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31 in 31

Top prospects for Columbus Blue Jackets

Texier among impressive group ready to play in NHL this season

by Craig Merz / NHL.com Independent Correspondent

NHL.com is providing in-depth prospect analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, the top five prospects for the Columbus Blue Jackets, according to NHL.com.

 

[Blue Jackets 31 IN 31: Season preview | 3 Questions | Fantasy breakdown | Behind the Numbers]

 

1. Liam Foudy, F

How acquired: Selected with No. 18 pick in 2018 NHL Draft

Last season: London (OHL): 62 GP, 36-32-68

Foudy (6-foot, 175 pounds) will be given a serious look at training camp but more than likely needs another season in the Ontario HOckey League to build his body for the rigors of the NHL. The 19-year-old showed promise by scoring two goals in eight Calder Cup Playoff games for Cleveland of the American Hockey League, but because of his age, he is ineligible for the AHL this season and would return to London if he doesn't make the Blue Jackets.

Foudy is the fastest skater among the Columbus prospects but needs to improve his shot to earn a spot. The Blue Jackets must determine if giving him limited minutes on the third or fourth line in the NHL will stunt his growth.

"I'm versatile," Foudy said during Blue Jackets development camp in June. "I can play on the top line. I can play on the fourth line. Just use my speed as much as possible and bring my energy. If I have to play on a lower line I wouldn't have a problem with it. I just want to make the lineup."

Projected NHL arrival: Next season

Video: 31 in 31: Columbus Blue Jackets 2019-20 preview

 

2. Alexandre Texier, F

How acquired: Selected with No. 45 pick in 2017 NHL Draft

Last season: Columbus: 2 GP, 1-0-1; Cleveland (AHL): 7 GP, 5-2-7; KalPa (FIN): 55 GP, 14-27-41

Texier, who turns 20 on Sept. 13, made his NHL debut April 5 against the New York Rangers and scored his first goal the next night against the Ottawa Senators in the regular-season finale. He immediately earned the trust of coach John Tortorella and played in eight of 10 Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Texier (6-0, 187) scored twice in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference First Round, when the Blue Jackets completed a sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning with a 7-3 win.

"In the offensive zone I feel I'm a skilled guy, but I don't want to look at this," he said in June. "I look at what I need to be better at, it's my defensive game."

Projected NHL arrival: This season

 

3. Elvis Merzlikins, G

How acquired: Selected with No. 76 pick in 2014 NHL Draft

Last season: Lugano (SUI): 43 GP, 22-18-0, 2.44 GAA, .921 SV%

Merzlikins (6-3, 183) was named the top goalie in National League, Switzerland's top professional league, in 2016 and 2018 and plays for the Latvia national team. The 25-year-old will challenge Joonas Korpisalo to be the No. 1 goalie after Sergei Bobrovsky agreed to a seven-year contract with the Florida Panthers on July 1.

"Elvis Merzlikins is a very, very talented goalie," Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said. "He's played excellent in Europe and the World Championships playing against NHL players. Now let's see if he can do it in the NHL."

Projected NHL arrival: This season

 

4. Emil Bemstrom, F

How acquired: Selected with No. 117 pick in 2017 NHL Draft

Last season: Djurgardens (SWE): 47 GP, 23-12-35

The Blue Jackets think Bemstrom (5-11, 177) is ready for the NHL and has the ability to contribute on the power play. As a 19-year-old last season (he turned 20 on June 1), Bemstrom tied for the third-highest goal total by a teenager in Swedish Hockey League history, trailing Kent Nilsson (28 in 1976) and Elias Pettersson (24 in 2018). Bemstrom led the SHL in goals and power-play goals (10).

"Emil Bemstrom is ready to take on the challenge," Kekalainen said during the 2019 NHL Draft in June. "He's going to get an opportunity to show what he can do."

Projected NHL arrival: This season

 

5. Vladislav Gavrikov, D

How acquired: Selected with No. 159 pick in 2015 NHL Draft

Last season: SKA St. Petersburg (KHL): 60 GP, 5-15-20

The 23-year-old's first NHL games were Games 5 and 6 of the Eastern Conference Second Round against the Boston Bruins after playing five seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League. Gavrikov (6-3, 215) led the KHL with a plus-48 rating last season. 

He is likely to play on the third pair but may compete for a higher role.

"This guy can play. We know he can play," Tortorella said during the playoffs.

Projected NHL arrival: This season

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