Columbus Blue Jackets: What to Expect from Rookies Ryan Murray and Boone Jenner
Murray making the cut isn't all that unexpected.
The Blue Jackets came into camp with good depth on defense, but being the former No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 NHL draft, it was a matter of when and not if he'd crack the lineup. Had he not sustained a shoulder injury right before the lockout ended last season he may have made the team from the start.
Jenner's ability to click with Marian Gaborik and Brandon Dubinsky, however, was a pleasant surprise this preseason.
Goal-scoring was a weakness for Columbus last season, and if a rookie like Jenner can step up and help the three-time, 40-goal scorer Gaborik recapture his scoring touch the way he did in the preseason, it could propel the team to a hot start.
Jenner will continue to skate alongside Dubinsky's left wing with Gaborik on the opposite side.
”Based on what they were able to do and how they were able to play as a group, I would be foolish to try and experiment with (Jenner) now somewhere else, just because they worked so well together," head coach Todd Richards told Aaron Portzline of The Columbus Dispatch (h/t The Hockey Writers).
Arguably the best player for the Jackets this preseason, Jenner could easily hit 15 goals and 30 to 45 points as a rookie if he manages to maintain the same linemates for the majority of the year.
Murray's preseason wasn't perfect. His first shift in the NHL ended with a turnover he committed materializing into a goal. The same game, however, ended on an overtime goal on a nice feed from R.J. Umberger.
As the preseason progressed, Murray became more comfortable.
Coach Richards told NHL.com reporter Craig Merz that Murray's become more acclimated to the NHL game as time went on in the preseason.
He's had some struggles in games. He's had some good games, too, but just getting comfortable with the speed, I think he's progressed. That's what you want to see from your young players.
Murray's more likely to stay, but should he struggle, there are plenty of other options to fill out the six defensive spots.
He's currently paired with veteran James Wisniewski, who hasn't played anything resembling a full NHL season since 2010-11 when he split time between the New York Islanders and the Montreal Canadiens in a contract year.
The Jackets will carry eight defensemen to start the season, so if Murray falters, he could find himself back with his junior team before the first nine games are through. He's not eligible to play in the AHL this season.
Given the Jackets' organizational depth, something as simple as having a squad at full health could spell the end for Jenner's run with the Jackets in the short term, and a few rookie mistakes could spell the same fate for Murray.
However, should the two stay for an extended period, they will likely continue to play key minutes and in power-play situations as they have through the preseason.
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