Oliver Bjorkstrand THW Close-Up:
Date of birth: 5/13/1995
Place of birth: Derning, Denmark
Ht: 5’11″ Wt: 164 lbs
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2013
THW The Next Ones Rankings (January 2013): 40th
Craig Button: 55
[NHL 2013 Draft Guide – The Next Ones Draft Headquarters: Your quintessential draft resource]
High Flying Dane Turned Heads In the WHL
There are not a lot of high end prospects that come out of Denmark but Portland rookie import Oliver Bjorkstrand worked himself into one this season. After being selected by the Winterhawks in the CHL Import Draft, Bjorkstrand went out and lead the WHL in rookie scoring with 31 goals and 63 points in 65 games.
Portland has had success with import players in the past, and have tapped Denmark before as Vancouver’s Jannik Hansen also played his junior hockey in the Rose City. Bjorkstrand is carrying on the tradition.
Blessed with great high end speed and a deceptively quick shot Bjorkstrand burst on the junior hockey scene and will end up hearing his name called by an NHL team at the draft. While he doesn’t possess great size his speed and hockey smarts paid off as he was a dangerous player last season. He plays at both end of the rink and is a tenacious forechecker, something that will bode well for him at the next level.
His speed and shot are NHL caliber and he has stated that getting bigger and stronger are something he’d like to work on. He will be back in Portland next year and with a year of North American hockey already under his belt he could explode to become an elite scorer.
Playing for Portland he got experience in big time high pressure games as the club won the WHL title and just missed out on winning the Memorial Cup. Bjorkstrand has also made his mark internationally as he played for Denmark’s team in the World Juniors two years ago as a 16-year-old.
Where Will He End Up in June:
Bjorkstrand should find himself drafted somewhere in the second round of this month’s NHL Entry Draft. Some scouts may balk at his size but at only 18 years old he has time to improve his strength to go along with his blazing speed. His smaller stature did not keep him from battling for pucks all over the ice this past season and shouldn’t keep him from making it to the NHL in the near future.
“Oliver is a highly motivated player who wants to be a difference maker. He applies good fore-checking pressure and not afraid to take hits to make plays. Despite lacking physical strength right now he has a knack for winning the board battles in the offensive zone by using good body position and anticipation of where the pressure is coming from which eventually leads into scoring chances. Tremendous shot that can surprise goaltenders with a quick and heavy release. He displayed good on ice awareness away from the puck and was reliable in all three zones. Oliver is a deceptive skater and he has the ability to separate himself from opposing players to create odd man rushes.“
Matt Bardsley, Director of Hockey Operations, Portland Winterhawks
“Bjorkstrand is able to surprise defenders with the ability to reach top speeds in an instant. He combines his quick feet with heavy and accurate shot that has a quick release; this makes him very dangerous on the rush. He lacks the ideal size but he isn’t afraid to go into the dirty areas and work for the puck. He will need to continue adding strength to withstand the physical rigors of the NHL but his speed and shot will make him a highly valued prospect..”
Daniel Chan – Future Considerations
- Team Denmark – U18, World Junior Championships
Risk = 3/5 Reward = 44 /5
Could be a 20+ scorer at the NHL level and will crack someone’s top six forwards. He will be a player who will be able to generate offense off the forecheck and is not afraid to get physical to win puck battles.
- Quick shot
Flaws/Aspects He Needs To Work On:
- Needs to get stronger
Fantasy Hockey Potential:
Offense — 8.5/10 Defense — 4/10
NHL Player(s) Comparison:
It would be easy to compare him to Vancouver’s Jannik Hansen as both hail from Denmark. They do share more than a homeland as both players can skate with speed and are deadly on the forecheck. Where Bjorkstrand sperates himself from Hansen is with his offensive skills, as he has a heavier, quicker shot and projects to be a higher end scorer.
THW’s The Next Ones prospect profile template design architect: Chris Ralph
Andrew writes about the WHL and NHL Draft Prospects. He also covers the Seattle Thunderbirds for 710 ESPN Seattle and spent two years with Sportsnet. Follow him on Twitter @andyeide.