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The Blue Jackets have a glut of young forwards making an impact at the NHL level - or close to doing so - and Marko Dano may be the best of the bunch.
While it was a disappointing season for the Blue Jackets as a whole, it wasn't for Dano, as he was one of the best players in hockey after being inserted into the lineup as a regular in February.
Dano recorded 19 points in his final 27 games - including 14 points and 37 shots in his final 15 - while driving possession at a high clip, and creating highlight-real plays on a nightly basis. What is most impressive is he did that seeing 12-14 minutes per game.
From February 1st on (27 games) Marko Dano averaged 3.01 points/60 minutes of 5 vs 5 ice. The only players who averaged more in that span (via War-On-Ice.com): Jamie Benn (3.14) and Jiri Hudler (3.02).
Scott Hartnell and Alex Wennberg are good players, but Benn and Hudler had better linemates, as Benn played a good portion of his games with Tyler Seguin, while Hudler played alongside Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau.
The sample size was relatively small, but Dano finishing 6th in the NHL in 5 vs 5 points/60 (in 446 full strength minutes) is certainly encouraging; particularly because he shot 9.5%, so it wasn't as if he was riding unsustainably high percentages for his success.
Dano not only produced points, but he drove possession at a high rate regardless of who he was playing with.
Note: Numbers via Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com.
Note: most minutes played together on left, least on right.
As you can see, Dano had a positive impact - in most cases a significant one - on every player he saw 95+ minutes of 5 vs 5 ice with.
Obviously Dano benefited from playing with guys like Hartnell and Wennberg, but it was certainly mutual, as both of those guys posted significantly lower numbers away from Dano.
Dano may have been Columbus' third pick in the 1st round of the 2013 draft, but early returns suggest he could very well be the best of the bunch.
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