By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
Anders Bjork is going to get called up to the Bruins at some point.
I mean, that’s pretty much known. The Bruins need him, and you’re going to hit a point where the 23-year-old no longer stands to gain anything from dominating the AHL as a point-per-game player (should he continue at his current pace). The odds would have indicated that we’d see Bjork back in a Boston sweater sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
But with the Bruins already down two forwards (and perhaps a third) for Saturday’s game against the Maple Leafs, Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy mentioned Bjork among a group of three potential call-up options.
Mentioned alongside Brendan Gaunce and Peter Cehlarik given their performances for the P-Bruins out of the gate, there’s no doubt that Bjork seems to be the most tantalizing option in the court of Bruins opinion given his ceiling.And AHL production that’s included three goals and six points through the first six games of the year. (Note: Gaunce was injured on a brutal hit in Friday’s game in Laval, so you can probably scratch him off the list of potential call-up options for the foreseeable future.)
“We wanted [Bjork] to go down there and find his offensive game — and he has,” Cassidy explained after Friday’s practice. “Is it enough of a sample size to say he’s ready to play in the NHL? Until we bring him up, that’s a hard question to answer.”
You can’t argue with the thought process — the Bruins wanted Bjork to find his scoring touch, and in a non-rushed setting, in the AHL to start the year — but the fact remains that Bjork was one of Boston’s top five skaters in the preseason. He may have been the No. 2 behind Charlie Coyle, actually. If you look at it on paper, and watched how Bjork seamlessly fit in with any and every line combination he skated with in the preseason, Bjork probably should’ve cracked the NHL roster out of camp.
One of Boston’s more heavily utilized players in the preseason, Bjork was the Black and Gold’s top five-on-five skater throughout his four-game sample, with a team-leading 72 Corsi-For percentage, and with the Bruins outshooting opponents a staggering 39-17 when Bjork was on the ice at five-on-five play. Bjork also ranked in the top five among individual scoring chances, high-danger chances, and expected goals per 60 minutes of ice-time throughout the preseason. He was much more careful with the puck, and seemed to embrace the idea of having to play a three-zone game on a consistent basis.
And it’s not as if the Bruins are loaded with players who are playing at a level that should block Bjork out of an NHL gig — half of Boston’s forward group has yet to record a five-on-five goal despite some heavy minutes through seven games — or like they’re scoring at a rate that doesn’t put a mountain of pressure on their first line and/or goaltenders on a nightly basis.
But patience continues to be the name of the game when it comes to restarting Bjork’s NHL game for a third time.
“We wanted it to be a prolonged amount of time, whether that was a month, 10 days, or two months,” Cassidy said. “Five games is probably a short sample supply, but he’s certainly passing the test down there if we decide to go that route.”
There’s also the fact that the Bruins want to keep Bjork on the left side and give him a true fresh start on NHL run 3.0 after back-to-back (brief) runs as a left-shot, right winger. The thinking behind that is that Bjork plays a more “straight-line” game when on the left side, and that it doesn’t force him into bad habits against much quicker and smarter defenders. There’s also the hope that Bjork creates some left-right chemistry with Coyle (his projected center should he eventually get the call).
“We’d like him to go in on the left side where he’s been playing, where he played in camp,” Cassidy offered. “Ideally, to bring him up and then put him in a position to not succeed is not something we would want to do in a perfect world.”
That is unless Bjork forces Boston’s hand or the rest of the B’s roster forces Cassidy’s hand to make the call.
Something that may be happening much sooner than Cassidy and Co. imagined.