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Bemstrom learning on the job with the Blue Jackets

Rookie forward has seen game slow down, tallied four goals in six games

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider /

It was always going to be a transition for Emil Bemstrom as he came to North America, and it was certainly going to be an adventure as well. 

The 20-year-old Blue Jackets forward saw a major transition in just about every faction of his life this year when he moved from his home country of Sweden to join the Blue Jackets. 

On top of learning a new country with new customs, new food and everything else that comes with it, there was an on-ice adjustment playing on a smaller rink against the best players in the world.  

It's a lot to take in, but Bemstrom said what's been a learning experience nearly every day is also a process he's enjoyed.  

"It's been amazing so far," he said. "I've been learning a lot about how this league works, and I'm just enjoying every day. It's still fun." 

On the ice, his maturation has been slow but steady, and the results are starting to pay off. He has nine goals and 10 assists for 19 points in 53 games, but four of those goals have come in the last six games as the Blue Jackets have been looking for offense and found some in the Swedish forward. 

Video: VAN@CBJ: Bemstrom beats Domingue with wrister for PPG

The ability to score and do it in bunches is what made Bemstrom such an intriguing prospect to the Blue Jackets, who chose him in the fourth round of the 2017 draft. Coming up through the Leksands system, the native of Nykoping showed the ability to fill up the net at the junior level, including four goals in five games a year ago at the World Junior Championships. 

Blessed with a great shot and the ability to punish one-timers, Bemstrom rode the open ice of the Swedish Hockey League a year ago to have a dynamic debut at his country's highest level. Playing for Djurgårdens at age 19, he led the league in goals with 23, the third most goals for a teenager in the league's history. 

Asked recently if he was hoping to pitch in more on the offensive side with the Blue Jackets missing a number of their top offensive players to injury, Bemstrom had a quick response.  

"They probably drafted me because I can score goals, so I have to do it," he said. "When all the guys are out like (Seth Jones), Cam (Atkinson), the big goal scorers on this team, I have to step up. That's how it is." 

In other words, his recent goal stretch -- including game-winners in overtime last Monday vs. Ottawa as well as on the power play Sunday against Vancouver -- is what Bemstrom feels he has to contribute. 

To the coaching staff, the work continues on his all-around game, though he's earned enough respect to play minutes the past few games with key cogs like Pierre-Luc Dubois and Alexander Wennberg.  

"He's beginning to score some goals," head coach John Tortorella said after the win vs. Vancouver. "I think he has to improve a tremendous amount as far as puck battles. He wins a puck battle in the neutral zone before the penalty is called (leading up to his winner against the Canucks). I think he sees a chance. He's playing with Luc, and we were putting those guys out there quite a bit. 

"So it is a process for him to understand how important it is to play away from the puck. I think it's been a major struggle for him as far as puck battles, but we're going to give him an opportunity. The puck follows him a little bit as far as scoring the goals." 

Bemstrom said he understands he has a long way to go when it comes to a 200-foot game.  

"It's a lot about the timing, I think," he said. "It's hard to explain. But I feel like the positioning, you have to be where the game plan is or we're going to get a goal against us. I've been trying to work on it every day. I've been talking to all the coaches and they are teaching me. I think it's going the right way." 

As the year has gone on, Bemstrom said he's become more comfortable with everything about his transition to North American hockey. The smaller rink and quicker pace of play required adjustments, but the game is slowing down for him and he's finding ways to get to open ice and get his shot off. The travel and hectic schedule of the NHL took some time to get used to, but he's taking care of his body by sleeping more and eating properly.  

Now, the hope is to keep growing and be a huge part of the Blue Jackets' future.  

"That's what I want," Bemstrom said. "I think I have another level, too. It's going to take some time, maybe … but it's great to help the team win." 

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