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Bemstrom takes home award as top youngster in Sweden

Blue Jackets prospect will have chance to make it in Columbus next season

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

On Tuesday, Emil Bemstrom signed his first contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

On Wednesday, he was announced as this year's winner of the EliteProspects Award, given to the top junior player in Sweden.

It's fair to say both were well-deserved honors for the CBJ prospect.

Bemstrom, the Jackets' fourth-round pick in the 2017 draft, is coming off a standout season in the Swedish Hockey League, the top level in the country. At just 19 years old, he led the league in scoring, putting in 23 goals with 12 assists in 47 regular-season games with Djurgårdens IF then adding five more goals in the playoffs as the squad made it to the SHL finals.

It's been a rapid rise for the hard-shooting winger, who was the 117th overall pick in the draft two years ago and in the past six months has starred in the World Juniors, has made his full national team debut, and has now signed a three-year NHL deal. 

Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen has been effusive in his praise of Bemstrom this season, grouping him in a list of prospects he would not part with at the trade deadline along such names as Alexandre Texier, the 19-year-old who made an impressive debut with Columbus late in the season, and 2018 first-round pick Liam Foudy.

Kekalainen said at the end of the season that Bemstrom, who also has been named the SHL's rookie of the year by the league, will have a chance to contribute next season.

"The Texiers, the Bemstroms, those guys are going to have a great opportunity to play a key role in our forwards group next year," Kekalainen said. "Bemstrom is the youngest guy to win the scoring title in the Swedish league, and you can look at those names that have come from that league to become great NHL players. He had 23 goals as a 19-year-old. He's going to have a great opportunity here to not only play but play a big role and be a goal scorer on this level that he was in the Swedish League."

Bemstrom, who turns 20 on June 1, told Bodin that he hopes to be ready to contribute next year for the Blue Jackets.

"I'm going there to play in the NHL, that's obviously my goal," he said. "It's a huge step, but if I play my game and trust myself I feel like I'm going to do well."

The award was established in 2013 and has been won by a pair of prospects who went on to play for the Blue Jackets in William Karlsson (2013) and Alexander Wennberg (2014). Other previous winners are Axel Holmstrom (2015), Gustav Forsling (2016), Joel Eriksson Ek (2017) and Elias Pettersson (2018). 

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