Oliver Bjorkstrand Has Chance to Shine on National Stage vs. Maple Leafs

By Jacob Nitzberg on May 29, 2020 at 8:05 am
Dec 19, 2019; Columbus, OH, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Oliver Bjorkstrand (28) skates with the puck as Los Angeles Kings left wing Alex Iafallo (19) defends during the first period at Nationwide Arena.
Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports
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Oliver Bjorkstrand is well on his way to becoming a star.

After carrying this Blue Jackets club offensively for much of the season, Bjorkstrand now has an opportunity to shine on a national stage: the Stanley Cup playoffs. 

The potential was always there, but Bjorkstrand really put it together this season. Despite missing 21 games due to injury, the Danish winger led the club in goals with 21. He also led the Blue Jackets in game-winning goals with five. 

As the Blue Jackets dealt with several brutal injuries, Bjorkstrand seemed to be the glue that held the club together. As long as he was healthy, the Blue Jackets were able to eke out wins or points in games where it seemed that they were outplayed. 

According to hockeyreference.com's Point Shares statistic, Bjorkstrand's season was worth 4.9 points. That mark was sixth on the Blue Jackets, despite Bjorkstrand only playing 49 out of 70 regular season games. Those higher than him were Zach Werenski (9.1 PS), Seth Jones (6.5 PS), Elvis Merzlikins (6.5 PS), Joonas Korpisalo (5.9 PS), and Pierre-Luc Dubois (5.0 PS), all of whom will be healthy when the playoffs come around.

According to Money Puck, Bjorkstrand averages 1.1 expected goals per 60 minutes, which puts him above all other Blue Jackets in that category. He's able to put himself in positions where he's able to get a good shot off, which is a testament to his hard work. When Bjorkstrand entered the NHL, he already had the wicked wrist shot. What he didn't have (and what he's developed) is a very solid physical game, as you can see here: 

As Bjorkstrand enters the zone, he sustains the check from Dmitry Kulikov and is able to put himself in a scoring position. Once Bjorkstrand has the puck on his stick and has an eye on goal, the goaltender is in trouble. This goal was no exception, as he went top shelf on Laurent Brossoit to give the Blue Jackets two points.

Now that the Blue Jackets are officially in the playoffs, Bjorkstrand has an opportunity to prove himself on a national stage. After suffering a broken ankle on February 20th versus the Philadelphia Flyers, he's had ample time to recover and get back into shape. 

Bjorkstrand is part of the Blue Jackets' most effective line in terms of xG%, and one of the skaters on the line may surprise you. With a minimum ice time of 100 minutes, the most effective line for the Blue Jackets this year has been Foligno - Dubois - Bjorkstrand, with an xG% of 64.2 while they're on the ice.

It's no secret that the Blue Jackets are much better with Bjorkstrand on the ice, and now he's got a chance to lead the Blue Jackets on an unanticipated but welcome playoff run.

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