Welcome to the latest series here at Last Word on Hockey. Each day, we will take a look at a new team and examine three of their potential breakout or bounce-back players. What are these? These are players that have the chance to make a serious difference with their teams. Whether that’s as someone who finally finds their place in the NHL, or as someone who had previously been good but has struggled as of recently. Each day we will be looking at a different team! However, today we will take a look at the potential 2020-21 Columbus Blue Jackets key players.
2020-21 Columbus Blue Jackets Candidates
Columbus head coach John Tortorella has put a lot of faith in the French forward. It looks like he’ll get the first chance to be on the wing of Pierre-Luc Dubois‘ line. Injuries limited the 21-year-old to just 36 games and six goals in 2019-20.
Alexandre Texier was healthy enough to play in the bubble and showed glimpses of his upside. However, he only got four assists between the qualifying round and the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. He has a high ceiling with his skating, speed, playmaking and passing ability.
Tortorella looks like he’ll keep the trio of Texier, Dubois and Oliver Bjorkstrand together as the team’s top line. They showed solid chemistry together and Tortorella is likely to roll with that. Being on that line will yield more chances to Texier and he should benefit from having talented linemates around him. He’ll need to step up as the left-wing group without the injured Gustav Nyquist only scored 21 goals. Hopefully “Tex” can replicate the production he had with KalPa Kuopio of the Finish SM-Liiga.
The Dane could offer a template on how Texier can progress with extended playing time. Bjorkstrand already has seasons of 23 and 21 goals, but there may be more points for him. The 25-year-old has cracked 40 points just once in 2017-18.
However, last season’s 36 points came in just 49 games for the Blue Jackets due to a leg injury. Bjorkstrand did also miss time earlier in the season because of a torso injury. He also tallied three times between the qualifying and first rounds. Bjorkstrand was one of the team’s best forwards when he was in the lineup.
This projection of him breaking out further is based on him staying healthy. However, his rapport with Dubois and Texier could yield him a boost in points. He did score 14 goals in a 17-game stretch before his injury issues and could be a steal in fantasy drafts.
Here’s our candidate to rebound in the upcoming season. It’s no secret Cam Atkinson loved playing with Artemi Panarin on the same line. Atkinson scored a career-high 41 goals in the 2018-19 season, which was the last season they played together. Panarin signed the big-money deal with the New York Rangers and Atkinson’s production cratered.
The 31-year-old right-wing only scored 12 goals in 44 games. Injuries did play a factor in the lack of points, but it was a season he wants to forget. Atkinson is usually a consistent 20-goal scorer that has seasons of 35 (2016-17) and 41 (2018-19).
He did provide three goals and eight points between the qualifying and first rounds of the post-season. That could be a sign Atkinson is on the way back up. He’s also been very reliable and durable by playing at least 75 games before last season’s injury-riddled campaign. It’s a safe bet that Atkinson can be asked for 25 goals if there was a normal 82-game season in the offing.