Saturday was a big day for the Penguins as they drafted six new players, including two Americans, two Finns, one Swede and one Canadian. But the player I am most interested in is 18-year-old right winger Kasper Bjorkqvist from Finland.
After going undrafted during his first eligible year in 2015, and sitting through Friday’s first round without hearing his name, Bjorkqvist returned on Saturday in hopes he would hear his name. Finally, in the second round, he was picked 61st overall by the Penguins.
Bjorkqvist, who stands at 6’1” and weights 198 pounds, was born in Espoo (pronounced Espo), Finland on July 10, 1997. Espoo is the second largest city in Finland and is also the hometown of former NHLer Niklas Hagman and former Dallas Stars forward, and three time Selke Trophy winner, Jere Lehtinen.
He played for the Espoo Blues of the SM Liiga from the 2011 to 2016 season, during his teenage years, and in this past season he was named the assistant captain, putting up 28 goals and 38 assists in 45 games.
He was also the captain of Team Finland at the Under 18 World Championships during the 2014-15 season, where he and his team brought home a silver medal. During this past season he was part of the gold medal winning team at the Under 20 World Championships.
The Espoo Blues, who have had scores of players don their jersey throughout the years, including Bjorkqvist, Hagman and Lehtinen, was founded in 1984 under the name of Kiekko-Espoo. After a name change in 1998, they played under the name of the Espoo Blues until the end of the 2015-16 season, when the Blues filed for bankruptcy.
What the Scouts Say
Various scouting reports say that Bjorkqvist is a strong skater with good speed, and he moved from 35th to 22nd in the NHL Central Scouting report. They say he has a decent shot and good puck handling skills at high speeds. They also say that the combination of his size and speed will really help his potential to turn pro in a year or two.
Penguins fans will have to wait a little bit longer before they see Bjorkqvist in the black and gold, as he has committed to playing at Providence College in Rhode Island next season. He is still young, so if he continues to develop at Providence next season, there’s still time for him to become a force on the Pens’ roster in 2017.