How Emil Bemstrom ruined the Columbus Blue Jackets

Consider this article a warning. Or maybe consider it a parody. Whatever you are considering, the facts provided here are very strange and lead us all to one question: is it possible that a fourth-round pick in Sweden ruined an entire franchise?

Let’s start at the beginning. The Blue Jackets entered the 2017 NHL Draft without a first-round pick. They distributed that pick to the Vegas Golden Knights with forward David Clarkson, with an agreement in place that the Knights would leave a certain power forward (Josh Anderson) alone in their expansion draft.

The Jackets didn’t have a second-round pick in that draft either — he was traded to the Vancouver Canucks following the team’s hiring of John Tortorella as head coach. One rule I’m always quick to point out was quickly changed after this situation as the league decided it wasn’t achieving what it hoped for. Still, we didn’t have our own second-round pick, he was used by Vancouver to select Jonah Gadjovich.

OTTAWA, CANADA – DECEMBER 03: Jonah Gadjovich #42 of the San Jose Sharks. Gadjovich is the prize Vancouver received with their draft pick given to them for letting Columbus sign John Tortorella (Photo by Chris Tanouye/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)

The Blue Jackets liquidated trade prospect Keegan Kolesar to acquire a second-round pick, which they used to select forward Alexandre Texier. They took goaltender Daniil Tarasov in the third round, then used their fourth-round pick on a talented Swedish sniper, who changed the course of this franchise at least twice: Emil Bemstrom.

After being selected by the Blue Jackets, Bemstrom spent two more seasons in Sweden – the second of them in the top league, the SHL. At 19, he became the youngest player in league history to lead the league in goals. His 23 goals tied Peter Forsberg and Patric Hornqvist for third most by a teenager in league history.

January 16, 2020; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets center Emil Bemstrom (52) scores on a wrist shot against the Carolina Hurricanes in the first period at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russell LaBounty – USA TODAY Sports

As a result, his shares were skyrocketing. As Jacket fans, we felt like our scout team had discovered a diamond in the rough. Things were going so well for Emil, that chief executive Jarmo Kekalainen called him “off limits” at the 2019 trade deadline – when the team went all-in and acquired talent for a Cup run.

Instead, the team traded other prospects and draft capital, acquiring Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel and adding depth to defense and goal. Bemstrom, it seemed, was considered one of the team’s top prospects. And it all seemed fair, if his game in Sweden was any indication. He looked like another potential Oliver Bjorkstrand type player – or better. Unfortunately, things didn’t go our way with this player.

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