Artemi Panarin was, overwhelmingly, the best offensive player for the Blue Jackets during the 2017-18 season. He led the team in both goals, with 27, and assists with 55, and had 82 points for the year, playing Left Wing. He was born in Korkino, Russia on October 30, 1991. He attended the Traktor Hockey School in Chelyabinsk, which is the hockey school which Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov, attended. The Blue Jackets acquired him from the Chicago Blackhawks before the 2017-18 season, along with Tyler Motte, and a sixth-round pick in 2017 in exchange for Brandon Saad, Anton Forsberg, and a fifth-round pick in 2018. He played two seasons for the Blackhawks, scoring 30 goals and 47 assists in 2015-16, and 31 goals and 43 assists in 2016-17. While he did not reach his career-high in goals for the Blue Jackets, he recorded the aforementioned career-high in assists and a career-high in points overall. Panarin tied for the team lead in power play goals (more on Special Teams here) and as one of the young, budding stars in the league, should be a priority for the Capitals’ defensemen. In eight career regular season games against the Caps, Panarin has recorded six points (three goals, three assists), with four (three goals, one assist) coming this season in four games.
Panarin was never drafted by an NHL team and instead played the early part of his professional career in the KHL. It was mostly due to his relatively small size, as he stands 5’11” and weighs only 168 pounds. He began his career with HC Vityaz Chekhov and also played with Ak Bars Kazan and SKA St Petersburg, playing a significant role for SKA’s postseason run in 2015 season. That year, he also made the KHL All-Star team and won the Kharlamov Trophy, which is awarded to the best Russian professional hockey player. He was also part of the 2011 World Junior team for Russia that was trailing Team Canada 3-0 in the third period but came back to win the Gold Medal. He scored the first goal for Russia in that game and went on to score the game-winner. He won the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s best rookie in 2015-16, his first season with the Blackhawks.
Cam Atkinson was born on June 5, 1989 in Riverside, Connecticut. He finished the 2017-18 regular season second on the team in goals, with only Panarin scoring more. He also added 22 assists for 46 points overall. Columbus drafted him in the sixth round (157th overall) of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. He was likely a late draft pick due primarily to his small size, being only 5’8” and 179 pounds. In 22 career games played against the Capitals, Atkinson has scored nine goals and added seven assists for 16 points, with three points (two goals, one assist) coming in four games this season.
After the draft, he attended Boston College for three years, in 2008-09, 2009-10, and 2010-11. In 2009-10, he scored 30 goals to lead the league, including two in the National Championship game. He scored 31 goals during the 2010-11 season. In March 2011, he signed a two-year contract with the Blue Jackets, starting his career with the Springfield Falcons, their AHL affiliate. He played most of the 2011-12 season with Springfield but played 27 games for the Blue Jackets that year and scored seven goals.
Since 2012-13, he has been a consistent fixture in the Blue Jackets’ lineup and can be counted on to score more than 20 goals per year and have about that many assists. He improved his goal-scoring every year from his first full season until the 2016-17 season when he scored his career-high of 35 goals. This year, he dropped to 23 goals, missing a month due to a broken foot. He also contributed 22 assists and his 46 points overall ranked fourth on the team for the season. He has played more games for Columbus than any other player on the current roster and ranks third in franchise history for Games played. He has scored more goals for the franchise than anyone else on the roster and ranks second on the franchise list for Goals.
Pierre-Luc Dubois was born in Ste-Agathe-Des-Monts, Quebec on June 24, 1998. For the 2017-18 season, his 20 goals placed him third on the team, and his 28 assists were the fourth-best total on the Blue Jackets’ roster. His 48 points placed him third behind Panarin and defenseman Seth Jones. Columbus drafted in the first round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft with the third pick overall. The 2017-18 was his first in the NHL. He spent the 2016-17 season in juniors. Columbus shocked everyone at the draft by drafting Dubois instead of the highly-touted Finn, Jesse Puljujarvi. Given that he’s now the first-line center for Columbus, the Blue Jackets have no regrets. His 20 goals this season set the Blue Jackets’ rookie record previously held by Rick Nash. He is a skilled player for Columbus, but he also plays the role of an agitator who gets under the skin of opponents. In four games played against the Caps in his debut season, Dubois recorded three points (two goals, one assist).
