The Bruins didn’t seem overly concerned about Notre Dame prospect Anders Bjork eschewing them for a chance to be an NHL free agent, a la Jimmy Vesey, and now we know why. The college hockey standout and Bruins draft pick signed a three-year, entry-level contract with Boston on Tuesday and is expected to be a strong candidate to crack the NHL roster as a top-six left wing candidate with David Krejci.
Bjork, who had finished his junior season at Notre Dame as a Hobey Baker candidate, told the Bruins he was going to make a decision on next season following his stint for Team USA at the World Championships and did just that a few weeks after the international tournament ended with the Americans out of medal consideration. Bjork went scoreless in five games for Team USA, but was one of the top priorities for the Black and Gold this summer after showing at the NCAA level that he could be a speedy, impact offensive player.
“Our hopes are that he sees where we’re at as a team and some of the young players we’re putting in our lineup,” said Bruins President Cam Neely, a couple of weeks ago at the end-of-season press conference. “We hope that he understands that he’s a player that we think very highly of that can step in and contribute [in the NHL].”
Bjork wrapped up his junior year for the Fighting Irish with 21 goals and 52 points in 39 games and set single-season career highs in goals, assists, points and games played after a solid sophomore year where he was a point-per-game player.
Bjork was also the star of last summer’s Bruins development camp along with Charlie McAvoy and showed the kind of speed and finishing ability that Boston is desperately looking for on their wings. With that in mind, it doesn’t take much of a leap to think that Bjork will be given every shot to make it work with Krejci on one of Boston’s top lines. He could form a dynamic trio with Krejci and David Pastrnak after the 21-year-old exploded for 34 goals last season in his third NHL season.
Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson congratulated Bork in a tweet shortly after the signing was announced.
Anders is a great young man who has worked very hard to make himself into a great hockey player Proud & happy for him taking that next step— Jeff Jackson (@NDCoachJackson) May 30, 2017
Bjork was initially selected by the Bruins in the fifth round (146th overall) in 2014, but he’s obviously developed quite a bit and raised his profile significantly at Notre Dame. Bjork’s improvement made it a very real danger that he could have completed his senior season while legitimately competing for an NCAA title, perhaps participated in the Olympics for Team USA next winter and then waited things out for NHL free agency next summer just as fellow college hockey players Vesey and Kevin Hayes have done over the past few years.
Credit Don Sweeney and the Bruins, however, for closing the deal with Bjork and avoiding that kind of situation while potentially addressing a big-time NHL need after the B’s went through Ryan Spooner, Peter Cehlarik, Drew Stafford, Matt Beleskey and others while trying to find the proper left wing for the playmaking Krejci last season.