By Carrie Young | Follow me on Twitter @carrieyoung512
With Boston’s 2019-20 season ending at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning, many fans are hoping for changes this offseason. Free agency will play a large part in those changes (check out our website’s homepage for plenty of speculative articles about free agents of interest!), but giving young players and prospects a chance is also crucial for the transitional phase that the Bruins have found themselves in. There are multiple young forwards vying for a chance to join Boston’s roster next year. 24-year-old Anders Bjork is one of those players, but his name has also been included in trade rumors as of late.
Bjork was drafted by Boston in the fifth round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. Despite being picked late, he excelled while playing for Notre Dame of the NCAA and the Bruins realized that they had a strong prospect in the system. Bjork earned an entry-level contract in 2017, then signed a three-year contract extension on July 29th, 2020.
While this contract shows commitment from the Bruins organization, it could also make Bjork a valuable trade asset. A young, talented player with a $1.6 million cap hit is sure to have garnered interest across the league. However, I maintain that the Bruins should not include Bjork in any offseason trades this year. I’ll provide three main reasons why I think this is the case.
Bjork has shown that he can play on both the left and right wing. On a team with a few question marks on lines 2-4, this proves to be extremely valuable. He played up and down the lineup and on the left and right sides this year, skating alongside Charlie Coyle, David Krejci, Sean Kuraly, and even on the top line with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron. The Bruins should be able to take advantage of such an adaptable player this upcoming season.
Bjork has also shown that he’s willing to put in the work. Though he was sent down to the Providence Bruins multiple times, he played hard and remained dedicated to improving his game. He pushed through two major shoulder injuries and months on injured reserve to stay in game shape and returned better than ever for the 2019-20 season. In 58 regular season games with Boston, Bjork recorded nine goals and ten assists. He also scored eight points in seven games with Providence.
Here’s the Anders Bjork tally that sent this game to overtime! pic.twitter.com/ta1jcmrDBR— Providence Bruins (@AHLBruins) October 17, 2019
These statistics come with a less offense-heavy role than one might have expected, but the Bruins coaching staff have been emphasizing the development of a complete, defensively responsible game for their young forwards. Coach Bruce Cassidy praised Bjork for his play away from the puck during training camp, stating that it was important to see him “earning his teammates’ trust [and] his coaches’ trust.” He also continues to build chemistry with centers Krejci and Coyle.
The Bruins’ Window is Still Open
Boston is in for some changes in the coming weeks. Many fans and reporters speculate that Torey Krug is on his way out. Veterans remaining from the 2011 Cup win aren’t getting any younger. This doesn’t mean that the Bruins need to start a rebuild. Bergeron, Marchand, and Krejci are still incredibly talented leaders. Goalies Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak each have one year remaining on their contracts. David Pastrnak is coming off a Rocket Richard trophy win and is still just 24-years-old. A balance of fresh talent and veteran presence is a recipe for success in the NHL.
Bjork will have a lot to prove in what will hopefully be his first full (injury-free) season in the NHL. With a fresh contract under his belt and a strong lineup alongside him, he can make some noise at the highest level in hockey.