Oliver Bjorsktrand is as unique a case study as there is in today's NHL.
Blessed with a wicked-quick release, the 22-year-old Dane has demonstrated the ability to be a capable (if not better) scorer at the NHL level. On the other hand, he's played only 38 NHL games in his Blue Jackets career, in large part because he wasn't consistent enough to stay in the lineup after just three games a season ago.
When he finally did become a mainstay in Columbus later in the year, Bjorkstrand showed the skill and goal-scoring ability that fans and coaches expected. He was an offensive weapon that added another dimension to the Blue Jackets down the stretch.
It's no secret -- Columbus lost a fair amount of depth scoring this offseason.
Between Scott Hartnell, Sam Gagner, and William Karlsson, the Blue Jackets must find a way to replace 48 goals and 68 assists (or 116 points) from last season's record-setting team. One way the team felt they could address this lack of scoring was the addition of dynamic scorer Artemi Panarin, who, in two years in the NHL, has yet to produce less than 30 goals and 70 points in a season. Also, trading for Panarin meant losing Brandon Saad, so Panarin's points don't exactly exist in a vacuum.
But aside from Panarin, much of the assumed offensive production will need to come internally, and perhaps no name garners more expectation to pick up that slack than Bjorkstrand.
While players like Cam Atkinson and Alexander Wennberg posted career years, Bjorkstrand failed to so much as regularly play in the lineup until the later part of the year. In total, he only played 26 regular season games. This season, a big year from him could go a long way in replacing some of that departed scoring depth.
But what can we expect from Bjorkstrand...20 goals? Is he a known commodity now, where as before he could sneak up on teams? Or is 20 goals just the tip of the iceberg?
Perhaps that's what makes Bjorkstrand such an interesting case: is he a third-line winger with a scoring touch, or something much more? In a small sample size (remember, he's only played 477 minutes in the past two seasons), his points per 60 minutes were comparable to many of the top players in the league.
Not a terrible list to be on, right? It's the elite of the elite. An illustrious group.
Is this sustainable? Maybe not at such a pace, but Bjorkstrand accomplished this without sniffing the power play, and often while playing on the third line.
One reason it's so hard to project his numbers is: which Bjorkstrand will we see at the start of the season? Is this a guy that plays bottom-six minutes, or a player who could feasibly play on a line with Wennberg and Panarin? Will he take Gagner's spot on the power play, or will he fail to see power play time at all, let alone on the second unit?
Dom Luszczyszyn of The Athletic had this to say about Bjorkstrand:
"A bigger role in the top six could do wonders for him. He doesn’t have much NHL experience, but he’s been a talented scorer nearly everywhere he has played. I wouldn't be surprised if he hit 40 or 50 points this season. He's already shown that kind of upside in limited minutes."
Over the course of a full (healthy) season, his 2016-17 numbers extrapolated would have been 19-22-41 (g-a-p), so even this analysis isn't going out on too far of a limb. I, on the other hand, think Bjorkstrand will have an opportunity to move up in the lineup at some point, and think he'll be able to keep that spot. I also believe he'll find himself on the power play, which should help pad his stats.
Official prediction: 74 GP | 26 G, 28 A, 54 PTS.