The Blue Jackets’ youth movement is in full swing. Ryan Johansen, 22, broke out last season with 33 goals and 63 points while rookies Boone Jenner and Ryan Murray made meaningful contributions.
Columbus has more quality prospects on the verge of establishing themselves and arguably the most noteworthy example is 19-year-old Alexander Wennberg. He’s a two-way center that was taken with the 14th overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft.
He’s gained experience playing among men with Frolunda in Sweden’s top league and stood out in the 2014 World Junior Championship. Rather than continue to hone his game in Europe, Wennberg signed an entry-level contract this summer so that he can make the transition to North America.
“In talking to Alexander after the season, he made it very clear that he wanted to sign, work hard this summer and then come to training camp to try to make our team,” Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen said following the signing. “He is an outstanding young player and we are excited to watch him develop in the coming years.”
The belief among Columbus’ scouts is that Wennberg is capable of following in Jenner’s footsteps by earning a roster spot with an impressive training camp, according to NHL.com. It helps that Wennberg has bulked up, bringing him to 6-foot-2, 205 pounds.
Making the roster won’t be simple for Wennberg, but there are potential openings. Columbus was passive on the free agent market this summer and the fact that they have players like Wennberg in the system was part of their rationale for that.
“You can’t fast-forward the young players if they’re not ready,” Kekalainen told the Columbus Dispatch back in June. “But you have to give them room to play, and to do that, you can’t have too many guys in the same role. The bus gets crowded.”
So the opportunity is there for Wennberg. The question now is whether he’ll be able to make the leap straight to the NHL from Europe or if he’ll need seasoning in the minors first.