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Playoff ice time has helped Blue Jackets youngsters develop

Experience has helped such players as Texier, Foudy, others come along

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

It's a moment Blue Jackets fans would like to forget, but it's a moment that will probably help Emil Bemstrom in the long run. 

In the early moments of Game 3 of the team's Stanley Cup Playoffs series vs. Tampa Bay, Bemstrom was in a shooting position on the team's 5-on-3 power play when he let go the hard shot that allowed him to become the top scorer in the Swedish League a season ago. 

The one-timer he ripped was exactly why Bemstrom was brought over to join the Blue Jackets this season at 20 years old, but it was soon followed by an unfortunate sound. Bemstrom had plenty of net to shoot at with Andrei Vasilevskiy out of position, but all he heard was the ping of the near post rather than the boom of the CBJ cannon. 

One has to imagine Bemstrom didn't sleep well after missing that golden opportunity in the team's 3-2 loss to the Lightning. But the learning process he's gone through this season and in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in particular will hopefully pay off in spades down the road. 

"He's still a young man trying to understand," head coach John Tortorella. "Now he's been bounced out of the lineup, come back in. This is all part of the process for a young player. It's been a problem for Bemmer really all year as far as hitting the net, but this is part of it. It's part of growing, understanding what it is to play on this stage and to make those important plays at key times. This is a good experience for him." 

It's a message Tortorella has echoed a few times during this postseason run. With the Blue Jackets playing four rookie forwards in Bemstrom, Liam Foudy, Kevin Stenlund and Eric Robinson who have made their Stanley Cup Playoffs debuts this postseason, plus 20-year-old Alexandre Texier earning a lot of time on the first line, it's been a chance to see the future of the Blue Jackets on display in big moments. 

As Tortorella has said a few times, while he's focused on the present, he also has an eye on the future and what can be gained from these experiences. It's a message echoed by general manager Jarmo Kekalainen. 

"Every day is a new opportunity to learn something," Kekalainen said late in the Toronto series. "These are valuable lessons here obviously, and some of our young guys have really risen to the occasion. Liam Foudy, for example, our youngest player here has gotten better and better every game. Those are encouraging things for our team." 

The Blue Jackets entered the bubble as tied for the third youngest team on the roster with an average age of 26.1, a mark that dropped to 25.7 for the team's Game 1 roster against Toronto. Columbus has been one of the youngest teams in the NHL throughout the entirety of Tortorella's tenure, but that only seemed to increase this year when veterans like Artemi Panarin, Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel left in free agency and were replaced by such players as Bemstrom and Texier, who were each 20 years old through the length of the 2019-20 season. 

Foudy joined the team for the postseason after just two regular-season games, but his playoff debut has been impressive. His speed and poise on the puck have impressed, and his first-ever NHL goal late in Game 5 helped ice the series against Toronto. Speaking of speed, Robinson earned his first career postseason goal in Game 3 vs. Tampa Bay and has shown how his legs can add to the attack.

Texier, meanwhile, has been a key part of the CBJ attack. He's spent a fair amount of the postseason on the team's top line with center Pierre-Luc Dubois, and he has shown confidence on the puck and in battling to get it back throughout the playoffs. For a player who missed a big chunk of the season with a back injury suffered on New Year's Eve, it's been a good sign that Texier could jump back into the lineup and produce with four assists and a plus-1 rating to this point. 

"Tex is finally healthy," Tortorella said. Remember, he was sitting on his (butt). He couldn't do anything. He just had to sit on the couch because of his injury. He's full of energy. He's rested. He's a good player. He's all business. He's totally in in all facets of the game. It's good to see. 

"Seeing players like him and Foudy being put in this situation, the amount of minutes they're getting in these situations is very good for this organization." 

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