Bemstrom and Marchenko push for look with Columbus Blue Jackets

Now that he’s a coach, Mark Letestu has a different perspective on the American Hockey League.

“The thing with this league is when they get good, you never see the finished product, do you?” said the Cleveland Monsters assistant, who played in the AHL before an 11-year NHL career that included two stints with the Blue Jackets. “Here, everyone is working on something. Even the coaches. It really is the best league to have lots of different experiences and situations offered to you so that you are ready for the next level.

It’s a good jumping off point for an update on forwards Emil Bemstrom and Kirill Marchenko, who tore into the AHL with the Cleveland Monsters after being cut from the Blue Jackets’ opening roster.

Bemstrom, who was recalled to Columbus on Monday and has played 117 NHL games, is tied for the AHL lead in scoring with seven goals, seven assists and 14 points. Marchenko, a Russian rookie adjusting to North America, is just two points behind at 6-6-12. They also combined to score five of 10 power-play goals in just 10 games for the Monsters, whose 26.3% completion rate is the fourth-highest in the league.

“Those two guys are a big reason why this power play is spinning like this,” Monsters head coach Trent Vogelhuber said. “They have NHL-level talent on the power play and on the offensive end (at even strength), but they might not be on the power play and/or play in the top six (forward) at Columbus. So they have to take care of the rest of the game.

September 28, 2022;  Columbus, Ohio, USA;  Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov (4) speaks with teammates Columbus Blue Jackets center Emil Bemstrom (52) and Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Jakub Voracek (93) during the third period of the preseason game at Nationwide Arena.  Mandatory Credit: Joseph Scheller-The Columbus Dispatch

Emil Bemstrom fought his way back to the Blue Jackets roster

Bemstrom brought a good attitude to Cleveland, but he wasn’t thrilled with his demotion.

The 23-year-old Swedish winger spent his most recent stint in the AHL playing with the proverbial chip on his shoulder, which is good because he has something to prove in the NHL after totaling 36 points while struggling to stay in the Blue Jackets roster. Bemstrom has succeeded as the best offensive player at every level he’s played other than the NHL — including the Swedish Hockey League, Finnish Elite League (Liiga) and AHL — but he’s been an enigmatic presence in Columbus ever since. its arrival in 2019.

That’s the main reason he was assigned to Cleveland to start with, after clearing waivers first.

“That exit meeting was just that some guys passed me, like ‘Danny’ (Justin Danforth) and ‘Chinny’ (Yegor Chinakhov),” Bemstrom said. “I was competing against those guys and they had a better side than me. I just have to keep getting my confidence back… and I have confidence. I know that I can also do good things in the NHL. »

Danforth is now out six months after surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder and the Jackets are struggling with two of the upper body injuries affecting forwards Jakub Voracek and Sean Kuraly – who took an elbow to the lead in the first period of the 5 of the Jackets. -1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday to wrap up an NHL World Series game in Tampere, Finland.

Reinstate Bemstrom, who is always looking for ways to unleash a right-handed shot that has served him well at every other level.

“I’m still young,” Bemstrom said. “I started playing hockey for a reason, because I think it’s fun. I’ve come a long way, so far, and I want to be in the NHL. If I keep doing the little things and producing here, we’ll see what happens in the future.

The Monsters coaching staff is impressed with Bemstrom’s approach to a difficult situation.

“It’s a blow to be told you’re going to the minor leagues because you’re not good enough…and the guys passed you,” said Letestu, who works with forwards and coordinates the Monsters’ power play. “His attitude has been great, though, and his talent is showing now, where he’s an elite attacking player at this level. We were very lucky to have him, but with the way he plays…if he can find him up there, he’s an NHL player.

September 28, 2022;  Columbus, Ohio, USA;  Columbus Blue Jackets right winger Kirill Marchenko (86) celebrates a goal during the first period of the NHL preseason hockey game against the Buffalo Sabers at Nationwide Arena.  Mandatory Credit: Adam Cairns-The Columbus Dispatch

Kirill Marchenko enjoys trip with Cleveland Monsters

Marchenko, 22, doesn’t even think about Columbus.

He has fully accepted his reasons for being sent to Cleveland and is enjoying his North American adventure with his wife, Viktoria, despite an AHL salary ($70,000) that is miles away from what he will earn. a day with the Blue Jackets.

“I (don’t) think about Columbus, because it’s my mission to play in Cleveland,” said Marchenko, who is learning English quickly and recently enjoyed his first NBA game at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse when the Cleveland Cavaliers hosted the Boston Celtics. “It’s my team and now I live here, so it’s my hometown now. I know more teammates and coaches, all really good guys, and we’re just going to play. I keep working to win games, score goals and I don’t think about (the NHL).”

He may need to modify his way of thinking.

There are still things to fix, including strength in puck battles, but Marchenko is picking things up quickly.

This is especially true on the power play, where he plays on the right wall against Bemstrom. Along with connecting on passes to Bemstrom and others, Marchenko also used his own shot to score two power-play goals and even has a play named after him.

“He’s a hockey fanatic and I say that in the most endearing way,” said Letestu, who noticed Marchenko trying moves in practice he saw on NHL Network. “In our first week, he came in, was in our power play meeting and suggested a play…and it’s worked out twice now. So we just call it “The Marchy”. That’s what I mean. He’s committed here and I think that’s why he has the success he has.

Marchenko also endeared himself in the locker room.

“He’s a really great guy,” said Carson Meyer, who made his NHL debut last season with the Blue Jackets. “He wants to be fluent in English and he has a huge personality. He’s hilarious. It’s obviously hard to come to North America for the first time, it’s not your main language, but he’s a character in the locker room and everyone loves him.

Giving the puck to Marchenko is never a bad idea either.

“He has one of the best versions I’ve ever seen,” Meyer said. “Every time you give him a pass, you look at him and think, ‘I could get some help here. Every time he shoots, I feel like there’s a chance it’ll go in. He’s an impressive boy, on and off the ice, and I really enjoyed having him as a teammate.

Bemstrom’s release is also quite deadly. He just needs to take him out of better places against NHL goaltenders more often.

“Obviously my shooting is one of my biggest weapons, so we’ve worked hard over the last three years to find the space to work and find those scoring opportunities, like ‘Grade As’,” a- he declared. “So far (this season), I’m doing pretty well in that area.”

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@BrianHedger

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