Scoring is an eternal need for the New Jersey Devils. Will they be able to hit on a scorer in the mid- to later rounds of the draft? One potential option in that range could be Emil Bemstrom out of Sweden’s SuperElit junior league.
Who is Emil Bemstrom?
Emil Bemstrom is a Swedish forward who played most of his past season in the SHL’s top junior league for Leksands IF. A speedy player, Bemstrom is a bit on the small side, checking in at 5’-10” and 181 pounds. With a June 1, 1999 birthday, he is on the younger side of this draft and is still just 17 years of age as of this writing. Beyond playing in the SuperElit junior league, Bemstrom also spent a few games up with Leksands big club in the SHL and also saw action with Sweden’s U18 team. His family seems to be no strangers to hockey as his father and uncle played for years in the SHL/SEL and he has a brother and a cousin also trying to make their way up the junior ranks. Bemstrom had a strong draft season with his junior club in Leksands, putting up 21 goals in just 28 games. His full career stats from Elite Prospects can be seen below.
Emil Bemstrom is the type of player you will often see go in the middle rounds of the draft. He is not a fully realized product at this point, so to speak, but to hear scouts tell it, he has the tools to potentially become a scorer in the NHL. As ever, it’s tough to get too worked up about a stat line from a European junior league, but 21 goals in 28 games is certainly nothing to sneeze at. Bemstrom’s top attributes seem to be his speed and his shot, which are certainly not terrible places to start for any prospect. Reports on his play describe someone with the proverbial “nose for the net,” as he is able to find creases and angles to get pucks on net, with a pretty good shot to go along with it. One thing you don’t hear too much about, though, is his play away from the puck. That doesn’t necessarily mean he’s particularly bad in that department, but it doesn’t seem to be a strength for him. Along with that, while some will vouch for his playmaking, 12 assists in 28 games doesn’t necessarily scream that he is a top passer or setup man.
Altogether, Bemstrom seems to have some tools to make him an attractive mid-round selection. That he spent time with the big club in the SHL, while it didn’t yield any stats to point at, is also somewhat encouraging. In terms of rankings, the NHL’s Central Scouting has Bemstrom placed at 42nd among European Skaters, which typically might project to a 4th or even 5th round pick. Some other rankings are slightly higher on him, though, with ESPN’s Corey Pronman placing him at 77th (Insider link), the Nation Network putting him at 89th, and Steve Kournianos having him at 96th in his May edition at The Draft Analyst. With those in mind, it seems like Bemstrom could go off the board somewhere in the third round.
What Others are Saying About Emil Bemstrom
Overall, people seem to be generally bullish on Bemstrom’s skill. He may not have played in Sweden’s top pro league much, but he seems to have made the most of his time in the SuperElit. First off, we’ll go to Recrutes.ca, where Mitch Brown provides this report from Sweden’s U18 tournament. In the piece, he discusses Bemstrom’s play and his high on his abilities as a scorer. A relevant excerpt:
First and foremost, Bemstrom is a shooter. He averaged over three shots on goal per game, and two posts. His release and power are top-notch, and he constantly changes the shooting angle with quick lateral moves. A compact, deceptively explosive stride enables him to dart into open spaces, particularly around the net, which how he scores most of his goals.
The fact that Bemstrom can find gaps and use his skating and shooting abilities to exploit them is definitely a positive and it speaks to good instincts, which can be hard to teach. On the other side of the ledger, Brown also describes Bemstrom as one-dimensional, with not much of a defensive game to speak of right now.
Over at The Nation Network, they have a profile of their #86-90 prospects in the draft, where Bemstrom slides in at #89. The profile of Bemstrom, from Jeremy Davis, seems to corroborate what was said over at Recrutes.ca. Here again is some input on Bemstrom’s ability to shoot and score:
Bemstrom loves to score goals. His shot is decent, and he can beat goalies from distance (usually with the help of a screen or a change in angles), but he typically scores from in tight. He doesn’t drive the puck to the net (he doesn’t really have the size to do so), but he darts in and out of danger areas, gets his stick on rebounds and quickly deposits them into openings.
