Preseason is a great time of the year because every team has something to look forward to. For the Columbus Blue Jackets, there are a number of storylines to look for as the preseason rolls along. Whether it’s fighting for a roster spot or trying to re-establish oneself as a solid NHL player, the Blue Jackets have it.
The case of prospect Emil Bemström is one of the more intriguing stories to watch right now. He’s already made an impression in the preseason, but whether he fits into the lineup full-time is to be determined.
Not factoring the goalie situation, since that’s more common to the hockey world, here’s what to watch for in the rest of the preseason for the Blue Jackets.
Does Bemström Stay and What Position Would He Play?
The Swedish sniper absolutely blasted a puck into the back of the net 52 seconds into the first preseason game. He added an assist later, too. If the people of Columbus don’t know about him yet, they will soon.
Bemström will need to do more than score goals to stick around, though. It’s no secret that head coach John Tortorella won’t settle for sloppy defensive play. This isn’t to say that Bemström can’t play defense, but rather to emphasize that he won’t make the roster for his goals alone.
The organization will surely have a close eye on his every move this preseason. If he is ready, they’ll take full advantage of his potential, especially on the power play. He’s played right wing so far, but that’s a position of strength for the Blue Jackets. It’ll be interesting to see if they move him around, having experience as a center and being strong on the left side on the power play.
Prospects on the Cusp
Aside from the high-end prospects, there are a few prospects battling for their first full-time role with the Blue Jackets. It’s already been noted that Columbus’ own Kole Sherwood is catching the eyes of coaches and players at training camp. He’s one of a few players that’ll force the front office make difficult decisions this season.
Kevin Stenlund is another one of those guys. He played well during last season’s training camp and even earned his first NHL call-up in January. The big-bodied Swedish center could be a dark horse to receive serious playing time with the Blue Jackets. He’s already been a part of a championship in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) with HV71, which was a great experience for the then 20-year-old.
Another name to watch is Andrew Peeke, the former captain at the University of Notre Dame. He’s a defenseman who has noticeably improved over the past few seasons. His offensive game was a concern to some in the past. After a strong showing at the prospects camp and Traverse City Tournament this summer, the noise has quieted.
What makes his situation interesting is that the Blue Jackets blue line is already loaded. Peeke will still be a player to watch the rest of the way, not only because he’s a righty, but because his stock is improving.
Will Texier Develop Into a Top-Line Player This Season?
It’s almost certain that Alexander Texier will be a full-time Blue Jacket this season. At the end of 2018-19, he proved to be someone that can help the team win as a 19-year-old. General manager Jarmo Kekäläinen said just that back on Sept. 11:
Texier’s growth has taken off as of late, as he was seen as possibly too good to even be playing at the prospects tournament in Traverse City a few weeks ago. He scored two game-winning overtime goals for the Jackets in that tournament.
The key element with him is the fact that he can play center. Despite getting some time at camp already with as a first-line winger, it wouldn’t be surprising if he was needed as a depth center in the near future. Expect Texier to keep getting better and to put the pressure on other forwards like Alexander Wennberg.
Can Wennberg Hold Onto the Second-Line Center Spot?
Speaking of Wennberg, this is going to be a big season for him whether he plays well or not. (from ‘Blue Jackets’ Alexander Wennberg sees chance to rebound,’ Columbus Dispatch, 09/13/2019) If he doesn’t perform, the pressure will be on the front office and coaches to do something about it.
For Wennberg, we won’t really need to watch him specifically in the preseason, but what to watch are the players who could take his spot. The young guys will determine how big of a leash he has.
If the team knows that another player is ready in the AHL, they will be quicker to change Wennberg’s position in the lineup. Consider this when watching the other young forwards for the rest of the preseason.
This year begins a new era for the Blue Jackets. It’ll be entertaining to watch as the regular season approaches and these storylines play themselves out.