Thursday, October 17, 2013

One To Watch: Columbus Blue Jackets

A new chapter has begun in Columbus with a new-ish President, a new GM and new expectations after getting so close to making the playoffs last season. John Davidson and Jarmo Kekalainen have a history of taking a struggling team and turning them around and the Blue Jackets have shown vast improvements over the last two years. 

Some of the depth of the organization has to be credited to former GM Scott Howson and his staff; Under Howson's watch the club drafted names like Boone Jenner, Oscar Dansk, Ryan Johansen, Matt Calvert and John Moore. 

2012 Choice: Oscar Dansk - It wasn't the season that the Swedish goalie nor the Erie Otters were hoping for as Dansk was pretty average in his rookie OHL campaign. His team finished dead last in the Western Conference but this year both Dansk and the Otters are on the rebound. 

My selection for One To Watch in 2013-14 comes after the jump. 

Ryan Murray (D)
Columbus Blue Jackets
6'1, 208 Lbs
Drafted 2nd overall 2012

Photo: CHL Images
It doesn't take a genius to figure out why Murray is the pick for this season. After missing almost all of 2012-13 due to injury, everyone wants to know how the former Everett Silvertip defender will look. 

Not only is Murray returning to action after an extended period of time off but he's attempting to do so at the highest level in the sport. The early season results are fine - 5 games played, one assist to his credit and he's on the plus side of the ledger with a +1-rating. 

The number I like to look at though for rookie in the NHL is how much they are actually playing. While guys like Jacob Trouba, Mark Pysyk, Seth Jones and Radko Gudas are all averaging well over 20 minutes a night, Murray is hovering just under 16 minutes (15:54). There are 17 rookie NHL blueliners playing more that Murray so far. 

That's not a critique, just a fact and I think one worth noting. 

Photo: Jon Howe
There is almost zero chance that the Blue Jackets will reassign him to Everett for his 20-year-old season, although they could. I do wonder though if Murray might spend some time on the farm as Columbus does have other options  including Tim Erixon and Cody Goloubef. 

If the Jackets opt to keep Murray up with the big club, how will the Saskatchewan native's development curve look? Will there be a gradual acclimation to the NHL or will something suddenly click and we'll see Murray establish himself as one of the top rookies in the league this year? 

Those are the questions I have and the reason I chose Ryan Murray as One To watch for Columbus in 2013-14.

Up Next: Philadelphia Flyers  

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