Metropolitan Division Preview: Columbus

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Scouting Report

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These are no longer your last-place Blue Jackets. After finishing just shy of the final playoff berth in the Western Conference in 2013, Columbus moves to the Eastern Conference in 2013-14 as a legitimate contender. The big question, though, will be whether or not the Blue Jackets can take that next step or whether they slip back some after a modicum of success a year ago.

Sergei Bobrovsky is the backbone to this team, coming off a 21-11-6 first season in Columbus, earning him top goalie honors in the NHL. His 2.00 goals against average was rock solid, and his .932 save percentage was second best in the league.

A quality defense corps headed by former Ranger Fedor Tyutin works quite effectively in front of The Bob. Fellow veterans Jack Johnson, James Wisniewski, and Nikita Nikitin are joined by former Ranger Tim Erixon, 2012 top pick Ryan Murray, and rugged 23 year-old Dalton Prout to form a strong defense corps, with more talented youngsters on the rise within the Blue Jackets system.

The Blue Jackets scored the sixth fewest goals in the NHL in 2013 and they most definitely are counting on a full season of Marian Gaborik and the addition of Nathan Horton playing a big role in increasing offensive production. Gaborik netted three goals and totaled eight points in 12 games with Columbus after being traded by New York, but he is a three-time 40+ goal scorer. And Horton is a six-time 20+ goal scorer. Artem Anisimov (11 goals) and Brandon Dubinsky (2 goals) need to remain healthy and produce much more for Columbus in 2013-14. The club’s top scorer from a year ago, former Ranger Vinny Prospal (12-18-30) was not re-signed, while the top goal scorer---Mark Letestu, 13 goals---will be back.