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Bemstrom hopes to add unique talent to Blue Jackets' power play

Swedish forward with the impressive one-timer looking to carve out a role

by Jeffrey Svoboda @JacketsInsider /

As the days whittle down to the Blue Jackets' season opener -- there's just 10 to go -- so too do the number of players who could begin the season with Columbus. 

There are 28 players currently on the roster, a number that's essentially 27 considering one of those still listed is injured forward Liam Foudy. 

Four more players must still be trimmed to get to the opening night 23, including one or two of the 15 healthy forwards still in camp. 

But as we get closer to opening day, the more likely it looks that rookie Emil Bemstrom will break camp with the Blue Jackets. The 20-year-old with a rocket of a shot has survived all cuts to this point and has caught the eye of the Blue Jackets' decision makers.  

Video: Bemstrom discusses confidence heading into Thursday's game vs. Pittsburgh

"He's a smart player," head coach John Tortorella said. "You can see he thinks the game. You can see some of the little plays he makes, he's very interesting to us." 

In fact, Tortorella can already see a role for the native of Nyköping, Sweden, whose 23 goals as a rookie led the Swedish Hockey League a year ago.  

"You remember a couple of years ago with Sam Gagner -- didn't play a lot of minutes 5-on-5 but that fourth line of (Scott) Hartnell and him together was one of the top fourth lines in the league at that point in time," Tortorella said. "You have to start thinking about that when you see this guy Bemstrom, but we're going to let it play out and see how it goes." 

Indeed, time will tell, but Bemstrom could be ready for that type of role. Gagner played just one season for the Blue Jackets, the franchise-record 108-point campaign in 2016-17, but was a key part of a dynamic CBJ power play that season. Gagner finished the year with 50 points, with eight goals and 10 assists coming on the power play. 

It didn't take Bemstrom long into camp this year to show he has the skill to step onto the man advantage and make a difference if the opportunity is there.  

Less than a minute into the team's first preseason game of the year last Tuesday vs. Buffalo, Bemstrom took a pass from Seth Jones at the left faceoff dot and -- well, he didn't really take the pass. He simply hammered it past Sabres goaltender Linus Ullmark with a one-timer, which is the kind of goal he scored with regularity a year ago with Djurgårdens IF in his home country. 

"I know where the goal is, and I saw Sonny (Milano) did a pretty good job there in front of the net and covered the goalie pretty well," Bemstrom said of what he saw before unloading the shot. "I saw the goal there and I shot it." 

Bemstrom had a couple other chances to score on power-play one-timers in that game and also drilled a hard one late in the loss late last week vs. Pittsburgh, forcing an excellent glove save out of two-time Stanley Cup-winning goalie Matt Murray. It's a shot he said he practices on a regular basis, with a post-practice routine of taking 10 to 20 one-timers in order to perfect his craft.  

And yes, many of those shots come from that left dot. It's a familiar spot for NHL fans, who have watched Washington's Alexander Ovechkin often score from that same piece of real estate for years, with it earning the nickname "Ovi's Office." 

Bemstrom, however, could only smile when asked if he enjoyed lining up shots from the same patch of ice. 

"Yeah," he said. "It's my office." 

He has a while to go to quite reach Ovechkin's level, but Bemstrom won't be afraid to let it fly on North American ice when given the opportunity. His 23 goals a year ago -- the third most for a teenager ever in the SHL, behind only Kent Nilsson and last year's NHL rookie of the year, Elias Pettersson -- came in 47 games, and that was in a game where the bigger ice encourages passing over shooting. 

Of course, it's a bit different in the NHL, which could benefit the 2017 fourth-round pick. 

"In Sweden, you almost are looking for passes every time," he said. "Here, you know it's going to be tough for the goalie when you shoot from everywhere. I try to shoot as much as I can, and we'll see how that goes. I think that's better for me. It suits me much better than the game back in Europe." 

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