Oliver Bjorkstrand Has Improved Significantly Since the Beginning Of Last Season Due to His Work Ethic

By Jacob Nitzberg on November 25, 2019 at 1:45 pm
Nov 21, 2019; Columbus, OH, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Oliver Bjorkstrand (28) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the third period against the Detroit Red Wings at Nationwide Arena.
Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

Since entering the National Hockey League, Oliver Bjorkstrand has always possessed an almost unstoppable weapon: his shot.

It forces defensemen to overcommit and goaltenders to hope he hits their glove. 

However, Bjorkstrand's game has needed work in the physical and defensive aspects. Since last season, he has improved his play significantly in those areas, an important step forward in the eyes of head coach John Tortorella. 

"He just plays harder on the puck. He plays harder on the wall," said Tortorella in his pregame press conference. The Blue Jackets will take on the Ottawa Senators tonight at Nationwide Arena.

Bjorkstrand's first full NHL season was 2017-18, in which he put up 11 goals and 29 assists in 82 games. In 2018-19, he put up 23 goals and 13 assists. It's clear that his approach switched from pass-first to shoot-first. 

This season, he's having his most productive campaign yet, notching five goals and seven assists in 22 games. In his last three games, he's scored a goal and has five assists. 

Season Points Per Game
2016-17 0.49
2017-18 0.47
2018-19 0.55

"I think when players (play harder on the puck and play harder on the wall), as far as fighting for pucks, the puck tends to follow you around," Tortorella continued. "(Bjorkstrand's) been a really good player for us."

As the Blue Jackets' power play appears to be revitalized with the addition of assistant coach Paul MacLean, Bjorkstrand has been reaping the benefits. He scored a power-play goal against Detroit and his success should continue in that regard.

The Danish winger is averaging 16 minutes and 30 seconds of ice time per game this season, which is over four minutes more than last season. This speaks to Bjorkstrand improving his defensive and physical game, which is crucial to Tortorella's system. 

The Blue Jackets seem to have broken out of their scoring slump, and Bjorkstrand has been a big reason why. If he can continue the trend and keep winning puck battles, his stock will continue to rise.