Blue Jackets can count defense as a strength

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The Columbus Blue Jackets are going into 2013-14 with more than their fair share of question marks from their goaltending to top-line forwards, but one aspect of their team that looks solid is their defense.

That isn’t because their blueline is stocked full of safe bets, but they have enough strong or at least promising defenseman to make them feel good about that situation even if everything doesn’t work out.

For example, James Wisniewski is a great puck moving defenseman that can eat minutes and is an asset with the man advantage. He’s also dealt with more than his fair share of injuries over the last two seasons, but their team can survive even if he goes down.

That’s due largely because of the presence of Jack Johnson and Fedor Tyutin. The duo did a fine job headlining the Blue Jackets’ defense in 2013 and are projected to start the 2013-14 campaign as the team’s top pairing. Nikita Nikitin figures to round out the Blue Jackets’ top-four and like the other members, he can be trusted with big minutes.

After that, the Blue Jackets will have a number of young players competing for roster spots, and among them, 19-year-old Ryan Murray is the most intriguing candidate. He probably would have made his NHL debut last season if it wasn’t for a shoulder injury that he sustained during the lockout.

Now that he’s healthy, he could be one of the 2013-14 campaign’s top rookies.

“He’s like a bonus for us after missing all of last season,” Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen told The Dispatch.

He’ll be competing in training camp with other promising youngsters like Tim Erixon, David Savard, Austin Madaisky, and Cody Goloubef. All four of them have the potential to develop into solid defenseman, but for now Columbus just needs one or two of them to play a supporting role behind their top two pairings.