Bruins

Bruins sign Anders Bjork to three-year, entry-level deal

Bruins sign Anders Bjork to three-year, entry-level deal

The Bruins didn’t seem overly concerned about Notre Dame prospect Anders Bjork eschewing them for a chance to be an NHL free agent, a la Jimmy Vesey, and now we know why. The college hockey standout and Bruins draft pick signed a three-year, entry-level contract with Boston on Tuesday and is expected to be a strong candidate to crack the NHL roster as a top-six left wing candidate with David Krejci.

Bjork, who had finished his junior season at Notre Dame as a Hobey Baker candidate, told the Bruins he was going to make a decision on next season following his stint for Team USA at the World Championships and did just that a few weeks after the international tournament ended with the Americans out of medal consideration. Bjork went scoreless in five games for Team USA, but was one of the top priorities for the Black and Gold this summer after showing at the NCAA level that he could be a speedy, impact offensive player.

“Our hopes are that he sees where we’re at as a team and some of the young players we’re putting in our lineup,” said Bruins President Cam Neely, a couple of weeks ago at the end-of-season press conference. “We hope that he understands that he’s a player that we think very highly of that can step in and contribute [in the NHL].”

Bjork wrapped up his junior year for the Fighting Irish with 21 goals and 52 points in 39 games and set single-season career highs in goals, assists, points and games played after a solid sophomore year where he was a point-per-game player. 

Bjork was also the star of last summer’s Bruins development camp along with Charlie McAvoy and showed the kind of speed and finishing ability that Boston is desperately looking for on their wings.  With that in mind, it doesn’t take much of a leap to think that Bjork will be given every shot to make it work with Krejci on one of Boston’s top lines. He could form a dynamic trio with Krejci and David Pastrnak after the 21-year-old exploded for 34 goals last season in his third NHL season.

Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson congratulated Bork in a tweet shortly after the signing was announced. 

Bjork was initially selected by the Bruins in the fifth round (146th overall) in 2014, but he’s obviously developed quite a bit and raised his profile significantly at Notre Dame. Bjork’s improvement made it a very real danger that he could have completed his senior season while legitimately competing for an NCAA title, perhaps participated in the Olympics for Team USA next winter and then waited things out for NHL free agency next summer just as fellow college hockey players Vesey and Kevin Hayes have done over the past few years.

Credit Don Sweeney and the Bruins, however, for closing the deal with Bjork and avoiding that kind of situation while potentially addressing a big-time NHL need after the B’s went through Ryan Spooner, Peter Cehlarik, Drew Stafford, Matt Beleskey and others while trying to find the proper left wing for the playmaking Krejci last season. 

Bruins still holding out on a goalie decision for Devils game

usatsi_10402885.jpg

Bruins still holding out on a goalie decision for Devils game

BRIGHTON -- Coming off a pair of back-to-back wins from backup goaltender Anton Khudobin, the Bruins are still undecided about what they’re going to do between the pipes Wednesday night against the New Jersey Devils.

On the one hand, the Bruins are very tempted to ride the hot goaltending hand with Khudobin a strong 5-0-2 record on the season and a .935 save percentage that currently leads all goaltenders across the league. There’s a school of thought that the B’s should simply keep plugging Khudobin into the lineup until he actually loses a game, and begins to cool down a little bit between the pipes after stopping 63-of-65 shots against LA and San Jose.

At the same time it will be over a week since Tuukka Rask has played in a game if the Bruins go with Khudobin on Wednesday night against the Devils, and Bruce Cassidy was clear to stress that Rask is still their No. 1 guy. So that’s the dilemma the Bruins are facing with Cassidy calling it “a good problem to have” based on Khudobin’s strong play from the backup spot.

That is a far cry from what the Bruins experienced a year ago with the same goalie, and a reason for optimism that their goaltending situation will be better off throughout a long season.

“Do you go with the hot hand and leave your No. 1 sitting where he’s beginning to wonder what the hell is going on? That’s the decision,” said Bruce Cassidy. “We need to keep them both in a good place, and not lose out on [Khudobin’s] good run while keeping Tuukka focused and confident in his game. That’s what we’re battling and I talk to Goalie Bob [Essensa] about it every day. We’ll make our decision [on Wednesday] and we hope it’s the right one.

“It’s a long year so no matter who we use there are a lot of starts. I don’t think Khudobin is going to go ice cold if he use Tuukka tomorrow, and I don’t think Tuukka is going to blow a gasket if we go with the hot hand. For me I don’t think it’s that big of a decision.”

Perhaps Rask blowing a gasket wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world given the way he’s played this season.

The one underlying concern for Rask beyond the .897 save percentage this season is that his game has really been in a different place for the last three seasons. While his .922 career save percentage mark is among the best in the NHL, he has been below that mark in each of the last three seasons while struggling to maintain consistently behind a changing roster that’s turning over to youth and inexperience.

It certainly seems like the Bruins feel it’s premature to label Rask as anything but their No. 1 goaltender, but the pause they’re giving on Wednesday night’s starter speaks volumes about their current confidence level in each of their puck-stoppers.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Morning Skate: Not all smooth sailing for top picks

connor-mcdavid-jack-eichel-112117.jpg

Morning Skate: Not all smooth sailing for top picks

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while enjoying the return of Adolfo to Toucher and Rich this morning.

*Jack Eichel and Connor McDavid have received plenty of acclaim over the past couple of years as talented, young stars in the league, but Pro Hockey Talk’s James O’Brien details how things haven’t gone ideally for either of those youngsters, or their teams, this season. Clearly, it’s not at this level yet, but just think about the hype behind Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin when they were drafted 1-2 back in 2010, and what they have, and haven’t, been able to accomplish in the league since that time.

*Outstanding rookie Brock Boeser credits a conversation with Vancouver Canucks coach Travis Green for helping spark his game this season.

*Good video piece on the near miss of Wayne Gretzky almost playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs after dominating them in the playoffs.  

*Salivating for some hockey trades? The 10 potential NHL trade deadline targets around the league as we wait for players to become available for trade later in the season.  

*Hockeybuzz is asking what the NHL, and more specifically the Hockey Hall of Fame, has against goaltenders?

*For something completely different: A great piece from Drew Bledsoe on the tragic passing of former Patriots wide receiver Terry Glenn, and how his death came just as he seemed to be putting all the pieces of his life together.