With the hopes pretty high for 21-year-old Anders Bjork heading into NHL training camp at the end of this week, he obliged with a strong start at rookie camp in Buffalo last weekend. Bjork scored three goals while playing in two of the three rookie tournament games held in Buffalo against his Devils, Sabres and Penguins peers, and looked every bit the speedy, skilled young winger Boston is hoping to see over the next month.
That’s after Bjork looked pretty comfortable skating with the NHL big boys at captain’s practice where he’d connected with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand on a few scoring plays, and looked like a confident young kid fresh off Hobey Baker consideration at Notre Dame.
That’s exceedingly good news for the Black and Gold, who need at least one and possibly two young wingers to step up and win NHL jobs in training camp just as Brandon Carlo did on the back end last season.
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“It’s been well-documented that we’re hoping some of those [young] guys are going to push for jobs, so I guess we’ll see starting this weekend,” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy, who got a good first look at the prospects during his time in Buffalo last weekend. “I think this rookie camp is good for guys like Bjork, who maybe didn’t get to play in those games [in the AHL last spring] to see where our guys are at and build some chemistry. We’ll use a lot of different lines.
“We know that Bergeron and Marchy are going to play together. I’ll let the cat out of the bag right now on that one. They’re probably going to play together. With Pastrnak’s situation we don’t who is going to go in with Krejci, so there’s going to be a developing chemistry situation there. But they still have to do it against NHL competition [in main training camp].”
The lefty-shooting Bjork said he’s comfortable at either wing after playing mostly right wing for the Fighting Irish, and finishing with 21 goals and 52 points in 39 games as a junior at Notre Dame last season. That means he’s likely to be used for some reps as the young legs on the right side with Bergeron and Marchand at camp, and for others he’ll get a look at left wing alongside David Krejci in another top-6 audition.
Perhaps Bjork will even get a look at right wing with Krejci if fellow 21-year-old David Pastrnak is slow getting into B’s training camp given his contract situation. Whatever the case, Bjork was still in a little bit of “pinch me” mode earlier this month when he was skating with All-Stars and Olympians like No. 37 and No. 63.
“It’s obviously exciting, but my focus is on doing the best that I can and trying to win the game no matter whether it’s rookie camp, preseason or whatever,” said Bjork. “I’m going to do all I can to help the team win. It’s definitely been eye-opening. Those guys [Marchand and Bergeron] are some of the best players in the world for a reason. You can see it. They don’t really make mistakes.
“It’s crazy to watch and really exciting and inspiring at the same time. I’ve been very fortunate to be able to skate with those guys. It feels like a dream knowing those are the kinds of guys I watched growing up. It’s exciting that the potential is there [to play with them] but it’s going to take a lot of work and a lot of focus.”
Will Bjork be ready right off the bat for Boston after similar NCAA standouts like Jimmy Vesey and Kevin Hayes were over the last few years after leaving college? It remains to be seen once the real NHL auditions begin during the preseason and the speed and physicality both get bumped up as the pros are fighting for jobs. But Bjork is off to a good start after a productive rookie camp weekend in Buffalo where he showed the speed and goal-scoring abilities that will need to be most present for him to win an NHL gig.