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Blue Jackets gaining enthusiasm from goal-scoring youngsters

First NHL goals from Robinson, Bemstrom, Gavrikov have been key part of recent stretch

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

Head coach John Tortorella has said the Blue Jackets need to get their top players scoring goals, and he's right - the team will only go as far as such players as Cam Atkinson, Nick Foligno and Josh Anderson can take them. 

But as many of the team's veterans have gone through a stretch where the goal-scoring stalwarts have seemingly been unable to score goals no matter what they try, a youthful infusion of energy -- and goals -- has helped turn around a losing skid. 

Columbus has taken five points in the last three games, and in that span, 20-year-old Emil Bemstrom has his four points, Eric Robinson has a pair of goals and rookie defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov has his first NHL goal.  

Video: MTL@CBJ: Robinson buries one-timer for opening goal

Gavrikov's tally on Friday night in the win vs. St. Louis capped a four-game stretch in he joined Bemstrom and Robinson in earning his first NHL goal. At a time where tallies have been hard to come from, the newest and youngest Blue Jackets have done their part to get things back on the right track.  

"It's great. It means they're contributing," Foligno said. "They're learning the league, they're getting better. It's a great feeling when you can get that first one out of the way. I'm happy for those guys. They're great kids, great people and have worked really hard to make a difference for our team. It's great to see them contribute offensively. 

"I think it makes them feel more a part of it, too. They're finding their way, but also contributing. Any player, that's what they want to do. Especially for some of those guys, they're used to being goal scorers in their other leagues or difference makers like that. Sometimes you come in with a different role and to be able to get on the scoresheet makes them feel pretty good." 

Those three Blue Jackets rookies -- who are among seven to suit up for the team this year, joining Jakob Lilja, Alexandre Texier, Kole Sherwood and Elvis Merzlikins -- came to the team this season with varying levels of experience.  

Bemstrom is the youngest but perhaps the most highly touted after a standout season a year ago as a 19-year-old in his home country's top league. He led all of Sweden with 23 goals as a rookie, tallying the third highest total ever in a season for a teenager in the SHL, and was expected to add some goal-scoring ability to the squad this season. 

It took him a while to heat up and learn the North American game, but Bemstrom has now tied a CBJ rookie record with points in five games in a row after earning the game-winning goal and an assist last night vs. Montreal. While he hasn't yet been able to tally on his prodigious one-timer, he's started to show a nose for the net and a confidence to make plays with the puck.  

"I'm just going out there and playing hockey," Bemstrom said. "It's fun. That's what I'm doing now."  

Video: MTL@CBJ: Bemstrom scores on wild bounce off of Price

As for Robinson, the speedy Princeton product had gotten his feet wet each of the past two seasons -- he played in one game after leaving school in 2017-18 and then got in 13 contests last year -- but had yet to earn a point coming into the campaign. After started the year in Cleveland, he's come up and added another dimension to the lineup with his wheels, and he has two goals in his three games, both coming against Montreal. 

"I think if you're playing well and feeling good, you have the puck more," Robinson said. "I attribute that to my linemates and the people around me getting it to me. I'm not sure (the puck) is following me, but when you're playing good it feels like you have it more."  

For Tortorella, the aim is still to get his longtime goal-scoring leaders going, but he's had to give some increasing attention to the youngsters, including putting Bemstrom on a line with Pierre-Luc Dubois and Sonny Milano and Robinson with veterans Alexandre Wennberg and Josh Anderson. 

"They're finding their way," he said. "Bemmer has been on the scoresheet a number of games in a row here. Robby has played two really good games for us. We have a decision to make. Nick is coming back in. I'm not sure what we're going to do as far as the lineup, but I don't think it's going ot be the same guys that we look at to take out. We'll look at the video and figure out what we're going to do, or are we going to change the lineup? I don't know. 

"I've always liked Robby because he just stands out tremendously with his speed. If we can just keep on working with him and learn within the game. I think they've done a great job in Cleveland with him. Bemmer is a guy that he's really good with the puck. Hopefully it'll continue and get some other guys coming along with them." 

Adding in the three goals scored by Dubois in the last two games -- he's second among all NHL players age 21 or younger in goals this year -- and Zach Werenski's winner in overtime vs. St. Louis, seven of the eight goals in the past two games have been scored either by rookies or players aged 22 or younger.  

"We need it," said Dubois, himself just 21. "We need everybody to contribute, and Bemmer has been playing really well recently, Robby was flying the first couple of shifts, and Gavver last game. Especially when we're looking for goals like this, we need all four lines to be contributing." 

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