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Bemstrom hoping for role with Blue Jackets after success in Europe

Forward prospect led Swedish Hockey League in goals as teenager last season

by Craig Merz / Correspondent

COLUMBUS -- Emil Bemstrom will try to make a name for himself with the Columbus Blue Jackets after an impressive season in the Swedish Hockey League.

Bemstrom, who turned 20 on June 1, led the league with 23 goals in 47 games for Djurgardens. It was the third-most goals in one season by a teenager behind Kent Nilsson (28 in 1976) and Elias Pettersson (24 in 2018). Pettersson won the Calder Trophy with the Vancouver Canucks last season as the NHL rookie of the year.

Following in Pettersson's footsteps would be nice, but Bemstrom is more concerned with earning a spot with Columbus this season.


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"Of course it's been on my mind, but you have to focus (on) every week at a time," the forward said during Blue Jackets development camp in June. "We'll see. I could not think of [making the Blue Jackets] before this season, so I'm happy."

With the departures of forwards Artemi Panarin, Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel in free agency, there will be spots available for young players.

Bemstrom, selected in the fourth round (No. 117) of the 2017 NHL Draft, is ready for the challenge.

"What I've done is already in the past," he said. "I have to forget that now. It's a new year. I can only look forward and will have to earn everything, but I am glad for the opportunity."

Bemstrom (5-foot-11, 177 pounds) signed a three-year, entry-level contract with Columbus on May 14.

"He passes the eye test," director of player personnel Chris Clark said. "He's going to be a really good player. For whatever reason, he found the net quite a few times last season. To lead that league as a young guy is pretty impressive."

To put Bemstrom's season in perspective, the Sweden native scored the same amount of goals as his idol, Hockey Hall of Famer Peter Forsberg, did in the country's top league as a teenager in 1992-93. In recent years, Bemstrom has modeled his game after those of Patrik Laine of the Winnipeg Jets and Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals because of their shooting abilities.

Bemstrom, who has a quick release and an accurate shot, dedicates time after every practice to making it better.

"All those guys with great shots have trained a lot," he said. "It's about learning and training."

The Blue Jackets considered Bemstrom, who mainly plays right wing but can also play left wing and center, one of their untouchable prospects at the 2019 NHL Trade Deadline in February.

"He's going to get a great opportunity here to not only play," Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said at the NHL Draft in June, "but play a big role and be a goal-scorer on this level that he was in the Swedish League,"

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