The word “darts” pops up again in this one, which starts to paint a picture of why Bemstrom can be dangerous around the net. His top-end speed has not necessarily been mentioned, but it seems clear that he is a very quick player and is able to exploit soft spots in defenses with that quickness.
Finally at The Draft Analyst, Steve Kournianos put together this list of players to watch back in January, which included Emil Bemstrom. The take on Bemstrom is slightly different here and actually praises some different components of his game, including playmaking and forechecking. From the piece:
Bemstrom is a quick, dual-threat forward who can bury the puck as well as he can dish it. He has excellent vision and will utilize hard, accurate cross-ice passes to improve the quality of a scoring chance.
He may not look big, but he is strong enough to come away with pucks during one-on-one battles with bigger opponents.
Those are some slightly different takes on his game, though there are still echoes elsewhere in the analysis of what others said in terms of creating space with speed. Being able to distribute the puck on top of scoring is of course a plus, and it was interesting to see his board play and forechecking mentioned here. Adding those into his ability to find creases and get pucks on net would make him a definite threat as a winger at the next level. To an extent, Bemstrom may be a project, but some of the tools do seem to be there.
A Little Video
First, we’ll hit some of his big games in the Swedish juniors. This video in particular, from channel NHL Prospects has him impacting the game in a number of different ways with a 3G-1A performance:
Each goal here is different here, which is nice to see from a prospect. First, he beats his man with speed through the NZ and has a nice finish on the rush, then he has a nice pass to set up a teammate in the slot, his second goal has him stripping someone off an OZ faceoff and then beating the goalie in tight, then he blasts a one timer from the circle past the goalie for a hat trick. Being able to find the scoresheet in a lot of different ways is important and Bemstrom very much displays that here.
Below are highlights from a couple more of his Leksands U20 games:
Each of those videos have him scoring with a quick gather and release in the high slot, and there is also another one-timer from the circle in there.
Finally, comes a video from channel Prospect Videos of his U18 tourney with Sweden, where he also does some nice things:
One thing to like about Bemstrom in these highlights is that he is very decisive once he recognizes he has space. An instant can make all the difference in hockey and having the instincts to recognize an opportunity once its there can go a long way.
An Opinion of Sorts
Once you get into the third round of the NHL draft and beyond, you will very rarely get a sure thing. Emil Bemstrom certainly falls into this category. It can be tough to project what exactly a performance in junior league like the SuperElit translates to, even if its a very good one like it was for Bemstrom. He spent limited time in the SHL but didn’t end up making much of a mark there and his U18 numbers weren’t overly impressive, so there aren’t concrete statistical reference points that would propel him into the upper rounds of the draft.
All that said though, there is certainly a lot to like from Bemstrom based on what I’ve read and seen from him. His skill and instincts around the net look very good and if there is any type of player the Devils consistently need, it’s a guy who can find space and score in the offensive zone. His defensive game isn’t touted as one of his strengths, but it doesn’t seem to get pointed to as a glaring weakness either. If he can round out his game, he certainly seems to have some potential. To me, he seems like the typical boom or bust pick for the mid rounds, and for the Devils, an organization with an infinite amount of fourth-line grinders at their disposal, picking a player with a higher ceiling will always be my preference. He might be a slight reach in the early third, but if he gets selected anywhere from the late third and beyond, he seems like a potentially solid pick.
Now that you’ve read and watched some of what Emil Bemstrom brings, what are your feelings on him as a potential draft pick? Is he the type of player you want to see the Devils taking? How much stake do you put in his big season in the SuperElit junior league? Are there any red flags that make you not want to take him? Where would you want the Devils to select him in the upcoming draft? Comment with your thoughts below and thanks for reading.