Boone Jenner (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)
The Blue Jackets staggered through another season that ends without a playoff berth, but not all was negative in Columbus. Boone Jenner hit 30 goals for the first time in his NHL career and showed a consistency and diversity that bodes well for the future.
Silver linings have been in short supply if you're a fan of the Columbus Blue Jackets this season. That second-half charge from last year? Zero carryover. Top center Ryan Johansen? Traded – but at least Seth Jones was equal value for the blueline. There will be no playoffs in Ohio for the 13th time in 15 seasons, but hey: at least you've got Boone Jenner, Jackets loyalists.
The marauding left winger hit 30 goals for the first time in his NHL career this season, while showing off the ability to also play center if the team needs him down the middle. While he's still only 22 years old, Jenner seems to have locked down one of the most important traits a pro can display: consistency in his brawny, nasty game.
“You know what you’re gonna get in Boone Jenner," said captain Nick Foligno. "And that’s something that has lacked in myself and a lot of guys in this room this year – you don’t know what Blue Jacket team you’re gonna get. But that’s a credit to Boone, because no matter what, he’s consistently bringing it. That’s what makes good teams and good players. He doesn’t waver and he has the tenacity to go with it.”
Jones had to face Jenner's tenacious forecheck and physicality when the big blueliner was in Nashville and much prefers wearing the same colors on the ice.
“There are a handful of guys in the league that you want on your team but hate playing against and that’s someone like Boone," Jones said. "Every shift he’s giving his all and finishing his checks and that has been very valuable to our team.”
It's not easy to find a power forward with as many skills as Jenner these days – actually, it's never been easy to find them – but he even brings an old-school mentality to the ice, which seems to fit his farm boy roots. Growing up in small-town southwestern Ontario, Jenner learned to take his lumps on the ice from big brother Leo, a 6-foot-4, 224-pound monster blueliner who ended up playing five seasons with OHL Plymouth.
Needless to say, no quarter was given. Maybe that's why losing three teeth to a teammate's wrist shot in Washington last week barely fazed him – Jenner was back in the game as soon as he could be.
“It was good to get back out there," he said. "We had half the game left. I remember my dad telling me ‘don’t lay on the ice, ever,’ so maybe it came from that mindset.”
And while Jenner is as rooted as they come, he does allow himself the gratification that deservedly comes with scoring 30 goals on a team that will strain to have another player hit the mark (Cam Atkinson needs three in the last three games; Brandon Saad needs two).
“It’s pretty cool," Jenner said. "Coming down to the end of the season it became a goal and to get there is special. You look at the other guys who got there, it’s pretty cool.”
Let's look at some of those other guys, shall we? Twenty skaters have hit the mark already, with all the top names in attendance: Ovechkin, Crosby, Seguin, Gaudreau…pretty heady company for Jenner, who plays some of the toughest minutes on the team (in terms of quality of competition), blocks shots and throws a ton of hits.
For sure, Columbus has a ways to go before the Jackets can be considered a playoff threat. But Jones leads a defense corps with some nice young pieces (Zach Werenski being the latest) and Jenner is untapping his potential up front. As Foligno noted, the rest of the team just needs to catch up to the youngster's efforts. Then, things won't look so bleak.