Friday, September 3, 2021

Blue Jackets Preview: Jakub Voracek Jersey Card

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This will likely be the preface to all of this year's Season Preview posts: I liked doing last year's format, so I'll be doing it the same way this season as well, partly because of that but also because as a father of a toddler and a baby, I just do not have enough time to write two separate posts per day on each blog. I'll copy these on each one instead. Like last year, the entire scope of the analysis will take place here and the player will have some sort of direct connection to what's written.

Caveats: At this point, despite training camp being set to start, several players haven't found a team yet, many RFAs haven't signed with their respective teams, and a few clubs are currently above the salary cap, which means there is much maneuvering left to do.

Key exits: Seth Jones (D), Cam Atkinson (RW), Kole Sherwood (RW), Michael Del Zotto (D)

Key Arrivals: Jakub Voracek (RW), Adam Boqvist (D), Jake Bean (D), Sean Kuraly (C), Zac Rinaldo (C)

Top prospects: Kent Johnson (C), Cole Sillinger (C), Corson Ceulemans (D), Kirill Marchenko (RW), Yegor Chinakhov (RW), Andrew Peeke (D), Daniil Tarasov (G), Dmitri Voronkov (LW), Trey Fix-Wolansky (RW), Stanislav Svozil (D), Liam Foudy (C), xxx (LW), xxx (LW)

This is a transition period for the Columbus Blue Jackets, who have only a handful of players left from the failed "all-in" season three years ago. Even head coach John Tortorella left, replaced by assistant Brad Larsen. There will be growing pains while a new system is set up, in the same way an expansion team like the Seattle Kraken might face, except exclusively with home-grown young players and draft picks, not hand-picked from the entire league. The four new players coming in look solid to me (even Rinaldo, who will help instill some team spirit).

What makes their odds look good:
The Blue Jackets' top-three on defense consisting of Zach Werenski, Boqvist and Bean will be solid eventually, but the latter two must gain experience first, and it will be trial by fire at least for this season. Goalie Elvis Merzlikins is a very good goalie who may fall into a Vezina Trophy at some point (in the era of Connor Hellebuyck, Jacob Markstrom, Thatcher Demko and Andrei Vasilevskiy, which wil lbe extremely difficult), but he would need his team to make the playoffs for that to happen.

Question marks: Will Patrik Laine regain his offensive touch, or will he bide his time until he can leave himself?

The trade deadline brought in a huge leadership void when captain Nick Foligno and defenseman David Savard were traded for high draft picks, which was compounded by Jones' and Atkinson's summer departures. This will take time to rebuild.

8th in the Metropolitan Division.

I'm still trying to wrap my brain around the one-for-one trade involving Atkinson (headed to the Philadelphia Flyers) and Voracek - on both sides. Atkinson is still a 30-goal man, a feisty little speedster, and Voracek produces at a 0.75-point-per-game clip at this stage in his career - a very good production rate for a 32-year-old player - but he's lost a bit of foot speed and is an assists collector first and foremost, and I fail to see who he will set up unless he is directly tasked with reviving Laine's game.

He knows what to expect in Columbus, however, having already been a part of a rebuild there to start his career off as the team's 7th-overall pick in 2007. This is what he looked like wearing deep blue, as seen on card #GJ-JV from Upper Deck's 2010-11 Series 1 collection and UD Game Jersey sub-set:
It features a white game-worn jersey swatch.

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