Anders Bjork played his 100th game in a Boston Bruins uniform on Feb. 12. Granted, 100 games does not seem like that many, especially for a player who has been in the league for three seasons. However, this particular player’s road to the milestone was a rough one. In fact, there must have been more than a few times over the past three years when the rising star wondered if he’d ever hit that mark.
Bjork has always shown plenty of talent and the potential to be a top-six winger. He boasts speed, a masterful puck-handling ability and a true scoring touch that cannot be taught. However, despite all of that upside, Bjork’s rise was significantly halted when he missed the better part of the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons with shoulder injuries that required surgery and extensive rehabilitation.
Ready To Go
Coming into the 2019-20 season, Bjork was healthy, in good shape and eager to prove that he was indeed ready to break into the role of a permanent National Hockey League forward. Even though he had an excellent preseason, Bruins management chose to take a cautious route with the 23-year-old Wisconsin native, sending him down to the team’s American Hockey League affiliate in Providence, Rhode Island, to start the season.
The Notre Dame-hockey alum impressed the coaches in Providence and was recalled to Boston in late October. Bjork has played in every Bruins game since and has cemented a spot in the lineup.
In fact, Bjork played several games as the second-line right wing just before midseason. More recently, he and center Charlie Coyle have found some serious chemistry as two-thirds of an extremely successful third line.
Path To The NHL
Boston selected Bjork in the fifth round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. After being drafted, he played three seasons at Notre Dame and was recognized as one of the top NCAA players during that collegiate stint.
Bjork signed a three-year, entry-level deal with the Bruins in May 2017 and immediately made the team out of training camp for the 2017-18 season. He played 30 games in his rookie year, racking up four goals and eight assists before the first of his two major shoulder injuries put him on the shelf for the remainder of the season.
Healthy again for the start of the 2018-19 season, Bjork played 20 games in Boston. He had one goal and two assists in that time and was sent down to Providence in late 2018. It was in an AHL contest where he suffered another blow to his comeback bid. For the second season in a row, Bjork injured his shoulder and underwent surgery that shut him down again.
Understandably, questions about Bjork’s future as a Bruin started to be asked during the 2019 offseason. Could he return to form after missing most of two seasons? Could he stay healthy? More than halfway through the 2019-20 season, the answer so far to both of those questions has been a resounding yes.
With 52 NHL games under his belt so far in the 2019-20 season, Bjork has nine goals, nine assists and a plus-8 rating. He has played both left wing and right wing, has been a key piece of the team’s power play and has contributed during the time he spent on the second, third and fourth lines. In Sunday’s game against the New York Rangers, he even made an appearance on the penalty kill, adding a new skill to his already impressive hockey resume.
Bjork is a hard worker, is not afraid to mix it up or fight for the puck in the dirty areas and seems to quickly adapt to whatever linemates he is asked to play alongside. After two lost seasons, 2019-20 has seen him develop into the future star Bruins management and fans were sure they were getting when he was drafted.
Despite his success, or perhaps as a direct result of it, Bjork’s name has come up in numerous conversations about potential trade options. With the Feb. 24 trade deadline just one week away, many hockey pundits believe his showcased abilities and the fact that he is in the final season of his three-year, entry-level contract make him a good trade candidate.
There is no doubt that Bjork would be an attractive get for a team looking to move a more veteran player with a higher price tag. His value would be especially high for a team in a precarious playoff position entering the crucial last full month of the season. If Bruins general manager Don Sweeney is interested in making a move for a major contributor like Chris Kreider or Kyle Palmieri, it is not a stretch to think that Bjork could be part of such a deal.
However, if Sweeney is wary to give up a first-round draft pick, particularly given the fact that the current Bruins roster is more than capable of making a deep playoff run with absolutely no changes, the team will be that much better for hanging on to a player of Bjork’s caliber.
Whether he is still in the Spoked-B come Feb. 25 or on his way to a new team, Bjork has arrived at rising-star status. With the uncertainty in the rear-view mirror, hockey fans can now sit back and enjoy watching his further development.
I am a 46-year-old journalist living in the greater Pittsburgh area with my husband and two cats. I am a proud Penn State University alum. Hockey is life. Not much else needs to be said.