Columbus Blue Jackets rookie forward Dmitri Voronkov has been one of the team’s better stories so far this season, as the 23-year-old has jumped out to a strong start to his North American pro career. According to the Athletic’s Aaron Portzline, his time with Columbus, at least for this season, could be coming to an end. (subscription link)
Portzline wrote today that Russian media outlets have reported that “Voronkov is homesick and has considered returning to Russia,” adding that Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekäläinen has confirmed those reports.
Kekäläinen told Portzline that the Blue Jackets are “dealing with it internally,” adding “It’s normal for a young player to feel homesick at times. And so we’re dealing with it.”
If Voronkov does indeed decide he wants to return to Russia, his current contract status dictates that the Blue Jackets would have to send him there via a loan to his KHL team, Ak Bars Kazan.
According to Portzline, “the biggest hurdle” for Voronkov and his adjustment to life in North America has been that the forward “speaks almost no English.”The hope was that the presence of a few other Russians on the Blue Jackets’ roster, namely Ivan Provorov, Kirill Marchenko, and Yegor Chinakhov, would smooth out his adjustment. Portzline added, “The Blue Jackets took steps to help Voronkov acclimate when he first arrived, but those efforts will be redoubled in the coming days.” Former Blue Jacket Fedor Tyutin, who helped Marchenko acclimate to life in Columbus, could be enlisted to help.
In terms of how the loss of Voronkov would impact the Blue Jackets on the ice, it would be a significant blow. Voronkov is currently playing on the team’s second line next to two of the franchise’s most important players: Patrik Laine and Adam Fantilli.
A big power forward with a goal-scoring touch, Voronkov’s solid KHL numbers have translated to the NHL thus far. He’s currently scoring at a 16-goal, 49-point 82-game pace, and his physicality is well-appreciated as well.
With Columbus desperate to revive their playoff hopes early in this 2023-24 campaign, the status of Voronkov and his potential return to Russia will be a key storyline to monitor for Blue Jackets fans.
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