Jack Roslovic’s Potential As a Top-Line Center in the NHL

That’s what Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen thinks Jack Roslovic possesses. Yesterday, the team and Roslovic agreed to a two-year extension with a $ 4MM annual cap hit. The contract buys out both of Roslovic’s arbitration and leads him straight to unrestricted free agency following the 2023-24 season when he’ll be 27 years old.

My colleague Ed Francis, aka @BlueJacketStats on Twitter, was spot on when predicting that Roslovic’s strong second half of the season would lead to a pay raise. You can check out that story here.

Yesterday, Kekalainen was asked if he thought Roslovic could be a top-line center in the future.

“I think he has great potential and that’s what we were basically betting on here,” he said. “And we want him to prove that to us. He wants to prove it to us.”

Can Roslovic be a top-line center?

Roslovic has displayed flashes of brilliance that prove he can be a top-line center in the NHL. He played well in that role down the stretch when Boone Jenner was unavailable due to injury, scoring 10 goals and 13 points in the final 10 games he played this season.

Kekalainen highlighted many of Roslovic’s skills yesterday, including “his ability with the puck, the way he drives play, the way he can get through the neutral zone with speed, and the way he can turn in the offensive zone with his edges and skills. He can score goals. He can make plays. ”

In a career-high 81 games played this season, Roslovic posted career-highs in goals with 22, assists with 23, and points with 45. He certainly has all the skills to be a top-line center, and some analytics back that up , too. For example, Roslovic ranked eighth among centers in 5v5 goals above expected, per moneypuck.com.

Consistency is Key

I mentioned earlier that he scored 10 goals in his last 10 games. That’s great, but it also means he only scored 12 goals in the previous 71 games. Being a bonafide top-line center in the NHL requires production throughout the season. That does not necessarily mean he has to score 30 goals and 40 assists every year, but there were ten games this season where Brad Larsen played him less than 10 minutes. If he can consistently play as he did in the last 22 games of the season where he scored 12 goals and 18 points while playing 18:56 a night, then he can be a top-line NHL center for a long time.

“This puts even bigger expectations and responsibility on his shoulders,” Kekalainen said. “But that’s the way it should be.”

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