dressed opening night, and Chaput saw his first big-league ice time in a close contest against the Anaheim Ducks on Oct. 27. Murray, Jenner, Chaput and Sean Collins all notched their first NHL points within the first 18 games of the season. Murray and Jenner have had impressive rookie campaigns, performing at the top of several rookie stat categories in 2013-14. Jenner is second among all rookies in hits (170), third overall in rookie game-winning goals (4) and fifth overall in rookie shooting percentage (13.3%). Murray is tied for ninth in rookie power play points (6), tenth in power play assists (4) and seventh in TOI/game (19:47). Jenner and Murray are proving that they have a place in the NHL and will be solid players for years to come.
What this means
If the Blue Jackets continue along the trajectory they've established thus far this season, they have the potential to make the Stanley Cup playoffs for just the second time in franchise history. After having the organization's best month of January ever and with several players still within reach of setting and surpassing career records, this year will potentially be a historic one for the Blue Jackets.