The Blue Jackets opened camp with natural right wing Nikolai Zherdev centering the top line between Rick Nash and last season’s leading scorer, David Vyborny. It’s a major change of scenery for Zherdev, an enigma who’s being tried in the middle because coach Ken Hitchcock thinks he’s a better defensive forward than people give him credit for. That would leave a second line made up of some combination of hard-shooting Fredrik Modin alongside Sergei Fedorov and youngster Gilbert Brule and a third unit comprised of either Dan Fritsche or Michael Peca centering Jason Chimera and possibly rookie Jakob Voracek.
Voracek is 18 and hasn’t been returned to his junior club yet. Getting some time with the big club this season isn’t out of the question with all the other 18-year-olds that have been shuffled into the mix in the past. Jody Shelley is one of the game’s nastiest enforcers.
Nash might be the most gifted goal-scorer in the NHL — and he’s still just 23. He’s been in the League since he was the first overall pick in 2002 and wasted little time showing he could dominate in the attacking zone. Nash has already won a Richard Trophy (shared with Jarome Iginla and Ilya Kovalchuk in 2003-04) for leading the league in goals. He’s the obvious triggerman on the power play. Gunners like Fedorov and Vyborny are also a threat with the man-advantage.
Up and Coming
Curtis Glencross -- Acquired in a trade with Anaheim this year, he was re-signed as a restricted free agent during the summer. The 24-year-old likes to throw his body around and is considered a good glue guy in the room. He had 51 points in 60 games in the AHL last season, with 127 penalty minutes.
Adam Pineault -- Drafted in the second round in 2004, the 21-year-old can play left or right wing. He played his first season of pro hockey in 2006-07 with Syracuse, scoring 12 goals and adding 16 assists with 66 penalty minutes in 57 games.
Derick Brassard -- Columbus took him sixth overall in 2006, and the 19-year old has been praised for his work at both ends of the ice. He’s expected to make his pro debut this season after playing four seasons with Drummondville of the Quebec League. He had nine goals and 24 points in 12 playoff games last spring.
Sergei Fedorov -- It wasn’t long ago that Fedorov was considered the best all-around player in the world, but that seems like ancient history now. Fedorov appeared to lack the motivation he used to have in Detroit following cameos with Anaheim and then Columbus. Last season’s 18-goal, 42-point performance was the worst full season in his NHL career. Fedorov, still one of the NHL’s best skaters, did show his dedication to the team by taking some turns on the blue line when injuries hit the defensive corps, and he says he’s ready to help Columbus become a winner. A motivated Fedorov could go a long way to making the Jackets a better team.