It's been a doom and gloom start to the season for the Columbus Blue Jackets, but look hard enough and some bright spots start to appear. Marcus Bjork, through just two games, is one of those bright spots.
The 24-year-old undrafted defenseman, who has played in Sweden's SHL since 2018-19, took a leap of faith by signing a one-year, two-way contract with the Blue Jackets this spring. And after just 11 games in the AHL, thanks to a tumultuous start and a glut of injuries in Columbus, Bjork is living out his dream as an NHLer.
#CBJ D Marcus Bjork said his father flew over from Sweden and will be at UBS Arena on Long Island tonight for Marcus NHL debut. The 24-year-old defenseman says Im very excited. Its my dream come true. This is why I came over from Sweden.— Jeff Svoboda (@JacketsInsider) November 12, 2022
It's hard to say where Bjork started the season on the organization's depth chart, but suffice it to say that he was seen as insurance. And though the season is only a month old, the Blue Jackets should be happy to have purchased that policy.
Yes, it's a small sample size, but Bjork has looked like found money. He's tallied a point in each game, scoring in his NHL debut in an overtime loss against the New York Islanders and adding an assist in Tuesday night's overtime win over the Philadelphia Flyers. It's not like he's playing in a sheltered role. He skated a healthy 15:01 in his debut, playing primarily on the third pair alongside Gavin Bayreuther, then was elevated to a second-pairing role alongside Jake Bean in his second game, where he skated 20:29.
The right-handed blueliner, who is listed at 6'4", 211 lbs. on the league's website, has shown a solid two-way game. Defensively, he plays with a tight gap and utilizes his reach and angles to neutralize the attack. On the breakout, he's poised and confident. He's not been afraid to join the play, and both of his points come off shots that were the correct play given the situation. Aside from the point shots, though, I thought he's shown some offensive upside that I didn't expect to see.
Per HockeyStatCards, which produces a summary of 'GameScore', an amalgamation of different offensive, defensive, and miscellaneous statistics, for each player in each game, Bjork graded out as the best Blue Jackets player in the overtime win over the Flyers.
#NHL GameScore Impact Card for Columbus Blue Jackets on 2022-11-15:#CBJ pic.twitter.com/lSHRl9LO8J— HockeyStatCards (@hockeystatcards) November 16, 2022
That tracks with the 'eye test', so to speak. And that's wild, considering that he's played in three leagues (the SHL, AHL, and now NHL) in his past 14 official games (all due respect to the Traverse City prospects tournament).
Who can say what the future holds for Bjork. But as we detailed last week, the mounting injuries on the blue line should give players like Bjork ample opportunity to showcase themselves. In what is almost certainly a lost season, that really is a silver lining. Through two games, Bjork has played a simple, solid game. He's been able to shine a spotlight on his offensive traits, and it's hard to argue with a 6'4" right-handed defenseman who can skate. I'm not ready to say that he should be a lineup regular when the team is healthy, but that's just it - the team isn't healthy.
Bjork may just be a classic late bloomer. But for Bjork, and the Blue Jackets, blooming late certainly beats the alternative. And if he's able to keep up this play, he just may be replacing some lineup regulars when the team is back to health.