All signs point to Anders Bjork having earned a permanent spot with the Bruins, putting his Providence days behind him. Wisely, Bjork not only doesn’t read those signs, he doesn’t acknowledge their existence. Complacency won’t claim this young talent’s hunger any time soon.
“That’s a dangerous road to go down,” Bjork said Sunday. “There are a ton of good players in this organization, so it’s not really the case. You earn your spot by competing every day and kind of paying your rent every day, as they say. I’ve said all along here my mindset is to try to improve each day and be the best hockey player I can be.”
A breakout of injuries and illness among forwards has resulted in multiple young players burning a trail from Providence to Boston and back. Not so for Bjork. He was sent to Providence after an encouraging camp, was called back up Oct. 25 and has stayed put.
Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy, never one to shy from telling it like it is, continues to sound an upbeat voice on Bjork’s progress.
“I was hoping to see consistency. I have seen that,” Cassidy said. “I was hoping to see him put himself in less dangerous positions in terms of he got hit a couple of times going to the middle of the ice with his head down, learning from those experiences that it’s better off to give up the puck and work to recover it than try to make those plays in high-traffic areas. I’ve seen that. I’ve seen him attack the net, pitch in offensively. So really everything we’ve asked him to do, I think he’s checked off a lot of boxes.”
Naturally, Bjork, 23, has more boxes left to check.
“Of course, there’s room for improvement,” Cassidy said. “He doesn’t have a lot of experience, but we like the way he’s worked in practice. We like how that translates to the game. We’ve built him into the penalty kill, doing some good things there. So really nice development so far for him, and adding some secondary scoring, which we want him to do, don’t want that to go away because he was a scorer in college (at Notre Dame).”
Bjork has scored four goals in 18 games and has worked his way into some ice time on the penalty kill, filling in for injured players there.
Bjork is an intriguing talent, and it’s premature to define a ceiling for him, way too early to say he won’t develop into a top-six forward, yet has not done enough yet to show he’s definitely bound for top-six duty either.
Obviously, all young players work to get better in all areas. Bjork wasn’t afraid to be more specific when asked to single out one aspect he’s trying to improve.
“I guess I would say offensively a little bit, being a little bit more dangerous, a little more creative in those areas, gritty almost, especially in front of the net,” Bjork said. “This year, I feel like I’ve been getting to the net more and have been around the net more, which is something that the coaches are pleased with, but I want to be better at that area, especially finding more ways to score goals. I think that’s a skill you can develop and it’s something I want to get better at to provide some production offensively for the team.”
Bjork has totaled four goals and three assists in 19 games, spending his time at left wing on lines centered by either Charlie Coyle or in Sunday’s case against the Habs, Sean Kuraly.
Bjork had a hand in awakening the Bruins, who did all their scoring in the third period of a 3-1 win over the Canadiens. Trailing 1-0 since early in the first period, the Bruins finally got on the board when Bjork assisted the game-tying goal in the third period, leading Pastrnak perfectly with a nice pass along the boards. Pastrnak took it from there, going top shelf on a defenseless Carey Price with an absolute rocket for his NHL-leading 25th goal.
After David Backes scored the winning goal, Bjork did his best to try to pad the lead by hanging tough near the net, trying to make something happen in gritty fashion.
Bjork said improving as a penalty killer is “right up there” with increasing his offensive production as an area he’s focusing on improving, for obvious reasons: He would rather skate than watch.
“It’s going pretty well. I think I definitely want to improve on that because it is an opportunity to earn more ice and trust, confidence from the coaching staff,” Bjork said. “They have respect for guys who can kill penalties and do it well. Trying to find my niche in there is something I’m trying to focus on, using my speed and quickness to disrupt the other team’s power play. I think I’m doing a decent job of that so far, but I’m trying to clean up some of the times where I’m maybe a little hesitant.”