Making The Case For Emil Bemstrom To Play In A Top Nine Capacity For The Blue Jackets

By Dan Dukart on July 25, 2019 at 8:05 am
Emil Bemstrom has high expectations

If all goes according to plan, Emil Bemstrom will make the Blue Jackets opening night roster out of training camp. 

Given the exodus of forwards (by now you've heard), that includes Artemi Panarin, Matt Duchene, and Ryan Dzingel, it's safe to say that Bemstrom's arrival in North America is well-timed. And when the 20-year old Swede makes the team, John Tortorella and company should give him every opportunity to play in a scoring role, or at a minimum, in a top-nine capacity. 

In today's NHL, most teams employ their second and third lines in a similar fashion. Gone are the days of using the third line as a strictly defensive option, putting most all offensive pressure on the top-two lines. And while fourth lines today are much more proficient at, well, playing hockey reasonably well, playing Bemstrom in a fourth-line role would be like having a nice sports car that stays covered by a tarp in the garage. He'd be better served playing in Cleveland.

But It's not like Tortorella won't have options. For as thin as the team is projected to be at center, wingers are a position of strength. In no particular order, Bemstrom will be in competition with Cam Atkinson, Gustav Nyquist, Alexandre Texier, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Josh Anderson, Sonny Milano, with the expectation that either (or both of) Nick Foligno and Boone Jenner will be moving to center. 

The club is especially deep on the right-wing. Atkinson is penciled in at 1RW, and none of Anderson, Bjorkstrand, nor Bemstrom should be deployed in a fourth-line capacity. That means one of those three will most likely need to move to the left side, which isn't the end of the world. 

Simply put, the Blue Jackets need goals, and Bemstrom is one of the more gifted goal-scorers outside of the NHL today. The Athletic's Scott Wheeler recently ranked him the 38th best (currently drafted) prospect in the game. Here's a sampling from the piece:

"His knack for shifting away from checkers before sliding back into the open space behind them is extremely impressive. It resulted in the third-most goals by an under-20 SHL player ever, behind only Kent Nilsson and Elias Pettersson. He’s a little one-dimensional but the Blue Jackets need finishers and he could fill a void."

Note: Wheeler ranked Bemstrom one slot ahead of Texier, who came on the scene in a big way in April. 

Bemstrom doesn't create a ton of offense for himself, but he's a true finisher. His lack of playmaking could prevent him from getting a spot in the lineup, but I believe his high-ceiling for producing goals will allow him to secure a roster spot. 

One thing that stands out from watching the below highlight video (in addition to watching him internationally for a few years) is his preference for shooting from the left side, both at regular strength and on the power play. 

Playing Bemstrom with two skilled forwards will give him more chances at utilizing his best asset, his shot. Like Bjorkstrand, he's the kind of player you wish would shoot more. Unlike Bjorkstrand, he prefers the one-timer as opposed to a shot down the wing. What kind of production can we expect? That's hard to say, but 20 goals would not be an unreasonable expectation. Using NHLe (NHL equivalency) calculators, Bemstrom's 23-12-35 in 47 games in the SHL would have equated to 35 points in an 82-game regular season. Given his proclivity for scoring goals as opposed to tallying assists, it's safe to say that 35 points could be somewhere in the ballpark of 20-15, conservatively.

Wheeler, when breaking down Bemstrom, noted that goals come easy "but everything else (from linemates to his coach to the way he can develop some other evident tools) will determine whether he becomes a star". If Bemstrom is to become a star, much less have a productive rookie season, he'll need to play with talented players who can set him up for success. Hopefully, the coaching staff agrees.