The buzz around Columbus Blue Jacket forward Oliver Bjorkstrand was palpable after he was drafted. He was the player that kept drawing rave reviews out west with the Portland Winterhawks and you had to continue to dream about what he would look like on the team.
Even after he joined the system in the AHL, it felt like, despite his massive amount of talent, Bjorkstrand percolated down in the minors for quite some time. He eventually made it to the show but only showed flashes.
During the 2019-20 campaign, although it was injury-shortened, Bjorkstrand finally put together a season that should make fans very happy.
He tied his second-best season in the NHL in 28 fewer games. He had a near equal amount of shots compared to his best year on the ice, once again doing it in a smaller amount of games. He was only two goals short of his career-best and if this sounds familiar he played in fewer games.
To make it even more interesting for the Danish winger, he also had his best season possession-wise besting his best numbers by a couple of percentage points across the board. Looking at his zone starts, there wasn't anything there that shows that Bjorkstrand is seeing more offensive zone shifts compared to years prior.
When he is on the ice, the game tilts in his favor and it isn't particularly close.
So where does that leave him now? Bjorkstrand is going to see even more time at the top of the lineup considering the lack of scoring options up top. They need him healthy for starters but it wouldn't be surprising to see his numbers be comparable to that of center Pierre-Luc Dubois.
Now that we mention Dubois, it will be interesting to see how the ice time shakes out for Bjorkstrand. He could see time with center Max Domi as well. Domi when he was at his statistical best, was passing the puck off often and was creating space for the snipers on his wing. We've seen that Dubois can do something similar with Artemi Panarin and for a tiny bit with Bjorkstrand last season. Would it be more valuable to get Domi going and have him contribute early?
Regardless, Bjorkstrand has cemented himself with top-six minutes and shouldn't see a dip in numbers. If anything, he could be a perennial 50-60 point scorer if his game continues to take the steps he has already shown.
The offense is going to need to come from somewhere and leaning on Bjorkstrand is a solid bet.
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