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Will Bemstrom Be the One to Give Penguins an Offensive Boost?



Emil Bemstrom

CRANBERRY — Mike Sullivan’s assessment Saturday of how newly acquired winger Emil Bemstrom could be able to help the Pittsburgh Penguins’ offense might sound familiar.

It certainly should.

It was, after all, a lot like what Sullivan said a week earlier about Matthew Phillips, who had just been claimed off waivers from Washington then.

When asked about Bemstrom after the Penguins’ practice at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex, Sullivan offered this evaluation:

“He’s a guy who really shoots the puck well. That’s one of his strengths. I think he has good offensive instincts. He skates pretty well. so he could help us in a number of different ways. He can help us on the offensive side. He can play on the power play.”

Phillips, who does not have a goal or assist in three games since joining the Penguins, might be the guy who gets bumped from the lineup to open a spot for Bemstrom when the Penguins face Philadelphia Sunday at 3:38 p.m. at PPG Paints Arena.

In his first practice with the Penguins, Bemstrom skated at right wing on the third line, with Lars Eller and Reilly Smith, while Phillips was a spare part with that unit. Bemstrom also worked on the No. 2 power play.

“We’re trying to encourage some of our power-play groups to shoot the puck a little bit more,” Sullivan said. “That’s an opportunity for him to help us, in that regard.”

For his part, Bemstrom volunteered that, “I think I have a pretty good shot.” He put 49 on goal while averaging 12 minutes, 55 seconds of ice time in 32 games with Columbus this season.

The Pittsburgh Penguins have been searching for secondary scoring to complement the offensive output of the top line, which has had Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust on Sidney Crosby’s wings for most of the season, and actually have gotten some of late.

How much Bemstrom can contribute to that — and when he might do it — is difficult to predict.

“It’s tough to judge from one practice,” Eller said. “He’s played in the NHL for a bit, so he’s familiar with the pace of the game, and all that. Hopefully, we can build some chemistry tomorrow and utilize his skills and his assets and make it a good line.”

Bemstrom, 24, was acquired Thursday from Columbus, for Alex Nylander and a sixth-round draft choice in 2026 that will be upgraded to a third-rounder if he scores six or more goals for the Penguins during their remaining 28 regular-season games.

He had five goals and six assists in those 32 games with the Blue Jackets this season. He scored a personal-best 10 goals as a rookie with Columbus in 2019-20 and had a career-high 22 points in 55 games a year ago.

Bemstrom has at least one other thing in common with Phillips. Both came from Metropolitan Division teams with which the Penguins have a noteworthy rivalry, although the one with the Capitals is longer and more intense.

“It’s a little special (to switch sides in a rivalry),” Bemstrom said. “But it’s just a business in the end.”

That reality was driven home a few days ago because Bemstrom, who was traded a week after Columbus fired general manager Jarmo Kekalainen, did not anticipate that he would be changing teams.

“I was a little bit shocked about it that night,” he said. “But I’m super-excited to be here.”

If so, it’s not because he’s surrounded by familiar faces in the Pittsburgh Penguins’ locker room. Bemstrom said the only player he knew when the trade went down was defenseman Marcus Pettersson, with whom he had played for Sweden in an international tournament.

“He’s an awesome guy,” Bemstrom said. “You always know what you’re going to get from him.”

The same cannot be said for Bemstrom. Not yet, anyway.