He participated in the World Junior Championships for Canada in 2017 and was part of the Silver Medal winning team. He is a dual citizen of both Canada and the United States as his mother was born in Georgia. His father played professional hockey in several leagues, including the DEL (Deutschland Elite League)
Nick Foligno was born on October 31, 1987 in Buffalo, New York. For the 2017-18 season, he scored 15 goals and had 18 assists for a total of 31 points this year. He has been out with an injury since March 24. He has played for the Blue Jackets since the 2012-13 season after being acquired from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for defenseman Marc Methot. This season was a down year for Foligno, when taking his previous seasons into account. He currently serves as Team Captain for the Blue Jackets. In 34 career games played against the Capitals, Foligno has scored seven goals and added 13 assists for 20 points, while averaging 16 minutes of ice time per game. In three games played against the Caps this season, Foligno recorded no points while averaging 17:13 of ice time.
He played in the USA Hockey National Development Team Program during 2003-04. Once he was finished with the Development Team Program, he played Junior hockey with the Sudbury Wolves in the Ontario Hockey League. The Ottawa Senators drafted him in the first-round of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, with the 28th pick overall. He played with the Ottawa Senators for much of the 2007-08 season and played the entire 2008-09 season with them.
His brother, Marcus, plays in the NHL with the Minnesota Wild. His father, Mike, also played in the NHL for 15 years, mostly with the Buffalo Sabres and Toronto Maple Leafs and was a productive goal scorer throughout his NHL career who had scored over 40 goals one season and had 3 more years of topping 30 goals. Mike Foligno is known for his “Foligno Leap” goal celebration which both his sons have continued. Nick is a dual citizen of both the USA and Canada although he represented the USA in international competition while his brother, Marcus, has represented Canada.
Oliver Bjorkstrand was born in Herning, Denmark on April 10, 1995. For the 2017-18 season, he scored 10 goals and had 29 assists for 40 points overall. He ranked third on the team in assists and fourth on the team in total points. The 2017-18 season was his first full NHL season. His primary position is center. He played with Columbus in parts of the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons. The Blue Jackets drafted him in the third round of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. He was part of the Erie Monsters team that had won the Calder Cup Trophy during the 2015-16 season. In five career games against the Caps, Bjorkstrand has no points and is a minus-2.
His father, Todd, was born in in Minnesota but moved to Denmark to play professional hockey after spending four years in the minor leagues. Todd Bjorkstrand had finished his hockey career in Denmark as the Danish League’s All-Time leading goal scorer and assist leader. Once he retired as a player, he became a hockey coach.
Alexander Wennberg was born in Nacka, Sweden on September 22, 1994. For the 2017-18 season, he scored eight goals and had 27 assists. His productivity was down compared to the 2016-17 season where he had 13 goals and 46 assists. He missed time this season due to a back injury. The Blue Jackets drafted him in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft in the first-round with the 14th pick overall. He spent his first year after the draft in the Swedish League but came over to North America for the 2014-15 season. He spent most of the 2014-15 season with the Blue Jackets but had a brief spell with their minor league affiliate in Springfield. In 16 career games played against the Caps, Wennberg has scored once and added seven assists for eight points, with two assists coming in four games this season.
He was a member of the 2013 and 2014 World Junior teams for Sweden which both finished in second place, earning the Silver Medal.
Josh Anderson was born in Burlington, Ontario on May 7, 1994. For the 2017-18 season, he scored 19 goals and had 11 assists for 30 points overall. He ranked second on the team in goals. The 2016-17 was his first full season with the Blue Jackets and he scored 17 goals and had 12 assists. The Blue Jackets drafted him in the fourth-round of the 2012 NHL Entry Draft as the 95th overall pick. In 11 career games played against the Capitals, Anderson has no points and is a minus-4.
He returned to his junior team after the draft but then signed a contract with the Blue Jackets during his final year of juniors. He started his professional career in 2014-15 with the Springfield Falcons, the Blue Jackets’ AHL affiliate. He played mainly with the Cleveland Monsters in 2015-16, who were the Blue Jackets affiliate that year and went on the win the Calder Cup, beating the Hershey Bears.
