By: Lucas Pearson | Follow Me On Twitter @LucasPearson_
The injuries have already begun to pile up for the Bruins. With David Krejci and Karson Kuhlman out (as well as the lack of offense in general), the Bruins looked to call in some reinforcements from Providence. That reinforcement came in the form of Anders Bjork.
I think everybody expected Bjork to be back in the NHL at some point this year, but I don’t believe it was intended to be this early. After back to back season-ending injuries, the original plan was to have the Wisconsin native get his feet back under him in the AHL and to play his way back to the NHL. Before the season, coach Bruce Cassidy believed Bjork was “better off finding his scoring touch in Providence,” rather than beginning in Boston.
That scoring touch Cassidy alluded to was what made Bjork a Hobey Baker finalist during his time at Notre Dame. He began his tenure with the Fighting Irish with 22 points in his rookie campaign. He continued to grow on that the season after, scoring at a point-per-game pace through 35 games. The 2016-17 season was where Bjork really shined. In 39 games, he was able to score 21 times and added 31 assists, finishing the year as a Hobey Baker finalist.
Bjork’s first season out of college started in Boston, where he flashed his potential at times, but left a lot to be desired in many aspects of his game. After 30 games, where he totaled 12 points, he was sent down to the AHL where his season was unfortunately cut short due to a shoulder injury. Bjork came into the 2018-19 season looking build off of his rookie year, but the narrative was all too similar to the season before. He was only able to tally three points in 20 games and was sent down to the AHL later in the season. Bjork was finally able to get something going in Providence with 10 points in 13 games but yet again, his season was cut short due to another shoulder injury.
To say Anders Bjork’s first two professional seasons didn’t go as planned would be an understatement. They were filled with inconsistencies and injuries, and for someone so highly touted, it is pretty safe to say that it was a failure of two years. With that being said, just as all good things must come to an end, all bad things do as well and Bjork is back and looks as good as he has ever looked.
Despite only playing in seven games in the AHL, the Bruins believed that now was the time to bring Bjork back to the big-leagues. The 23-year-old looked great in his stint in Providence. He potted three goals to go along with five assists and a +5 rating. Aside from the stats, Bjork has really looked like a much-improved player. His confidence has continued to grow and has added a bit more snarl to his game. Obviously, none of that matters unless he is able to convert that to the NHL level but within his first three games in the NHL this season, we’ve seen positive results.
Not only did he rip a beautiful one-timer in the back of the net, but the most promising results have actually been his very apparent improvements in board-work and his offensive zone possession. Despite only averaging 11:47 of ice-time a game, whatever forwards Bjork has been paired with has generated multiple high-end chances and maintain a lot of zone time. That’s apparent with Bjork’s CF% (a possession stat) sitting at 62.5%. For reference, the Bruins outstanding top line has averaged 59.9%, so yea, Bjork has been good. After that game against St. Louis, coach Bruce Cassidy had some good things to say about Bjork, “nice to see him get rewarded, nice play. He was good hunting pucks, on the walls. Great kid, quiet, he’s worked hard and the guys love him. He’s going to be a National Hockey League player.” A young player getting praised by their coach (especially the same coach that believed he needed some time in the AHL) is always promising to see.
So what can we expect from Bjork for the rest of the season? Considering the injuries continuing to pile up, we should get our fair share of Bjork over the next few weeks. With a healthy David Krejci, I’d think Bjork would stay on the third line with Charlie Coyle and Danton Heinen or Brett Ritchie, which with the former, proved to be an effective line throughout their games together in the pre-season. When Bjork-Coyle-Heinen was used they held a 16-3 edge in shot attempts, and a 3-0 edge in hi-danger chances), during the 7:55 of 5v5 TOI (stat courtesy of @ConorRyan_93 on twitter). If that line can get some chemistry and solid playing time, there’s no reason why it couldn’t be just as effective as that line in the playoffs with Marcus Johansson.
They say third times a charm, and in Bjork’s third chance with the big club, I think he finally makes his mark in the NHL. With his always apparent speed and skill, and clearly much-improved work without the puck, the Bruins have yet another dynamic player on their hands. Anders Bjork will be a big part of the Bruins team this year.
(Also to end it off, this goal was too good to not share)