All-Star nods mark firsts for Blue Jackets

Columbus Blue Jackets 2014-15 All-Stars Nick Foligno, Sergei Bobrovsky and Ryan Johansen. This is the first selection for all three players.

USA TODAY Sports

All eyes in the hockey world will turn towards Columbus beginning Jan. 22 leading up to the 2015 NHL All-Star Game on Jan. 25. Not only were three Blue Jackets players selected to represent the team for this event, it’s the first selection to an All-Star roster for all three.

Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky and forwards Nick Foligno and Ryan Johansen have the added benefit of playing in front of a partisan crowd that weekend.

For all three players, this is validation of where their career is at as they develop. Bobrovsky is in his fifth year in the NHL, Johansen is in his fourth and Foligno is in his eighth.

"It’s a tremendous honor," Johansen said. "I remember looking back when I was on the Young Stars (2012) and looking at the Ottawa guys and how much they enjoyed it. It was really cool to watch. I’m really excited for that to come."

Foligno (18-22-40) leads the team with 18 goals (tying his career high and 12th in NHL) and 40 points (16th in NHL). Johansen (15-24-39) leads the team in assists with 24 (21st in NHL). Bobrovsky has 15 wins (18th in NHL) with a .914 save percentage (35th) and 2.88 goals against average (56th).

While the majority of NHL players will take the four days as a much-needed break, the three Blue Jackets do not have to travel and can sleep in their own beds each night. Despite having a hectic schedule for the All-Star Game festivities that weekend, they are very excited to play in front of their fans.

"That’s going to be the biggest thing that I’m looking forward to, with it being my first one, having the comforts of home and being in front of our fans," said Foligno. "I’m excited for the city of Columbus to show what kind of hockey town it is. I know it is because I see it first-hand.

"I think once the hockey world comes in and shines a light on Columbus and sees what type of place it is for hockey, they’ll be really impressed. In talking with Ryan (Johansen) and Bob (Sergei Bobrovsky), we’re excited to showcase that for the city and be the guys here and representing our team. It’s a huge honor. We’re really excited about that."

All three players had a glint in their eye when talking about playing their first All-Star game in front of their fans on home ice. They understand how important having the NHL descend on Columbus is for the team and the city.

The team has never had more than one player represented since the inception of the franchise. Espen Knutsen (2002), Ray Whitney (2003) and Rick Nash (2004, ’07, ’08, ’09, ’11) were the Blue Jackets players selected. To have three players chosen to participate on the ice of Nationwide Arena is just one more example of the franchise heading in the right direction.

"Yes, it’s definitely great, you know? It’s a huge honor to play in this game," Bobrovsky said.

Other than the Chicago Blackhawks (five players selected by fan vote), the Blue Jackets are the only other team to have more than two players selected to represent their club.

The captains of the two All-Star teams will be named later this week. The possibilities are myriad, but imagine if any of the three were named as captain. Or even better, might we see "THE HUG" occur at the conclusion of the All-Star Game on Jan. 25?

And even though Bobrovsky, Foligno and Johansen are all excited and honored to participate in the NHL All-Star Game, they know they still have to stay focused with five games still on the schedule before that weekend rolls around. They are still attempting to claw their way into the playoffs and all three said they’ll relax a bit and start to soak-in the atmosphere when they get back from Winnipeg (Jan. 21).

There is a buzz swelling within the city of Columbus as it prepares for its four days in the spotlight of the hockey world. This buzz will only getting louder as the days tick down to this fantastic NHL weekend.