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NBC is bullish on the Blue Jackets in 2015-16

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

If summer is the time for talk in the NHL, we're getting dangerously close to put-up-or-shut-up time.

As the sun rose this morning, the start of training camps and preseason hockey is less than three weeks away. The Blue Jackets play their first exhibition game on Sept. 21 against the Pittsburgh Penguins, only three days after opening training camp at the OhioHealth Ice Haus and Nationwide Arena.

Yes, friends. We're almost there.

Where we are right now, though, is season prediction time on the sports calendar. Every outlet has its opinions and projections about the upcoming 2015-16 season, and as you may expect, the Blue Jackets have been a team of much discussion.

They've added Brandon Saad. They've tossed a pinch of salt over their left shoulder before each informal skate (ok, maybe not) to bring good luck and ward off the injury bug, and they enter the fall again with high expectations but also with plenty to prove after a disappointing 2014-15 campaign.

So, what can we make of these Blue Jackets? NBC Sports' Pro Hockey Talk recently offered its take on "Blue Jackets Day" on the site, looking at the team's season outlook, a prospect on the verge of making a difference, and the biggest question looming over the team.

Here's a snippet:

"If they do stay healthy, the Blue Jackets should be a legit playoff contender.

Brandon Saad, acquired in a summer blockbuster from Chicago, will give the team a dynamic, goalscoring power forward up front, presumably to play alongside franchise center Ryan Johansen. Behind those two are a host of capable scorers: Nick Foligno, Scott Hartnell, Boone Jenner and Brandon Dubinsky, to name a few.

On defense, the picture is murkier.

The club is holding out hope that Ryan Murray, the No. 2 overall pick in 2012, is finally over the health issues that derailed his first two NHL campaigns. The 21-year-old, who has the potential to be a top-pairing d-man, only appeared in 12 games last year, after missing 18 in his rookie campaign.

Outside of Murray, the familiar cast of characters remains: Jack Johnson, David Savard, Fedor Tyutin and Dalton Prout, most notably. The Jackets are counting on that crew to improve internally and possibly get a push from prospects like Dillon Heatherington and Michael Paliotta, the latter acquired from Chicago in the Saad deal.

In goal, there are no questions.

Sergei Bobrovsky enters as the clear-cut No.1, coming off a campaign in which he missed significant time to injury and posted below average numbers (.918 save percentage, 2.68 GAA).

The hope is that Bobrovsky will return to the form that saw him win the Vezina two years ago, and that the skaters in front of him will stay healthy. If both those things happen, Columbus will be knocking on the door of playoff contention, and not a team opponents will want to face should it get in."

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