By Tim Richardson | Follow Me On Twitter @TimARichardson
Anders Bjork was drafted in the fifth-round (146th overall) in the 2014 NHL Draft. The young forward was projected to go in the fifth or sixth round, so the Bruins drafting him here was not a stretch by any means. When a player is drafted in the middle or later rounds, not a lot is really expected of him. It is one of those things where if the player turns out to be useful great, and if not that’s okay too. Coming into the draft the Mequon, Wisconsin native was overlooked by a stronger forward class. However, he did possess strong offensive instincts, vision, creativity, and puck handling skills. Bjork’s major areas of concern were his defensive game and playing away from the puck. He had obvious holes in his game there, but those were overlooked, and the Bruins drafted him. Now that we know the when and why let’s get into what Anders has done since being drafted.
The 2014-15 season was Anders Bjork’s first at the University of Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish play in the grueling Hockey East Conference so it would be a good test for the young forward to see how he measured up. During his freshman season, the Wisconsin native had a promising year in which he netted 7 goals while dishing 15 assists for 22 total points and a +/- rating of –3 in 41 games played. That is a point per game total of 0.53. For a fifth-round draft pick playing in one of the tougher conferences in the NCAA, having a season like that was something the Bruins were happy with. Despite the successful first season in college, the speedy forward was being overlooked as a prospect. There were other forwards in the system that had a higher profile, but he was determined to show his worth to not only Boston but the rest of the NHL.
Something that was important to Bjork during his sophomore campaign was building upon his freshman season and putting his name on the prospect map for the Bruins organization. In 2015-16 the young Fighting Irish forward did just that. In 35 games played the slick winger potted 12 goals while tallying 23 assists for 35 total points and a +/- rating of +28. This means he was scoring at a point per game clip of 1.00. Bjork was able to really show off his offensive skills during this season. His ability to create in space, and get others involved in the offense were highlighted during the year. The Boston front office really started taking notice of their young prospect during this season. It was a good year to build on going forward.
As the 2016-17 season started, it brought added expectations and change for Bjork. It was his junior year at Notre Dame, and he was given a leadership role with the Fighting Irish when they added the “A” to his sweater. The newly appointed alternate Captain took that role and skated with it. The skilled winger took a giant leap forward and had a monster year. In 39 games he found the back of the net 21 times while also dishing out 31 assists for 52 total points and +/- rating of +17. That is a point per game clip of 1.33. Boston was extremely pleased with this season and the young forward shot up prospect rankings everywhere. Not only that, he was named a Hobey Baker Award finalist which is the award given to the best hockey player in the NCAA. It was a season which caused wild speculation about the possibility of the Fighting Irish star forgoing his senior year to sign an entry-level contract with the Bruins.
After much deliberation, Anders Bjork decided to sign a three-year entry-level contract before the 2017-18 NHL season. The Notre Dame Alum had a strong pre-season. The Bruins organization was really impressed with his speed, his shot, and his puck handling ability. They were so impressed that he started the year with the big club in Boston playing alongside David Pastrnak and David Krejci. The then-rookie started out on fire scoring seven points in his first 11 games. That’s when the season took a tough turn. He went on a cold streak which caused him to be sent down to Providence for a few games to work on his offense.
The former Hobey Baker finalist spent nine games in the AHL netting two goals and dishing out two assists for four total points and a +/- rating of –1. After those nine games, the Wisconsin native was called back up to the NHL, and in his first game back he had his rookie season cut short when he suffered a shoulder injury which would require season-ending surgery. His rookie season ended with stats of 4-8-12 in 30 games played. Despite getting injured and being streaky, the former Fighting Irish forward showed flashes of great offensive ability proving he can be a middle to top-line scorer in the league.
Coming into this season, Bjork was healed from his shoulder surgery and had a solid training camp coming off an injury. The second-year forward started the year playing sparingly spending most of his time playing on the third line. As a result of the Notre Dame alum was sent down to Providence to work on his game. While in the AHL, Bjork was playing well in 13 games he netted one goal and dished out nine assists for 10 total points and a +/- rating of -3. In his last game played something awful happened, and the Wisconsin native re-injured his shoulder and needed season-ending surgery for the second year in a row. While in Boston he managed to play in 20 games finding the back of the net one time and dishing out two assists for three total points and +/- rating of -1.
Anders Bjork has had a tough first few professional seasons of hockey. Having back to back shoulder injuries to cut short a season makes it hard to grow and develop as a hockey player. Despite this, I think that the skilled forward can be a very good second or third line wing in the NHL. He has shown flashes of great offensive ability both in his rookie year in Boston and playing this year in Providence. I believe that having surgery early when he did, and training and getting healthy for the 2019-20 is the best move the young winger could have made. I think next season we will finally see a fully healthy and fully motivated Anders Bjork and we are going to love what we see.