Anders Bjork has had a rough start to his NHL career.
During his rookie season in 2017-18, the then-21-year-old nabbed a starting role from the get go. He appeared in 30 games, registering four goals and eight assists. With an average of one shot-on-goal per game, the youngster’s shooting percentage rested at 13.3%. Bjork was then injured in late January and failed to return.
It wasn’t a bad debut for the winger, but he didn’t blow the socks off of any witnesses either. However, to say that the 22-year-old struggled this past season is an understatement.
Bjork Fails to Meet Expectations
Bjork appeared in 20 games during the 2018-19 season before running into a second injury to his shoulder which required surgery. While the injury was ultimately the reason why the winger didn’t see the ice for the remainder of the campaign, one must wonder how much longer he would have held onto his spot even if he remained healthy.
The 146th overall selection in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft had only tallied three points in those 20 appearances. He averaged just 11:48 in time on ice and his shooting percentage dwindled to 5.6%.
During his time at Notre Dame, Bjork had proven to be a huge offensive threat. After becoming a point-per-game player during his sophomore year, the winger upped his game, achieving a total of 52 points in 39 games as a junior.
It is certainly difficult to predict how a prospect’s previous performances will translate to the NHL stage. However, it’s safe to say that no one expected him to average just 0.3 points-per-game through the first 50 starts of his Bruins career. The bar was set at a reasonable height and Bjork had slipped and slid under it.
Bjork’s Role with the Bruins
Trent Frederic, Zach Senyshyn, Oskar Steen, and Jack Studnicka (the most eye-turning Bruins prospect this summer) are just a few young forwards that are nearing NHL-readiness. The Bruins have a deep prospect pool – and it just got deeper during the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.
Bjork’s competition is significantly better this offseason as these prospects all fight for a starting role in October. His original path to the NHL was fairly swift but, now with the hill evermore daunting, it could be that Bjork doesn’t clinch a spot at all.
The winger will be a restricted free agent (RFA) at the end of the 2019-20 campaign. The Bruins may be inclined to give him one last shot at the start of the season, but if it doesn’t pan out quickly, Bjork will likely be moved. There are so many promising prospects coming up the pike that Boston may turn to if Bjork doesn’t earn the right to keep his skates on the ice.
The Bruins have been on a search to fill out David Krejci’s two wings for some time. They found a match with Jake DeBrusk two seasons ago, but there still seems to be a missing link. There was originally hope that Bjork would fill that void, even if it meant playing on the first line to allow David Pastrnak to drop down to Krejci’s wing. That scenario has become less and less likely by the game.
Many have called for Boston to make a significant move to bring in a suitable linemate for Krejci and DeBrusk. However, it seems as though management would prefer to do so through homegrown talent. Though they haven’t found their man as quickly as they would have liked, it seems that a permanent solution via the prospect pool is imminent.
Many of Boston’s prospects – some of whom have already suited up at the NHL level – are on the verge of jumpstarting their professional careers. While Bjork was originally a few steps ahead of his peers, it seems as though his fellow up-and-comers are gaining on him.
Bjork needs one last push to get across the finish line. If he can’t vault himself over the hurdle and into the Bruins starting lineup this season, it’s only a matter of time before he gets lost in the pack.
I cover the Boston Bruins and NCAA Hockey here at The Hockey Writers. Born and raised 10 miles north of Boston, I developed a love for the game of ice hockey at a very young age. There’s really nothing better than this sport, though steak is a close second.