The Penguins face the Columbus Blue Jackets for the first time in the post-season since 2014, and they have their work cut out of them. We all know the Blue Jackets possess All-Star winger Cam Atkinson, prolific scorer Brandon Dubinsky, and a tough net-minder in Sergei Bobrovsky. So even though the Jackets are limping into the post-season going 1-4 in their last five games, they’ll still be a decent foe to defeat.
Make that a young foe. With the aforementioned stars included, the average age of the entire Blue Jackets team is a measly 25 years. After doing the math, I was astounded, so I’ve created this little feature to bring to light the extremely talented young guys on the Columbus roster that you folks should keep a weathered eye on come puck drop on Wednesday night.
Zach Werenski (Rookie)
Date of Birth: 7/19/1997, age 19
Height/Weight: 6’2”/218 pounds
Drafted: Columbus, 1st round 2015, 8th overall
2016-17 Stat Line: 78 games played, 47 points (11 goals, 36 assists), 14 penalty minutes, and a +/- rating of 17
2016-17 5v5 Advanced Stats: 53.4 CF%, +5.1% Corsi Relative, 101 PDO
Stats Accrued vs. Pittsburgh: As a defenseman, the star rookie hasn’t notched any game points, but he does have four blocked shots and two hits in three games against Pittsburgh this year. It’s also important to note that Columbus won two of the three games he was in the lineup for, but was obviously missed in the final matchup. Having him back for this series is a big weight lifted off the team’s shoulders.
Why you should care about him: He’s the holder of the record for highest points (47) and assists (39) by a rookie. Not only is he a great defenseman, the 19-year-old has also made a name for himself moving the puck and creating chances on offense. Him returning to the lineup is a massive positive for the Blue Jackets’ chance of success.
Date of Birth: 9/22/1994, age 22
Height/Weight: 6’2”/196 pounds
Drafted: Columbus, 1st round 2013, 14th overall
2016-17 Stat Line: 80 games played, 59 points (13 goals, 46 assists), 21 penalty minutes, and a +/- rating of 9
2016-17 5v5 Advanced Stats: 51.2 CF%, 0.9% Corsi Relative, 100.6 PDO
Stats Accrued vs. Pittsburgh: Wennberg has one goal and two helpers in the four games he’s played against the Penguins this season.
Why you should care about him: He leads the second line between Brandon Saad and Sam Gagner, and is an assists machine. Wennberg’s puck-moving ability is dangerous, and has led to many goals for Columbus this season. He’s also on the team’s first power play unit. Though goal-scoring isn’t his most-prominent skill, he still has 11 on the year. I’m sure if he’s not looking to set up his wingers, he’ll be firing away at the cage.
Date of Birth: 6/15/1993, age 23
Height/Weight: 6’2”/216 pounds
Drafted: Columbus, 2nd round 2011, 7th pick, 37th overall
2016-17 Stat Line: 82 games played, 34 points (18 goals, 16 assists), 52 penalty minutes (!!!), and a +/- rating of 14
2016-17 5v5 Advanced Stats: 49.4% CF, -1.3% Corsi Relative, 102 PDO
Stats Accrued vs. Pittsburgh: Jenner has one goal, two assists, and nine penalty minutes in the four games he’s faced against the Penguins this season.
Why you should care about him: Not only is he the leader of the Blue Jackets’ third line, this guy is a genuine example of an all-out grinder and instigator. It seems like every time the Penguins play Columbus, he’s somehow stirring the pot (many times for no reason). With tensions even higher in the playoffs, Jenner will undoubtedly try to cause trouble again.
How not to hit Crosby 102 pic.twitter.com/sWJscHp5ib— Penguins Nation (@EngellandsEye) April 5, 2017
But I think the Pens will manage him just fine.
Date of Birth: 10/3/1994, age 22
Height/Weight: 6’4”/220 pounds
Drafted: Nashville, 1st round 2013, 4th pick, 4th overall
2016-17 Stat Line: 75 games played, 42 points (12 goals, 30 assists), 24 penalty minutes, and a +/- rating of 6
2016-17 5v5 Advanced Stats: 52.5% CF, 3.2% Corsi Relative, 99.3 PDO
Stats Accrued vs. Pittsburgh: Jones has three assists in the four games he played in against Pittsburgh this year.
Why you should care about him: Like Werenski, Jones is a great puck-moving defenseman that has set up a plethora of goals for Columbus. Because of Werenski’s injury, Jones settled into the top defensive line and power play unit — a placement that has boded well for the young player. With Werenski back, he may get bumped to the second line and power play unit, but I can’t imagine his play will be negatively affected.
Now, with all that being said, youth doesn’t yield experience. These guys have been fantastic in the regular season, yet they might falter underneath the pressure of the grilling post-season.
Who knows, maybe they’ll thrive.