The Columbus Blue Jackets have signed another one of their top prospects, this time inking Emil Bemstrom to a three-year entry-level contract. Bemstrom played this season in the SHL, but is expected to compete for a job in North America next season.
It’s easy to look at the impact that Alexandre Texier made in the NHL down the stretch and assume that the 19-year old forward is the Blue Jackets best prospect. After all, Texier did walk right into a role with Columbus and record three points in eight playoff games despite having played just seven games in the minor leagues previously. There’s no doubt that the young French forward will make an impact next season for the team, but all year many believed another player was actually heading for a big role in 2019-20 on the Blue Jackets.
That player is Bemstrom, who despite being just a fourth-round pick in 2017 may well find himself on the NHL roster to start next season. The 19-year old forward led the entire SHL in goals this season with 23 and finished with 45 points in 66 games overall. That led to him being winning the SHL Rookie of the Year along with the Swedish Junior Hockey Player of the Year in part because of his six-point performance at the World Juniors.
In fact, the presence of Bemstrom, Texier and Liam Foudy—the Blue Jackets’ first-round pick from 2018 who recorded 36 goals for the London Knights this season—may well have made it possible for GM Jarmo Kekalainen to spend some future assets to acquire Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel at the trade deadline. The front office executive told Aaron Portzline of The Athletic that the young players will get an opportunity next season:
The Texiers, the Bemstroms … those guys are going to get a great opportunity to play a key role in our forward group next year. … to not only play but play a big role and be a goal scorer on this level that he was in (the SHL).
With Duchene, Dzingel and Artemi Panarin all still scheduled to become unrestricted free agents the Blue Jackets will need some more firepower up front if they are to compete in the Metropolitan Division. Getting Bemstrom under contract was the first step in giving him the chance to provide that offense.