Roslovic’s outlook is rosy after strong finish to season

The Columbus native’s first year with the hometown Blue Jackets was a good one production-wise, as the center was perhaps the brightest spot during a disappointing 2021 season for the squad.

But while the Blue Jackets exceeded expectations this past season, Roslovic spent much of the year fighting to find his best game until an ill-fated evening in Calgary. While skating fourth-line minutes, his breakout pass through center ice late in the second period was intercepted by the Flames, with their dangerous top line burying a shot past Elvis Merzlikins moments after the turnover to take a 3-1 lead.

By the end of the night, the Flames had a 6-2 win, and head coach Brad Larsen had a headache. What could he do with the talented hometown kid, whose star had shined so brightly the year before but who was struggling to find playing time in 2021-22 behind the workhorse Boone Jennersurprising Cole Sillinger and steady Sean Kuraly?

“It wasn’t a great game for me,” Roslovic says now, even referring to the Calgary contest as a turning point. “It was a close game that I felt like I put out of reach. It being a regular-season game, people might not look into it too far, but it’s one of those things that everybody kind of has a moment, everyone has a thing that they can always go back to, always relate to.

“And that moment for me was where it was at, and (afterward) I just stuck to it and had the game plan in mind and now we’re here.”

And that is a pretty good place to be for the Columbus native, who made sure that game was a true turning point based on his play down the stretch. Whether it was the meeting with Larsen, a new focus on play away from the puck rather than trying to force offense, opportunity provided by the season-ending injury to Jenner or a combination of everything, but Roslovic finished the season on a tremendous hot streak .

READ MORE: Roslovic signing another win for Columbus hockey community

The center was on the first line by the end of the year, posting 10 goals and three assists for 13 points in his last 10 games. In all, he had a 14-11-25 line and was plus-8 in 35 games after the Calgary contest while averaging 17:17 of ice time, a huge bump up from the 11:00 he had averaged in the first 46 games .

Video: TBL @ CBJ: Roslovic scores PPG at: 15 of 3rd period

In the end, he finished with career highs of 22 goals and 45 points, and the reward was a two-year, $ 8 million contract extension he signed two weeks ago.

Success is often born from the lessons of adversity, and the hope is that the Roslovic who shined both offensively and defensively the second half of the season can keep growing as he becomes more and more a critical piece in the CBJ puzzle.

“I think my game through the last little stretch was really good,” he said after signing his contract extension. “I’m happy and I’m excited for the progress I made throughout that time and be able to go into the summer with a really good idea of ​​where things are going, the standard and the bar that I’ve set for myself. It’s a great feeling to have. ”

That feeling extends to Jarmo Kekalainen, who says he could see Roslovic’s game coming along as the season went on. Better yet, the general manager believes even more is in the gas tank as the 25-year-old keeps learning from the scenarios he encounters on the ice.

“I think Jack grew a lot this year,” Kekalainen said. “He took some big steps on both sides of the puck. I think he has some exceptional ability with the pick – the way he can skate, his edges, his skills, he can score, he can create off the rush with his speed . I think on the other side of the puck defensively, he definitely took some strides this year.

“I’ve talked to Jack about it, it’s a huge responsibility to play center in the National Hockey League and be a top-six player, be a top-two center ice man that coaches trust in every situation. He’s still young, so he’s still growing. Physically he’s a very strong guy. His skating obviously is a big strength, but I think just overall playing center, he hasn’t really done that full time for long. We gotta have some patience with him as well. ”

Two years in, the acquisition of Roslovic along with Patrik Laine in a trade that sent Pierre-Luc Dubois to Winnipeg has paid ample dividends for the Blue Jackets. While Laine had a point-per-game scoring pace this past season and posted 26 goals in 56 games, Roslovic has had the two most productive seasons of his NHL career in union blue, totaling 34 goals and 79 points in 129 games with Columbus.

As a native of the capital city, Roslovic has made clear how much it means to play for the hometown team, and he also sees a young CBJ team that is coming together with eyes on returning to being a contender in coming seasons.

Video: CBJ @ DET: Roslovic earns hat trick in 300th NHL game

“All of our young guys that we have and all of the new guys that we have, they want to be here,” Roslovic said. “They’re gonna be the best thing for us. It’s a group of guys, it’s a locker room that wants to be in Columbus and wants to play here. We’ve seen that we’ve started to create a bond already.

“This year was great year for our trajectory, where we want to be, where we want to go. That’s what it’s all about is finding that core and being able to build off of that and have something for everyone to gather around.”

With that, Roslovic hopes to be a big part of that future – even beyond the two-year extension he signed that will walk him up to unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2024. And Kekalainen said that while the responsibility is on Roslovic’s shoulders to keep growing, the hope is to be able to make it a long-term relationship down the road with the talented center.

“Hopefully at some point in the right time with this contract, we can extend it to a longer-term contract and keep moving on and growing with Jack,” Kekalainen said. “I think he has great potential, and that’s what we’re basically betting on here with him. We want him to prove that to us. He wants to prove it to us. If all that happens, then we can have a longer marriage , if you want to call it that. ”

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