Columbus Blue Jackets: 2017 NHL Draft Review, How Did They Do?

CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 24: Alexandre Texier poses for a portrait after being selected 45th overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets during the 2017 NHL Draft at the United Center on June 24, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 24: Alexandre Texier poses for a portrait after being selected 45th overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets during the 2017 NHL Draft at the United Center on June 24, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /
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The fourth round pick for the Blue Jackets in 2017 has been one of the most debated players around the team in recent years. With that said, he’s actually been great value in the range they picked him, even if things haven’t worked out as well as they’d hoped.

Fourth round (#117 overall): LW Emil Bemstrom

Little did we know at the time of this pick, but Bemstrom soon thereafter became one of the most talked about goal scoring prospects in the world. Yes, the entire world. And we had picked him in the fourth round! He scored at a historic pace in the SHL just two years later, potting 23 goals in 47 games as a 19 year old.

Feb 28, 2023; Buffalo, New York, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Emil Bemstrom (52) looks to make a pass during the first period against the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 28, 2023; Buffalo, New York, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Emil Bemstrom (52) looks to make a pass during the first period against the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports /

The Jackets were excited to have him come over the next fall, and he started off really well for them, playing in 56 games as a rookie, scoring 10 goals and 20 points. But over time, injuries and a clear lack of confidence seem to have stunted his promising offensive career. This past season, in spite of dominating in the AHL, he struggled to earn regular ice time at the NHL level – even as the injuries piled up around this team.

Thus far, he’s played in 172 NHL games, scoring 26 goals and 58 points, while being a huge topic of debate amongst the CBJ faithful. Part of this debate almost certainly stems from the unfair comparisons he drew by scoring at such a terrific rate in Sweden – and in the end, he’s become exactly what you would expect a fourth round pick to become. A depth player.

Nov 19, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets center Emil Bemstrom (52) celebrates after scoring a goal against the Detroit Red Wings during the second period at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 19, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets center Emil Bemstrom (52) celebrates after scoring a goal against the Detroit Red Wings during the second period at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports /

Fourth round grade: B+. Yes, Emil Bemstrom earns the Jackets a high “B” grade here. Only two players picked in the same round have played more games than Bemstrom – Mikey Anderson (#103, Los Angeles) and Drake Batherson (#121, Ottawa). In fact, only Batherson has played more games than Bemstrom, if you look at any player taken after him.

Fifth round (#148 overall): F Kale Howarth

In a draft where they made seven picks, Howarth is one of only two players that I think it’s fair to say, completely missed. It’s not entirely surprising – he was a third year eligible player, playing in the BCHL (lower tier junior), and taking his time by going the NCAA route.

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But, at 6’5″, he had a pro build, and he was coming off of a 30 goal, 58 point season in 51 BCHL games. So, why not take a flyer here? Unfortunately for the Jackets, that scoring touch never really carried over to the NCAA, where Kale scored just 16 goals in three seasons before turning pro. Over the past two years, he’s bounced around between the AHL and ECHL. He’s currently slated to return to the Rockford Ice Hogs (AHL) this fall.

Fifth round grade: F. Clear miss here. Their saving grace is that, you have to go well into the sixth round, all the way to pick #169, before you find an actual NHL player out of this draft. So, they weren’t the only ones that missed in this round.