2021 CBJ Top 25 Under 25: Emil Bemstrom has to find his shot
Can he stay in the lineup this season?
Thanks to everyone who voted for this year’s Top 25 Under 25 ranking. We had 102 submissions from Columbus Blue Jackets fans. We’ll be counting down the 25 highest voted players through the second week of September. Up next: Emil Bemstrom.
#11: Emil Bemstrom
11th out of 38 eligible players
Writer Rank: 12
Reader Rank: 11
Highest placement: 2 (1 vote)
Most common placement: 8 (13 votes)
2019 Rank: 7th
Birthdate: June 1, 1999
Birthplace: Nykoping, Sweden
Weight: 194 lbs
Position: Right Wing
Acquired: Drafted by the Blue Jackets in Round 4 (117th overall) of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft
Bemstrom’s NHL career has not started as we hoped two years ago. He was ranked 7th in this list in August 2019, in large part thanks to leading the SHL in goals as a 19 year old. He struggled to adjust in the first few months, then was sidelined with injury. He played better after that, before COVID shut down the season. In the bubble playoffs, he again struggled to have much impact in the limited minutes he was given.
In order to get some extra game action — and with the NHL start date still up in the air — the Blue Jackets loaned Bemstrom to a team in Finland in the fall. He only played 16 games before his loan expired, but he made the most of that time with 17 points (8 goals, 9 assists). Unfortunately he was not able to bring that scoring touch back across the pond.
After five games with no points to start the season (and just six shots on goal), Bemstrom was demoted to the taxi squad for a month. He only played 10 more games before going on the IR. He recorded just two points (both assists) in that stretch.
He recovered in time to play five games at the end of the season, in which he finally scored some goals (more on that below), but the overall numbers aren’t good: just 3/2/5 in 20 games, and only 12:51 average ice time per game. 51% of you gave him a D grade for the season.
The one silver lining? Even when he’s not scoring himself, Bemstrom is having a positive impact on the ice. Among the 14 CBJ forwards with at least 200 minutes of 5v5 ice time, Bemstrom trailed only Eric Robinson in percentage of shot attempts, unblocked shot attempts, and shots on goal while on the ice. He led in both goal percentage and expected goal percentage. He allowed just 1.02 goals (1.54 expected) against per 60 minutes of ice time, which is insanely good. Like, “better than Riley Nash” good, and that’s the one thing Nash is good at doing. These weren’t sheltered minutes, either. Only Nash had fewer 5v5 offensive zone starts than Bemstrom, and he wasn’t kept out of the defensive zone as much as possible like Jack Roslovic or Patrik Laine.
If the new coaching staff values analytics as much as figures like Brad Larsen and Pascal Vincent say they do, then Bemstrom should be able to earn a more regular role on the roster. While he got better away from the puck last season, it is crucial that he gets to unleash the shot that he put on display in Europe. The potential is still there to be a 20 goal scorer, but he can’t do that from the bench or the press box.
The easiest way to get him going? Feature him on the power play. He played just 18:28 on the power play last season. Over the last two seasons, among the 13 CBJ forwards with at least 50 minutes of power play time, Bemstrom led with 8.44 goals for per 60 minutes, and was fourth in xGF/60 with 5.49 (trailing Nyquist, Dubois, and BJORKSTRAND). Get him on ice with a passer like Nyquist or Voracek and let him fire away at the goal from the faceoff circle.
Another factor that could boost his play: Newly acquired defenseman Adam Boqvist is a good friend of Bemstrom, and they were teammates on Team Sweden in the 2019 World Junior Championship.
On May 3, Bemstrom was able to erase months of frustration by not only snapping his goalless streak, but scoring his first NHL hat trick. All three goals came in one period, and single-handedly tied up the game to send the Jackets to overtime.
Not only does this sequence of goals demonstrate Bemstrom’s wicked wrister, it also shows his ability to pass and to battle for the puck in front of the net.