FCHockey Rewind: Bemstrom, Chytil, Romanov & Texier
The NHL Draft is one of the most unpredictable and important events that an NHL general manager has to endeavour. While contending teams and Stanley Cup champions supplement their roster by trading draft picks for roster players, no team can have sustained success without drafting young, talented, and cost-controlled players to comprise the core of their team.
With that being said, even the most tireless scouting eyes in the hockey world miss on draft picks more often than not, with many talented players falling through the draft every year.
In this FCHockey Rewind, we take a look at some players who have far exceeded expectations relative to their FCHockey draft ranking.
Emil Bemstrom, RW – FCHockey Rank: 218 (2017)
Drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets, 117th overall
Emil Bemstrom was a relatively unheralded prospect as an undersized winger, despite putting up great numbers in one of Sweden’s top junior leagues and making Team Sweden at both the 2016 Hlinka Cup and the 2017 World Under 18 Championships.
Bemstrom’s skating and defensive game were strong enough to warrant a flier as a mid-round draft pick, but, in FCHockey’s own words, “Bemstrom could find himself in a bottom-six role in the NHL after he further develops his two-way game and adds considerable strength to a small frame.”
Despite his lack of professional experience and concerns over his size, the Columbus Blue Jackets nabbed him in the fourth round at 117th overall.
In his D+2 season, Bemstrom took a huge leap forward in his first full season in the SHL, Sweden’s top men’s league. He led the entire league in goals with 23, helping lead his Djugardens team to an appearance in the SHL Final. In addition, he played a starring role for Team Sweden at the 2019 World Junior Championships, leading them in scoring despite a disappointing result in the tournament.
In 2019-20, Bemstrom was able to crack the Blue Jackets’ lineup and make himself a mainstay, filling in all over the lineup and establishing himself as one of the team’s top young forwards. While his scoring pace slowed towards the end of the year, Bemstrom still proved he’s an important piece in Columbus’ top-six moving forward.
Filip Chytil, C – FCHockey Rank: 70 (2017)
Drafted by the New York Rangers, 21st overall
Filip Chytil was one of the top Czech prospects available in 2017 behind Martin Necas, playing a starring role for the gold-medal winning Czechs at the 2017 Hlinka tournament and logging nearly a full season in the top Czech men’s league.
Despite his success, Chytil was seen as more of a long-term project, with FCHockey rating him as an early third-round prospect. His skill and skating abilities were evident even then, but in FC’s view, “Chytil is a guy you will need to have patience with as he takes a few seasons to add strength, but he could be well worth it.”
However, the New York Rangers, armed with multiple first-round draft picks, selected Chytil with the 21st-overall pick and brought him into the lineup right away, giving him a nine-game trial before sending him to the AHL to fine-tune his game.
After a very strong half-season with Hartford in the AHL, Chytil cracked the Rangers’ lineup and has been a fixture down the middle ever since, racking up 25 goals and 46 points. With New York’s fortunes on the upswing, expect Chytil to continue to get more comfortable and flash the offensive upside he showed as a prospect more consistently.
Alexander Romanov, D – FCHockey Rank: 179 (2018)
Drafted by the Montreal Canadiens, 38th overall
Alexander Romanov hasn’t yet played a game in the NHL but he is already making a name for himself as one of the most exciting defense prospects in the league. However, before he was a breakout star for Russia at the 2019 World Junior Championships, Romanov was a little-known prospect not on the radar for most.
In 2018, FCHockey was no different, identifying his decision-making as a point of improvement while noting, “he’s a totally offensively-minded blueliner… offensive upside alone makes him an interesting prospect.”
Despite public opinion, the Montreal Canadiens clearly saw something in Romanov, as they invested the 38th-overall pick in 2018 to land the talented, but undersized, Russian. More than two years after they surprised many by selecting Romanov, he’s made them look very good with subsequent huge leaps in play.
His offensive game has continued to be elite amongst his peers, racking up 14 points in 14 games in World Juniors competition, but his improvement on the defensive end has led to him playing a regular shift with the KHL’s top team, CSKA, despite being one of the youngest defensemen in the league. Now, with Montreal desperately needing an injection of offense on the left side of their blue line, Romanov is in line to step right into the Canadiens’ lineup and make an impact as a rookie far sooner than expected.
Alexandre Texier, C – FCHockey Rank: 211 (2017)
Drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets, 45th overall
Alex Texier was something of an unknown heading into the 2017 NHL Draft. He was impressive as a 17-year old playing in a men’s league but it was a league (Ligue Magnus) where not many future NHL players have played.
While he made a name for himself with impressive performances for France at international tournaments, Texier’s offensive skill and strong skating were overshadowed by uncertainty around his level of competition. In 2017, FCHockey wrote, “His defensive awareness and positioning are subpar and he often coasts around and doesn’t really get engaged… If Texier can become more aware of his defensive role, he could make it to the NHL.”
The Blue Jackets continued their draft day trend of bucking public opinion, grabbing Texier with the 45th-overall pick and helping facilitate a move to KalPa of the Finnish league. In Finland, Texier blossomed, proving he belonged among elite competition and turning himself into a high-profile prospect by leading his team in scoring in 2018.
Later that season, Texier earned a call-up to Columbus while he was still a teenager and helped them upset the top-ranked Tampa Bay Lightning in a surprising inclusion on their playoff roster. Pre-draft concerns about his ability to stick at centre were disbanded as he was able to keep up with the pace of NHL playoff hockey and open some eyes with his play.
While he wasn’t able to build upon his great first impression in an injury-riddled rookie campaign, it’s clear Texier is already a big part of Columbus’ future plans as a dynamic one-two punch down the middle for Pierre-Luc Dubois.