Boone Jenner was born on June 15, 1993 in Dorchester, Ontario. During the 2017-18 season he scored 13 goals and had 19 assists for 32 points overall. He has declined in goal scoring over each of the last three seasons, scoring 30 goals with 19 assists in 2015-16, scoring 18 goals and 16 assists in 2016-17, and 13 goals and 19 assists this season. He was drafted in the second round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, chosen with the 37th overall pick. He has been with the Blue Jackets since the 2013-14 season. His primary position is Center and he is one of the Blue Jackets’ alternate captains.
He played four years of Major Junior hockey with the Oshawa Generals of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) and signed his entry level contract with the Blue Jackets in 2012. His uncle, Billy Carroll, played in the NHL with the New York Islanders and the Edmonton Oilers and was part of four Stanley Cup winning teams.
Seth Jones was born on October 3, 1993 in Arlington, Texas. During the 2017-18 season he scored 16 goals and had 41 assists for 57 points and was second on the team in total points, which is amazing offensive productivity for a defenseman. During the previous season, 2016-17, he had 12 goals and 13 assists for 25 points overall, which itself was a dramatic increase in offense from the previous season. Columbus acquired him during the 2015-16 season from the Nashville Predators in exchange for forward, Ryan Johansen. In 12 games played against the Caps, Jones has an astounding 10 points (three goals, seven assists) with five (one goal, four assists) coming in four games played this season. Jones tied with Panarin for the team lead in power play markers, so will be a focal point for the Caps’ penalty killers.
The Nashville Predators drafted him in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft with the fourth pick overall. Jones played two years with the USA National Team Development program and then played one year of Junior hockey. He has represented the USA in international competition on many occasions, including the Under 17 games, the World Junior 18 and Under Competition, and the World Junior 20 and Under competition. He won the Gold Medal for the WJC 18-Under twice and for the WJC once; i.e. in 2013. He was part of Team North America for the Hockey World Cup.
Zach Werenski was born on July 19, 1997, in Grosse Point, Michigan. In 2017-18, he scored 16 goals and had 21 assists for 37 points overall, which is great offensive production for a young defenseman. This is his second season with the Blue Jackets. The previous season he had 11 goals and 36 assists for 47 points overall. The Blue Jackets drafted him in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft with the 8th pick overall. In nine career games played against the Capitals, Werenski has recorded three points (two goals, one assist)
He had trained with the USA National Team Development program for the 2013-14 season and played two seasons with the University of Michigan, 2014-15 and 2015-16. During his second year in college, he was the No. 1 scoring defenseman in the Big Ten and was second in the nation among blueliners in points. He also represented the USA in the World Junior Champions in 2015 and 2016. After his second year of college, he joined the Blue Jackets’ AHL affiliate, the Erie Monsters, and scored five goals and nine assists, to help lead the Monsters to the Calder Cup for the 2015-16 season when they swept the Hershey Bears.
Sergei Bobrovsky was born on September 20, 1988 in Novokuznetsk, Russia. This season, he appeared in 65 games, won 37 games, lost 22 games in regulation, and was involved in 6 Overtime losses. His save percentage was .921, which was a shade above his career save percentage. He is the defending Vezina Trophy winner, having won the award after last season, during which he recorded 41 wins, 17 losses, and 5 Overtime losses and a save percentage of .931. This was his second Vezina Trophy as he had previously won in 2012-13. In 22 games played against the Caps, Bobrovsky has gone 7-10-4, with a 3.02 goals-against average, .900 save percentage, and no shutouts.
The Blue Jackets acquired him during summer 2012 from the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for the Blue Jackets’ second round pick. Bobrovsky had never been drafted but the Flyers had signed him as a free agent in 2010. Before joining the NHL, he had played four seasons with Metallurg Magnitogorsk. When he had signed with the Flyers, the initial play was for him to start with their AHL affiliate, the Adirondack Phantoms, but he impressed the coaches so much at training camp, he ended up replacing their injured starter, Michael Leighton. He remained the starter even after Leighton had returned.
Of interest to Caps fans, the goalie matchup for when the Flyers rookies played the Caps rookies in Rookie Camp 2010 was Bobrovsky against Braden Holtby. He is also a close friend of Caps defenseman, Dmitry Orlov.
This concludes the guide to the best players on the Columbus Blue Jackets during the 2017-18 season.
By Diane Doyle