It’s easy to look at the Friday trade between the Kraken and Columbus and see Ron Francis do what he said he would – use Seattle’s selection of recruiting (also known as the venture capital) to gain an NHL talent. It’s easy to look at the base line of Oliver Björkstrand He realized that he was a skilled offensive player.
It’s not that easy to understand that the newest member of the Seattle squad brings more than just scoring help. Reach a second turn in the Pacific Northwest with a more complete game as well as a unique and distinctive ability to contribute all over the ice. It is the result of years of development and work on his own game, which has made Bjorkstrand a maker of teams.
How did it start…
Bjorkstrand’s calling card has always been his offensive skill. In 2012, Bob Strom’s eye on scouting position Blue Jackets was drawn to Bjorkstrand’s incredible ability not only to finish play, but to direct and influence play. Strom Baldane nicknamed “The Maestro”. A year later, Bjorkstrand was Columbus’ third-round pick (89 .).The tenth Inclusive).
After his draft pick, in two seasons with the Portland Winterhawks, Björkstrand was the top scorer (50 in 2013-14; 63 in 2014-15) and total points (109 in 2013-14; 118 in 2014-15).
In 2015, Bjorkstrand moved to AHL (along with Tasting NHL). In 51 games with the Lake Erie Monsters, the forward scored enough goals to finish third in the regular season goal-scoring standings despite missing a third of the season. Bjorkstrand led all AHL skiers in post-season goals (10) with none being sweeter than before. Monsters led 3-0, but in Game 4, Hershey Bears forced overtime. Everyone in the arena was preparing for the second batch of bonus time. Except Oliver Björkstrand. With only 1.9 seconds left in the first extra period, the Maestro came in.
Next stop: NHL. In four of the past five seasons, Björkstrand has led all of the Blue Jackets’ skiers (he has played at least 10 games) in goals per 60 and his ability to influence offensive play has been strongest in two of the past three seasons.
The wonder of Bjorkstrand’s offensive ability is his release. Many players and coaches have noticed this over the years. Given the space, the 27-year-old can apparently beat the goalkeepers.
Why is his shot so deadly? In 2019, Aaron Burtzlin, then with Athletic, Talk to the goalkeepers who had to face Björkstrand and the players who skated with him.
Twice NHL All-Star Cam Atkinson (now with Philadelphia) told Reed, “He has that shot where he’s taking it and it’s out of the goalkeeper’s ear before he knows it. Not one goalkeeper can save that shot.”
Skating mostly on the right side, Bjorkstrand has a great spot which is best illustrated by his finish in the 2020-21 season.
There were concerns early in the Dane’s career. He tended to start seasons slowly in terms of offensive production. It doesn’t look like his game started until late. As a result, his icy time suffered. He was at times a healthy scratch and mostly played six minutes.
Former Columbus head coach John Tortorella (now with the Flyers himself), wanted to see more consistency from Björkstrand. Wanted to see the player become tougher with the disc. It wasn’t about hitting or fitness, it was about keeping possession on your own versus being open to shoot.
Fortunately, Björkstrand had the perfect guide. Even if the two rarely talked about lessons to be learned.
New York Rangers star Artemi Banarin played in Columbus for three seasons. With a build similar to Björkstrand, who is 6 feet 178 pounds, the Russian-born Panarin is often praised not only for his playmaking and offensive creativity, but also for his ability to “make the disc follow him” and stay on his stick.
Watch Bjorkstrand. Note. He began incorporating parts of what he saw into his game. He has worked to improve his skill set and situational thinking to complete his defensive game.
How are you …
By the 2019-20 seasons, the effort was paying off. Bjorkstrand’s ice time jumped over 14 minutes (5-on-5) per game. His scoring levels increased and his defensive contributions were a revelation.
Bjorkstrand is still a strong offensive player – this version! – But in addition to driving offensively on the scoreboard, he’s doing more and more of what it takes to maintain possession and create chances.
Watch this goal. first fully. It would be easy to justify any player losing possession when faced with a crunch against the boards. But not Bjorkstrand.
Now look closely. Witness the balance, skill, vision and maybe even a little crowd that allows Bjorkstrand to maintain possession and score.
Even more impressive is that for a player known for scoring goals, Björkstrand The defensive game is not only solid, it is impressive. See his ability to suppress the opponent’s offensive efforts at an elite rate.
Indeed, last season was Björkstrand’s second most effective defensively (reducing opponents’ offensive quality by 10 percent) while playing for a team that struggled at the end of the ice.
Kraken fans, you now have a player who not only has offensive skills, but is an important contributor to defense. When does the puck walk away from the other team and start the other half of their game? Be careful.
Put it all together, and according to Evolution-Hockey.com’s Goals Above Replacement (GAR), Bjorkstrand ranks 90th.The tenth The overall percentage of NHL players that comes from being both first-class (82second abbreviation percentile) and defensive (89 .)The tenth percentage).
But what about…
Naysayers will raise questions about Bjorkstrand’s scoring drop last season (.87 goals per 60 in a 5-on-5 game). They may also indicate a plus/minus sign. But there is some context here.
In terms of the Maestro’s basic numbers there was no significant reduction in his offensive contributions. In fact, his 58.72 shot attempts per 60 last season (according to NaturalStatTrick.com) was the third best performance of his career.
His single shot volume (15.02 attempts per 60) was in line with his career averages, as was the quality of his single shot (.8 expected individual goals per 60). What wasn’t in line was his shot percentage. It came in at 10.32 percent, his second-worst performance of his career at at least three percentage points.
As for plus/minus, well, there are many reasons not to use this statistic as a player’s individual evaluator, but it’s important to understand Columbus’s playing strategies last season. Under newly appointed coach Brad Larsen (and with a new defensive body) the Blue Jackets have been evolving their game from a game historically focused on defense to a more offensive system. As a result, this team allowed a 297-only goal difference (while scoring the highest franchise 258), and had the seventh-worst goal difference (minus -38 while playing 5-on-5) in the NHL. Context matters.
All in all, with GM Ron Francis and his hockey operations group trading for a player like Oliver Bjorkstrand in the Kraken organization, they’re adding the six best strikers that could originate in all three regions of the ice. The Maestro can defeat you offensively, he can challenge you defensively, and he is Confirmed as part of the team for the next four seasons under an existing contract. A powerful and musical addition to the ears of Kraken lovers.
All statistics represent a 5 out of 5 game unless otherwise noted.
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