2022-23 Player Review: Emil Bemstrom remains an enigma
Does he deserve a bigger role here, or elsewhere?
Would you believe me if I told you that Emil Bemstrom is the fifth longest tenured Blue Jackets player currently in the organization? Just Boone Jenner, Elvis Merzlikins, Zach Werenski, and Andrew Peeke have been around longer.
Would you also believe that Bemstrom is still just 23 years old? He turns 24 in a few weeks. That's still young, even by hockey standards. And he only has 172 NHL games under his belt despite being here for four seasons. Injuries, COVID, and coaching whims have limited his opportunities at every turn, and prevented him from gaining any momentum.
Based on his record in Europe, he is supposed to be a sniper. Yet he has a career shooting percentage of 9.2, with a career-low 7.4 this season. His offensive skill should be a fit on one of the top lines, and yet he averages just shy of 12 minutes a game. There were 14 games this year where he played under 10 minutes. That's 25% of his season! He thrived in Cleveland, where he finally got big minutes (14/17/31 in 21 games).
When Bemstrom first arrived in Columbus as a 20 year old in 2019, we had high hopes because we needed to replace the talent that had just left, and he stood out in a shallow prospect pipeline. In four years, his game hasn't translated to the NHL and the Jackets have acquired other snipers who make Bemstrom obsolete (Laine, Marchenko, Chinakhkov, etc.).
One silver lining is Bemstrom has shown he can handle the defensive responsibilites of the bottom 6, but now there's a surplus of bottom 6 wingers in the organization as well. Bemstrom feels like another player who could be part of a trade package, and could benefit from a change of scenery and a fresh start elsewhere.
5v5 CF%: 46.3
5v5 FF%: 46.1
Bemstrom is in the middle of a two year contract with an AAV of $900,000. He will be an RFA with arbitration rights in summer 2024.
I'm sure this will be a controversial pick, but...I think this is a great goal. It shows how lethal Bemstrom can be from that spot on the power play. He finally capitalized on a chance to score a high leverage goal for his team. He was assisted by two rookies making their NHL debut. And he did it against our most-hated rival!
But no, lots of fans can't appreciate this goal because it earned a point that put Columbus ahead of Anaheim in the standings, and below them in the draft lottery odds. Did this goal cost the Jackets Adam Fantilli? Or did they need a point against Buffalo too, to take Chicago's spot and win the Bedard lottery?
It's a flawed way of thinking, and as I've written before, it's a poor system that makes fans root against their team's short-term success.
A few options here:
a. Bemstrom fails to make the team for the start of the regular season, and spends most of the first half of the season in the AHL.
b. His worst defensive game was a -3 performance against San Jose in January, though the Jackets won that game 5-3 regardless.
c. One of the three games in which he played fewer than 7 minutes.
He set a career high in assists and in points. He had one 9 game scoreless streak, but otherwise chipped in points on a weekly-ish basis. Do we dock him points for not earning a bigger role? Or for not doing more with the role he was given? It's hard to know what scale to grade him on here.