The maturation of Rick Nash continues.
Since Ken Hitchcock took over as coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets in the middle of last season, he’s made it a priority to turn Nash into a more complete player.
Think Mike Modano. Maybe even Steve Yzerman.
Nobody has ever doubted Nash’s talent, from the time he was selected first overall in 2002 to winning a share of the Rocket Richard Trophy with Jarome Iginla and Ilya Kovalchuk in just his second NHL season.
But Nash never demonstrated the consistency or attention to defensive detail required to be the lead dog on a winning team.
Now, as the Blue Jackets’ fortunes finally look to be rising, Nash, still a couple months shy of his 24th birthday, is growing into the role of all-around talent and leader.
The 6-foot-4, 215-pound left winger sometimes looks like he has the hands and size to bury about one puck per shift. When he’s fired up, Nash has the potential to score the kind of goals only a handful of guys in hockey can net.
Remember that crucial goal he scored for Team Canada in the gold medal game of the World Championship last spring? The one where he was kind enough to give a Finnish defender a piggyback ride from about the top of the circle in?
That’s a Rick Nash goal.
And that skill, coupled with his evolution as a leader, is why he’s the right candidate to guide Columbus as it moves toward what should be its most – and first – prosperous era.