The Blue Jackets have a large number of forwards that can compete at the NHL level.
That has bred a healthy amount of competition during training camp and the preseason, but it means that when all is said and done, players that can play at the NHL level still might not find themselves on the Opening Night roster.
It's safe to assume that the 12 forwards playing tonight vs. Pittsburgh are making the team, with the exception of Max Domi, who is playing his first preseason game tonight after rehabbing from shoulder surgery over the offseason. Domi could still make the roster for Opening Night, but it's not a sure thing. The 12 forwards in the lineup tonight are:
- Max Domi
- Gustav Nyquist
- Oliver Bjorkstrand
- Patrik Laine
- Cole Sillinger
- Boone Jenner
- Alexandre Texier
- Eric Robinson
- Yegor Chinakhov
- Jakub Voracek
- Jack Roslovic
- Sean Kuraly
Last night in St. Louis, the Blue Jackets trotted out a lineup of AHL players and players that are on the edge of making the team. For the forwards, that meant that Kevin Stenlund, Emil Bemstrom, Justin Danforth, Gregory Hofmann, and Liam Foudy got one last chance to make an impression on Brad Larsen and the rest of the Blue Jackets coaching staff.
The inexperienced Blue Jackets lost 7-3 to a very experienced Blues roster, but there were individual successes on the night. Bemstrom notched two goals, which brought his preseason total to four, tying him for the club lead and pushing him closer to a roster spot.
"I had some ups and downs, but overall I think it was a pretty decent game for me," Bemstrom said last night. "It was nice to finish with two goals, too."
Last year, Bemstrom only played in 20 of the Blue Jackets' 56 games. He missed 21 games with a lower-body injury, but that still leaves 15 where he did not make the lineup. Bemstrom only scored three goals in those 20 games, too. Although this will be Bemstrom's third season in the NHL, it's important to remember a couple of things:
- He is only 22 years old.
- He has only logged 76 games in his first two seasons, which means he doesn't even have a full season of NHL games under his belt yet.
Patience is a virtue.
Going into his third season, Bemstrom has likely done enough to warrant a spot on the roster for Opening Night, but the early recovery from surgery by Domi will make it harder for Bemstrom to make his way into the lineup. Blue Jackets management may decide that the best course of action for Bemstrom is to get him top-six minutes in Cleveland.