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Scott Cullen

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Columbus has a pair of cornerstone pieces on the blueline; Pavelski, Barkov, Kadri, Tkachuk and more in Scott Cullen’s Statistically Speaking.

Seth Jones and Zach Werenski both contributed a pair of assists in Columbus’ 5-2 win over Toronto. 

Jones, 22, was the fourth pick in the 2013 Draft and was acquired last season in a trade with Nashville for centre Ryan Johansen. He has 11 points (3 G, 8 A) in the past 11 games.

Werenski, 19, was the eighth pick in the 2015 Draft, and while he ended a six-game point drought with his two helpers against Toronto, he ranks sixth among rookies with 33 points this season.

It wasn’t so long ago that the blueline was seen as a real problem area for Columbus. Now, it’s a strength and poised to be a strength for many years to come.

Compare the Blue Jackets' duo to some other teams that have a couple of quality young (under 24) defenders:

(xGF% - 5-on-5 Expected Goals For Percentage, via Corsica Hockey)

 

TEAMS WITH YOUNG BLUELINERS TO BUILD AROUND

 
TEAM PLAYER AGE GP G A PTS CF% xGF%
Columbus Zach Werenski 19 56 8 25 33 53.7 49.7
Columbus Seth Jones 22 50 10 21 31 52.8 50.1
Carolina Jaccob Slavin 22 53 2 17 19 53.0 56.0
Carolina Brett Pesce 22 53 2 11 13 54.5 57.7
Edmonton Oscar Klefbom 23 57 9 14 23 51.7 50.3
Edmonton Matt Benning 22 43 2 8 10 55.3 56.1
Edmonton Darnell Nurse 22 25 3 2 5 53.1 49.8
Florida Aaron Ekblad 21 55 7 9 16 51.7 48.3
Florida Michael Matheson 22 54 5 9 14 50.8 50.6
Minnesota Jonas Brodin 23 43 3 13 16 50.2 52.7
Minnesota Matt Dumba 22 54 7 17 24 47.2 51.1
Philadelphia Ivan Provorov 20 57 5 18 23 50.5 47.0
Philadelphia Shayne Gostisbehere 23 51 4 18 22 53.8 49.6
Vancouver Troy Stecher 22 48 2 14 16 49.3 46.3
Vancouver Ben Hutton 23 46 4 10 14 48.0 49.1
Winnipeg Jacob Trouba 22 44 5 19 24 49.5 50.2
Winnipeg Josh Morrissey 21 59 2 12 14 51.7 51.1
 


HEROES

Joe Pavelski – San Jose’s captain put up two goals and two assists in a 6-5 overtime loss to Florida. He has 10 points (4 G, 6 A) in the past eight games.

Aleksander Barkov – Florida’s first line centre scored a pair of goals and added a helper in a 6-5 overtime win at San Jose. He has six points (4 G, 2 A) in a four-game point streak since returning from injury.

Nazem Kadri – The Maple Leafs centre scored both of his team’s goals in a 5-2 loss at Columbus. He may be overshadowed somewhat by Toronto’s star rookies, but Kadri has 23 points (10 G, 13 A) in the past 20 games, and is up to 44 points in 56 games on the season.

Matt Tkachuk – Calgary’s rookie winger had a goal and an assist in a 3-1 win over Philadelphia, and has five points (2 G, 3 A) in the past four games. He had 36 points in 54 games, ranking fifth among rookies.

ZEROES

Dennis Wideman – Calgary’s veteran blueliner had a miserable night (3 for, 17 against, 15.0 CF, 2-11 scoring chances) and was on for the one goal against in a 3-1 win over Philadelphia.

Matt Calvert, Lukas Sedlak and Sam Gagner – Columbus’ fourth line struggled (2 for, 13 against, 13.3 CF%, 1-6 scoring chances) and was on for both goals against in a 5-2 win over Toronto.

Martin Jones – It was a rough night against Florida for the San Jose netminder, who allowed six goals on just 22 shots. He has a .837 save percentage in his past four appearances.

VITAL SIGNS

Mitch Marner – The league’s top rookie scorer suffered an apparent injury in a collision with Blue Jackets LW Boone Jenner; a major loss for the Maple Leafs if Marner is out for any extended period of time.

Roberto Luongo – Florida’s netminder suffered a lower-body injury at San Jose and was forced to leave late in regulation. James Reimer will take on a bigger role while Luongo is out.

Gustav Nyquist – The Detroit winger was suspended six games for high-sticking Wild D Jared Spurgeon in the face. Thomas Vanek returned to the Red Wings lineup after missing a game due to a lower-body injury.

Oliver Bjorkstrand – With veteran Blue Jackets winger Scott Hartnell out due to a lower-body injury, Columbus called up Bjorkstrand and the 21-year-old scored a goal in his first NHL game since December 10. He had 26 points (14 G, 12 A) in 37 AHL games to earn the promotion and has 10 points (5 G, 5 A) in 18 career NHL games.

SHORT SHIFTS

Maple Leafs LW Josh Leivo assisted on both of Kadri’s goals, and had 11 shot attempts (5 SOG) along with team-best possession stats (23 for, 8 against, 74.2 CF%, 12-4 scoring chances), in a 5-2 loss at Columbus, giving him five points (1 G, 4 A) in the past two games…Blue Jackets C Alexander Wennberg picked up a couple of assists against Toronto, ending a five-game point drought…Panthers C Nick Bjugstad scored a pair of goals in a 6-5 overtime win at San Jose, and has five points (3 G, 2 A) in the past five games…Panthers LW Jonathan Huberdeau scored the winning goal in overtime, and added an assist, at San Jose, giving him seven points (3 G, 4 A) in four games…Panthers D Alex Petrovic added a couple of assists, and has four assists in his past five games…Sharks D Brent Burns recorded a goal and an assist in a 6-5 OT loss to Florida. He has 26 points (10 G, 16 A) in the past 20 games and is tied for second in the league with 61 points in 58 games…Playing in his second NHL game, Blues C Wade Megan had a strong possession game (10-1, 90.9 CF%, 6-0 scoring chances) at Detroit.

Blues G Carter Hutton stopped all 25 shots that he faced in a 2-0 win at Detroit, his third shutout in his past four starts…Flames G Brian Elliott turned away 33 of 34 shots in a 3-1 win against Philadelphia, and has a .925 save percentage in his past six games.

FANTASY FOCUS

Some forwards due for better on-ice shooting percentages down the stretch:

Nick Bjugstad – He only has seven points in 27 games this season, but the 6-foot-6 Panthers centre has a 3.9% on-ice shooting percentage right now, after being above 7% for each of the past three seasons.

Johnny Gaudreau – Calgary’s star winger, who was demoted to the fourth line in a game this week, hs 35 points in 48 games, but a 5.4% on-ice shooting percentage is due for a bump. 

Claude Giroux – Philadelphia’s first-line centre has 41 points in 57 games with a 5.8% on-ice shooting percentage. He’s ranged from 6.7% to 9.3% throughout his career.

Brendan Gallagher – He’s missed time with injury, and has just 18 points in 40 games, but Gallagher ought to fare better than a 6.2% on-ice shooting percentage. His previous career-low is 7.8%.

Much of the data included comes from corsica.hockeystats.hockeyanalysis.com www.hockey-reference, www.naturalstattrick.com and www.datarink.com

Scott Cullen can be reached at scott.cullen@bellmedia.ca